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Title: Manners: A Novel, Vol 1
Author: Panache, Madame, 1790?-1881
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Manners: A Novel, Vol 1" ***

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                      MANNERS:

                      A NOVEL.


            ----Dicas hîc forsitan unde
    Ingenium par materiæ.

                                     JUVENAL.

    Je sais qu'un sot trouve toujours un plus sot pour le lire.

                                     FRED. LE GRAND.


    IN THREE VOLUMES.
    VOL. I.

    LONDON:
    PRINTED FOR BALDWIN, CRADOCK, AND JOY,
    PATERNOSTER ROW.

    1817.



MANNERS.



CHAPTER I.

    What, and how great, the virtue and the art,
    To live on little with a cheerful heart--
    (A doctrine sage, but truly none of mine)
    Let's talk, my friends,----

    POPE.


In the retired village of Deane, in Yorkshire, lived for many years one
of those unfortunate females ycleped an old maid; a title which
generally exposes the possessor to every species of contempt, however
inoffensive, or even worthy, the individual may be, thus unluckily
designated.

Mrs. Martin, the lady alluded to, was certainly one of those more
"sinned against than sinning;" for malice itself could not accuse her of
one uncharitable thought, word, or action: and even her enemies, if
enemies she had, must have acknowledged, that "Poor Mrs. Martin had a
good heart," however inferior she might be in understanding to those,
who affected to despise her unassuming merits. She was one of those
worthy good people, who never did a wicked thing, and never said a wise
one; and who, therefore, are seldom mentioned without some epithet of
contemptuous pity by those, who at least wish to be considered of an
entirely opposite character. She lived in a contented mediocrity, "aboon
distress below envy," humble, and good natured, with a most happy
temperament, both moral and physical; in friendship with all the world,
and devoutly believing all the world in friendship with her, and indeed
in that respect at least her judgment did not err; for few people were
more generally beloved than "Poor Mrs. Martin." She always had a ready
laugh for the awkward jests of her neighbours, and to the distressed she
as willingly gave her equally ready tear.--Her income was extremely
limited, yet she still contrived to spare a mite to those still poorer
than herself, and to her trifling donations she added such cordially
interested enquiries, and such well intentioned advice, that her mercy
was indeed "twice blest."--To her other good qualities she joined that
of being a most excellent manager. All the village acknowledged, that
"Poor Mrs. Martin's sweetmeats, and poor Mrs. Martin's bacon, were the
best in the place;" nor were there many seasons so unproductive in her
little garden, as to deprive her of the pride and pleasure of bestowing
a bottle of currant wine, or a pot of raspberry jam, on her more opulent
though less thrifty neighbour.--Her house, which was in the middle of
the village, was only distinguished from those around it by its superior
neatness: a court, about the dimensions of a modern dinner table, which
she facetiously termed her pleasure ground, divided it from the
principal, indeed the only street, and was separated from it by a few
white rails;--a little walk curiously paved in different coloured stones
was the approach to the hall door, and the grass on each side was
ornamented by a circular bed bordered with reversed oyster shells, and
containing each a few rose trees. The house boasted of one window
corresponding to each flower bed on the ground floor; and of three above
stairs, the centre one of which, being Mrs. Martin's own bed room, was
ornamented with an old fender painted green, which served as a balcony
to support three flourishing geraniums, and a stock July flower, that
"wasted its sweetness on the desert air" out of a broken tea pot, which
had been carefully treasured by this thrifty housewife as a substitute
for a flower pot. The hall door, which always stood open in fine
weather, was decorated with a clean but useless brass knocker, and a
conspicuous rush mat; whilst the narrow passage, to which it led,
presented, as its sole furniture, a huge clock, on which Mrs. Martin's
only attendant Peggy often boasted no spider was ever known to rest, and
whose gigantic case filled the whole space from wall to wall. The left
hand window, whose dark brown shutters were carefully bolted back on the
outside, illuminated a kitchen, where cheerful cleanliness amply
compensated for want of size;--opposite to it was the only parlour, of
the same proportions, and of equal neatness; a small Pembroke table,
that, with change of furniture, served the purpose of dinner, breakfast,
or card table; white dimity curtains, and a blind that was for any thing
rather than use, as it was never closed; half a dozen chairs, that once
had exhibited resplendent ornaments of lilies and roses, painted in all
the colours of the rainbow, but whose honours had long since faded under
the powerful and unremitting exertions of Peggy's scrubbing brush; a
corner cupboard, the top shelf of which with difficulty contained a well
polished japanned tea tray, where a rosy Celadon, in a brilliant scarlet
coat, sighed most romantically at the feet of Lavinia in a plume of
feathers; and the best cups and saucers, ranged in regular order, filled
the ranks below;--a book shelf, which, besides containing a Bible, Sir
Charles Grandison, a few volumes of the Spectator, and occasionally a
well thumbed novel from Mr. Salter's circulating library, was also the
repository for various stray articles, such as the tea caddy, Mrs.
Martin's knitting, and receipt book, transcribed by her niece Lucy; and
lastly, a barbarous copy of Bunbury's beautiful print of Jenny Grey, the
highly prized, and only production of Lucy's needle, while attending
Miss Slater's genteel "academy for young ladies," composed the furniture
of this little room.

But its chief ornament, and Mrs. Martin's greatest pride (next to Lucy
herself), was a glass door, that opened into her demesne: a plot of
ground, containing about an acre and a half, which was kitchen garden,
flower garden, and orchard, all in one. This glass door had been a
present of young Mr. Mordaunt's, in whose company Mrs. Martin had often
undesignedly lamented, that the sole entrance to her garden was through
the scullery, and, on her return from her only visit to London, about
two years before this narration commences, she had been most agreeably
surprised by the improvement in question.--Various and manifold were the
speculations, to which this little piece of good natured gallantry had
given rise in the simple mind of Mrs. Martin.--"Indeed, indeed, she
never thought of his doing such a thing! so generous! so kind! and then
his manner was always so obliging and polite; it could not certainly be
for herself that he took the trouble of ordering the glass door; and she
remembered very well, when he called after their return from London,
that he said he was very glad to see a town life had agreed so well with
Lucy, though Mrs. Crosbie had very good naturedly said, she thought she
didn't look half so well as before she went. To be sure, she never saw
him _talk_ much to Lucy, but then she was so shy!"--Mrs. Martin had been
standing for some minutes at this same glass door, one fine evening in
July, indulging in a similar reverie, when it was suddenly interrupted
by the abrupt entrance of Lucy, who, with as much concern in her
countenance as her vacant unmeaning features could express,
exclaimed--"La! Aunt, he won't come to-night after all!"--"Not come,
child!" answered Mrs. Martin, "why, I never expected he would."--"Not
expect Mr. Brown?" returned Lucy, in a tone something between anger and
surprise; "Not expect Mr. Brown? why I'm sure he'd come if he could, and
you'd never ask the Lucases without him." "No, indeed, my dear, I would
not;" replied Mrs. Martin, totally unconscious that her first answer had
alluded to the subject of her own thoughts, not to the constant object
of poor Lucy's--"He is a well behaved, sober young man, and very
attentive to the shop; but why won't he come to-night?"--"He just rode
up as I was standing at the gate with this little bottle of rose water,
which he brought then, because, he said, he had to go to squire
Thornbull's to see the cook, and he didn't think he could be back for
tea do what he would--I'm sure I wish Mr. Lucas would attend his own
patients."--"Well, Lucy, I suppose the rest will soon be here; do just
set down the tray, my love, whilst I go and see if Peggy is doing the
Sally Lunn right." Poor Lucy proceeded to her task with unwonted gloom,
having first stopped to take one more smell of the rose water before she
placed it on the ready book shelf; and so slow was she in her movements,
that the tea table was scarcely arranged, when she heard her aunt accost
her visitors out of the kitchen window, with "How d'ye do Mrs. Crosbie,
how d'ye do Mrs. Lucas; beautiful evening; thank you kindly; I'm quite
well, and Lucy's charming; pray step in Mr. Crosbie--give me your hat;
Mr. Lucas, I'll hang your cane up by the clock here; sit down my dear
Nanny, I hope your shoes are dry--indeed, I don't think they can be wet;
we've scarcely had a drop of rain this fortnight.--Peggy! bring in the
kettle."

And now, what with the disposal of the bonnets, the arrangement of the
chairs, and the repetition of observations on the weather, and inquiries
after the health of each individual present, the time was fully
occupied, till the arrival of Peggy, with a bright copper tea kettle in
one hand, and a well buttered, smoking hot Sally Lunn in the other, put
an end to the confusion of tongues, and assembled the party in temporary
silence round the tea table.--But Mrs. Martin's natural loquacity, added
to her incessant desire to be civil, soon induced her to interrupt the
momentary calm, and, while she spread her snow white pocket handkerchief
on her knees, as a preparation for her attack on the Sally Lunn, she
addressed her neighbour, the attorney, with--"Well, Mr. Crosbie, what
did you think of our sermon last evening; it was a delightful one,
wasn't it?"--"Yes, a very good, plain sermon, Mrs. Martin; but, with all
deference to your better judgment, Mrs. Martin, I think your friend Mr.
Temple doesn't show as much learning in the pulpit as he might
do."--"Learning!" quoth his amicable spouse, "I never can believe that
man is a learned man; I could make as good a sermon myself."--"_Non
constat_, my love," replied Mr. Crosbie; "though I often think you would
have done very well for a parson, you are so fond of always having the
last word." Probably the gentle Mrs. Crosbie would have given the
company a specimen of her talents for lecturing, had she not acquired a
habit of never attending to what her husband said: she had therefore,
fortunately, no doubt, during his speech, profited by the opportunity of
overhearing Mrs. Martin's and Mrs. Lucas's discussion, respecting the
appearance at church the evening before of the party from Webberly
House, consisting of Mrs. Sullivan and her two elder daughters, the Miss
Webberlys.--"I declare, I wasn't sure they were come down yet," said
Mrs. Martin, "till I saw their two great footmen bring their prayer
books into church, and their cushions; Mrs. Sullivan looks quite plump
and well."--"Yes, indeed, she looks remarkably well;" answered the
assenting Mrs. Lucas.--"Well!" retorted Mrs. Crosbie--"I think she is
going into a dropsy; her face is for all the world like a Cheshire
cheese."--"It certainly does look as if it was a little swelled,"
replied the complacent Mrs. Lucas--"Dear me," rejoined Mr. Lucas, "I
must certainly call at Webberly House, and inquire after the health of
the family; I thought they never left town till August: perhaps they are
come down for change of air."--"And Lucy and I must pay our respects to
them too, they are always so very polite."--"They are never very
_civil_, I take it," said Mrs. Crosbie; "I believe, in my heart, they
would never come near their country neighbours, but to show off their
town airs on them."--"Well, for my part," observed Mr. Crosbie, "with
due deference be it spoken, I think town airs should be laid by for town
people, kept _in usum jus habentis_, for those who understand
'em."--"That's what you never could do, my dear," replied the
lady.--Mrs. Lucas, as usual, slipping in an assenting nod to every
successive observation from each person, while she as unremittingly
attended to the tea and cake. "Well, I'm sure, at all events," said her
daughter Nancy, "they are very genteel: what a lovely green bonnet the
little Miss Webberly had on!--she's the eldest, I believe."--"I'm sure,
if the bonnet was lovely, the face under it wasn't; the two together are
for all the world like a full blown daffodil in its green case."

Notwithstanding Mrs. Crosbie had thus taken occasion to express her
dislike of the family in general, she was not less ready than the rest
of the little circle to pay her annual visit at Webberly House; and, as
all were anxious to wait on the ladies in question, either from motives
of civility, or interest, or curiosity, it was speedily settled, that
the party should adjourn thither on the following morning. All
particulars of their dress, their conveyance, &c., being finally
arranged, the four seniors of Mrs. Martin's visitors sat down to penny
whist, while she seated herself at the corner of the card table, ready
to cut in, snuff candles, or make civil observations between the deals.

Lucy, and Nancy Lucas, strolled into the garden, ostensibly to pull
currants, but, in reality, to talk over Mr. Brown, the apothecary's
apprentice, and Mr. Slater's hopeful son and heir, whose professed
admiration of Miss Lucas had lately been eclipsed by a flash of military
ardour, that had induced him to enter into the Yorkshire militia. At
length Mrs. Martin's fears of the damp grass and evening dew induced the
two eternal friends to return to the parlour, where the fortunate
attainment of an odd trick, by finishing the rubber, broke up the little
party, who dispersed with much the same bustle with which they had
entered. While Mrs. Martin pursued her retreating visitors as far as the
white pales, with renewed offers of a glass of currant wine, hopes and
fears relative to the company catching cold, and assurances that she and
Lucy would certainly be ready before eleven o'clock for Mr. Lucas, with
a profusion of thanks for his offer of calling for them in his gig.



CHAPTER II.

     Mons. De Sotenville--Que dites vous à cela?

     George Dandin--Je dis que ce sont là des contes à dormir debout[1].

     MOLIERE.

[Footnote 1: "What do you say to that?"--"I say such recitals are only
fit to sleep over."]


About eleven next day, a crazy machine, in the days of our grandfathers
called a noddy, appeared at Mrs. Martin's door. In it was seated Mr.
Lucas in his best black suit and flaxen wig, with his gold-headed cane
between his knees, his hands being sufficiently occupied in reining an
ill-trimmed carthorse, every movement of whose powerful hind leg
threatened destruction to the awkward vehicle. The good humoured Lucy
soon skipped in, and seated herself as bodkin; but to mount Mrs. Martin
was a task of greater difficulty, as the gig was of considerable
altitude, and the horse, teased by the flies, could not be kept quiet
two minutes at a time; a chair was first produced without effect, but at
last, with the aid of her maid Peggy, the neighbouring smith, and the
kitchen steps commonly used to wind up the jack, she was fairly seated;
and ere her laughter or her fears had subsided, they overtook the
village postchaise, containing Mr. and Mrs. Crosbie, and Mrs. and Miss
Lucas.--The travellers in the gig were incommoded by a dusty road, and a
beaming hot sun; the effects of which were dreaded by the good aunt for
Lucy's blue silk bonnet and spencer, which had been purchased two years
before, during their above-mentioned visit to London, which was still
their frequent theme, and only standard of fashion. However, they
proceeded on the whole much to their satisfaction, and after driving
nearly six miles, reached an ostentatious porter's lodge and gate, a
close copy of that at Sion, which announced the entrance to Webberly
House. The approach, with doublings and windings that would have puzzled
the best harrier in Sussex, did not accomplish concealing the house at
any one sweep, but displayed to Lucy's delighted eyes a huge
pile--_ci-devant_ brick, now glorying in a coat of Roman cement, further
adorned with clumsy virandas due north and east, and an open porch in
the southern sun. On one side of the proud mansion was a sunk fence, and
ha! ha!--on the other a shrubbery, quite inadequate to the task assigned
it of hiding the glaring brick-wall of a kitchen garden, which occupied
nearly as large a space as the whole of the pleasure-ground in front.

On the scanty lawn was pitched a marquée; at the foot of it was a pond
filled with gold and silver fishes, over which was suspended a Chinese
bridge, leading to a grotto and hermitage, at a small distance from the
house.--Mr. Lucas, resigning the reins to Lucy, alighted to give notice
of the arrival of the party. After a few minutes delay, hasty footsteps
were heard in the hall, and a couple of house-maids scudded across,
bearing dust-pans and brushes, and running down one of the side
passages, called out in no very gentle voice, "William! Edward! here's
company!" "Company!" yawned out William, while he stretched his arms to
their utmost length, and, as he stopped to look at his fine watch,
which, as well as his master's, had numerous seals with French mottos,
declared "Pon honour, it isn't one o'clock;" and wondered "what could
bring those country-folk at that time o'day!"--then, settling his cravat
with one hand, and pulling up his gallowses with the other, leisurely
walked to the porch, where, with a gesture between leering and bowing,
he most incoherently answered the question of "At home, or not at
home;" and without giving himself the trouble of thinking which was
actually the case, ushered the visitors into the drawing-room, leaving
the business of negotiating their audience to the lady's maid.

The beaming sun displayed the unsubsided dust and motes the house-maids
had so lately raised, and the village party were nearly stifled with the
effluvia of countless hot-house plants, whose united scent was too
strong to be called perfume: their entrance was impeded by stools,
cushions, tabourets, squabs, ottomans, fauteuils, sofas, screens,
bookstands, flower-stands, and tables of all sorts and sizes. An
unguarded push endangered the china furniture of a writing-table, and a
painted velvet cushion laid Mr. Crosbie prostrate on the floor. Mr.
Lucas, perceiving the difficulties of the navigation, very quietly
seated himself behind the door, but not in peace--for he was nearly
stunned by the chatter and contentions of a paroquet and a macaw, joined
to the shrill song of some indefatigable canaries hung on the outside of
the opposite window, which scarcely outvied the yelping of a lap-dog,
that Mrs. Martin's centre of gravity had discomfited, when she seated
herself in one of the fauteuils. Meantime, Lucy and Nancy, with
considerable expertness, gratified themselves with examining the
furniture, a task which would probably have occupied them for a week, as
the incongruous mixture seemed to resemble the emptying of an
upholsterer's room, a china manufactory, and a print-shop. The curtains,
five to a window, were hung for all seasons of the year at once, and
consisted of rich cloth, scarlet moreen, brilliant chintz, delicate
silk, and white muslin, to serve as blinds, fringed with gold. The sofa
and chair tribe (for to designate them would require a nomenclature as
accurate and extensive as Lavoisier's chemical one,) were covered with
every shade of colour, every variety of texture, and were in form
Grecian, Chinese, Roman, Egyptian, Parisian, Gothic, and Turkish. The
astonished visitors remained in the silence of perplexity for nearly a
quarter of an hour, but it was then broken by Mrs. Crosbie exclaiming,
with her usual acrimony--"Well, I'm sure, if I was Mrs. Sullivan, and
was _forced_ to go to a pawnbroker's for my settee and chair-frames, I
would at least make my covers all of a piece!--What folks will do to
make up a show!--I'm sure those musty old chests an't a whit better than
what's in my grandmother's garret; and I gave my little William the
other day, for a play-thing, a china image as like that white woman and
child as two peas."--"Though to be sure all these are very fine," said
Mrs. Martin, "Sir Henry Seymour's is the house for me; three
drawing-rooms with not a pin difference; and up stairs always six
bed-rooms of a pattern--then Mrs. Galton is so neat! not a cobweb to be
seen in the house.--Bless me, Lucy! your cheek is all dirty, and your
gloves such a figure!"--"Why, don't you see," interrupted Mrs. Crosbie,
"that the china is brimfull of dust! such slattern folks, pshaw!"--To
all which Mrs. Lucas returned her usual assenting, "He--hem!" Mr. Lucas,
in time recovering from his first dismay, rose from "_The place of his
unrest_," and, with Mr. Crosbie, proceeded to examine the contents of a
mongrel article between a cabinet and a table, on which were _thrown_
rather than _placed_ a variety of curiosities; such as, a stuffed
hog-in-armour, a case of tropical birds, flying-fish, sharks' jaws, a
petrified lobster, edible swallows' nests, and Chinese balls; with
numerous mineral specimens neatly labelled, zeolite, mica, volcanic
glass, tourmaline, &c. "_Multum in parvo_," said Mr. Crosbie, with a
smirk at his own latinity; "Young Mr. Webberly must be vastly learned,"
replied Mr. Lucas, "I should like to talk to him about the plants of the
West Indies, and the practice of physic in those parts, for all the
planters are obliged to attend to the health of the poor negroes for
their own profit, if they don't do it for humanity's sake." Here the
good man was electrified by a violent ringing of bells, followed by the
sound of a sharp female voice, running through all the notes of the
gamut in a scolding tone, of which the visitors could only hear detached
sentences, such as, "I _insist_ upon it, you never let them in
again--how could you say we were at home? Can I never drive into your
silly pate, that we are never at home to a _hired_ post chaise, or to
any open carriage, except a curricle and _two_ out-riders, or a
landaulet and four?"--"It wasn't me, Miss, it was William; I always
attend to your directions ma'am--I denied you the other day to your own
uncle and aunt, because they came in a buggy."--"Uncle, Sir! I have no
uncle.--Well, I give orders at the porter's lodge to-morrow--Go and ask
Miss Wildenheim to receive them; and if she won't, say we are all out; I
tell you once for all, I never will be disturbed at my morning studies
till four o'clock, and _then_ not except by _people of condition_." Soon
after this tirade, a light foot crossing the hall prepared the
confounded party for the entrance of the Iris of this angry Juno. But
when Miss Wildenheim opened the door, her elegantly affable curtsy and
benignant smile dispersed the gathering frowns on the visages of the
disappointed groupe.

This young lady's politeness proceeded from the workings of a kind heart
guided by a clear head: it was a polish which owed its lustre to the
intrinsic value of the gem it embellished, not a superficial varnish
spread over a worthless substance, which a slight collision would
destroy, rendering the flaws it had for a time concealed but the more
conspicuous. With one glance of her dark eye she perceived, that the
good people were offended, and while she made the best apology she could
for the non-appearance of the Webberly family, her cheek glowed with
indignation at their insolent carriage to modest worth: the attentive
suavity of her manner was more than usually pleasing to the unassuming
but insulted party, and her endeavours to soothe their wounded pride
were quickly rewarded with the success they merited. Miss Wildenheim in
turn enquired for all the relations of each individual present, whose
existence had ever come to her knowledge; and in her search after
appropriate conversation, put in requisition every other subject of
chit-chat, her small stock of that current coin furnished her with. But
now--"the eloquent blood," which had spoken "in her cheek and so
divinely wrought," no longer tinging it with "vermeil hues," her
pallidity struck Mrs. Martin's kind heart with a pang of sorrow. "My
_dear_ Miss Wildenheim," said she, in a tone that showed the epithet was
not a word of course, "I'm afraid your visit to London has not agreed as
well with you as ours did with Lucy and me, you don't look so fresh
coloured as you did in the beginning of spring." "Ah! Mrs. Martin,"
interrupted Mr. Lucas, "that high colour was a hectic symptom, I am not
altogether sorry to see it has disappeared; I hope, Miss Wildenheim, you
have nearly recovered from the effects of that smart fever you had last
winter." With a look of thanks to both enquirers, Mr. Lucas' _ci-devant_
patient replied, "Perfectly, my dear Sir; it must have been a most
inveterate disorder, that could have baffled the skill and kind
attention--you exerted for my benefit." Mr. Lucas sapiently shook his
head, and expressed his doubts as to her _perfect_ recovery. "Believe
me, Sir, I feel quite well, my illness was only caused by change of
climate." At the word _climate_, the heretofore placid brow of the fair
speaker was clouded by an expression of ill-concealed anguish; for that
word had conjured up the remembrance of days of hope and joy--of
tenderness, on which the grave had closed for ever! which with all the
ardency of youthful feeling, alike poignant in sorrow as in joy, she
contrasted, in thought's utmost rapidity, with the dreary present, where
each day glided like its predecessor down the stream of time, uncheered
by the converse of a kindred mind, unblessed by the smile of
affectionate love.

To hide her emotion she rose to ring the bell, apparently for the
purpose of ordering a luncheon, which it was the etiquette of the
neighbourhood to present to every morning visitor. The greater part of
the family were, at that moment, at breakfast, and therefore the
summons was not quickly obeyed; but at length a tray was brought in,
glittering in all the luxury of china, plate, and glass, and loaded with
cold meat, fruit, and a variety of confectionary, at the names or
contents of which Mrs. Martin's utmost knowledge of cookery could not
enable her to guess. However as she did not consider ignorance in this
instance as bliss, she immediately commenced her acquaintance with them;
and the whole party, having done ample justice to the repast, prepared
to depart; and it was settled that as steps could not easily be
procured, the arrangement of the vehicles should be changed, Miss Lucas
resigning her place in the post chaise to Mrs. Martin.

Miss Wildenheim had scarcely made her farewell curtsy at the door, when
as the carriages drove off Mrs. Martin exclaimed, "What a sweet young
lady Miss Wildenheim is." "Oh!" said Mrs. Crosbie, "those French misses
have always honey on their lips." "I wonder how she happens to speak
such good English, for her eyes, complexion, and accent are quite
foreign," observed her spouse. "And I hope you'll add, her manner too,"
returned the lady: "I was quite ashamed of her when she first came to
Webberly House, she used to have so many antics with her hands; now she
is something like; but though we have improved her, still her
countenance has never the exact same look three minutes together; and if
you say a civil thing to her, she grows as red as if you had slapped her
in the face." "Mr. Temple told me," said Mrs. Martin, "that she grieved
more after Mr. Sullivan, when he died last January, than all the rest of
the family put together. He told me one day, poor man, that she was the
daughter of a German baron." "Ah, Mrs. Martin," interrupted Mr. Crosbie,
laughing, "I'm afraid there was a mistake of gender and case there; a
_Baronness_ perhaps she might be daughter to, as an action might lie
against me for defamation, I won't say by whom." "You are both wrong,"
said his wife, "for _Mrs._ Sullivan's _maid_ informed me, (and she knows
but every thing) that Miss Wildenheim was Mr. Sullivan's natural
daughter by a German _Princess_ (God forgive him), when he was a general
in the Austrian service. I dare say she is a papist, for he was a
papist, and they are _all_ papists in foreign parts." "Papist or not,"
replied Mrs. Martin, "I'm sure she practises the Christian virtue of
humility; I wish Miss Webberly would take example by her, and learn to
be civil." "I never saw any thing like the airs of the whole family,"
rejoined Mrs. Crosbie, bursting with passion. "I'll take care to affront
them, the very first time they put their noses in Deane." Here Mr.
Crosbie took the alarm, for he recollected certain deeds and
conveyances, young Webberly had spoken to him about, and therefore said,
"Indeed, my dear, we have no right to be offended; it's only the way of
the house: didn't you hear the footman tell Miss Webberly he had refused
to let in her own uncle, and after all, she didn't object to _us_, but
only to the _gig_ and _postchaise_." After some bitter observations,
followed by silent reflection, Mrs. Crosbie apparently acceded to her
husband's argument, and consented to acquit the Webberlys on the flaw
his ingenuity had discovered in the indictment she had made out against
them.

In the humble society of Deane even she had inferiors, in whose eyes her
consequence was raised by her annual visits at Webberly House; and who
never guessed that the rudeness she practised to them, was a mere
transfer of that she submitted to receive from the insolent caprice of
these satellites of fashion.

From whence does the strange infatuation arise, that makes so many
people in all ranks of society suppose, they are honoured by the
acquaintance of that immediately above them, when their intercourse is
so frequently only an interchange of insult and servility? Do they
suppose, that when the scale of their consequence is kicked down on one
side, it rises proportionally on the other?

The comments of the travellers on the Webberly family continued for the
remainder of the drive; and perhaps had the objects of their
animadversions heard their remarks, they might have felt, that the proud
privilege of being impertinent scarcely compensated for the severity of
the criticism its exertion called forth.

At length the party separated--Mrs. Crosbie to show a new edition of
fine airs to the wondering Mrs. Slater--the other ladies to discuss
their excursion again and again, over "cups which cheer, but not
inebriate."



CHAPTER III.


    Something there is more needful than expense,
    And something previous even to taste--'tis sense.

    POPE.

    Dum vitant stulti vitia, in contraria currunt[2].

    HORACE.

[Footnote 2: When fools would avoid one extreme, they run into the
other.]


The family at Webberly House was the only one in the neighbourhood of
Deane, which lived in a style of ostentatious expense; its members
vainly endeavouring to purchase respect by extravagance, and to transfer
the ideas and hours of the _beau monde_ to a place totally unfit for
their reception. The only families within a distance often miles of
their residence were--Sir Henry Seymour's, at Deane Hall--Squire
Thornbull's, at Hunting Field, and Mr. Temple's, at the parsonage of
Deane; all of whom lived in the most quiet manner. Beyond this distance,
however, the country was more thickly inhabited, and the town of York,
in the race and assize week, presented sufficient attractions to make a
drive of thirty miles no impediment to the Webberlys visiting it at
those times, though its allurements were not great enough to tempt their
immediate neighbours from their homes. Mrs. Sullivan had purchased
Webberly House, two years previous to the commencement of this
narration, on the faith of an advertisement nearly as deceptious as the
famous one of a celebrated auctioneer, that procured the sale of an
estate on the strength of a "hanging-wood," which proved to be a gibbet
on an adjoining common.

Webberly House--formerly called Simson's Folly--had been purposely
tricked up for sale by a prodigal heir, when obliged to dispose of his
paternal estate to discharge the debts his extravagance had incurred.
As a second dupe was not easily to be found, Mrs. Sullivan now vainly
endeavoured to part with it, as neither she nor her children could
reconcile themselves to living in so retired a part of the country.

Mrs. Sullivan was the only child of an extremely rich hosier in
Cheapside, who perhaps had saved more money than he had made, and fully
instructed his daughter in all the arts of frugality, limiting her
knowledge of all other arts and sciences to considerable manual
dexterity in making "a pudding and a shirt," which he considered the
ultimatum of female education. When Miss Leatherly was thus, according
to long established opinion, qualified for matrimony, her large fortune
brought her in reward a West Indian planter as a husband, from whom she
acquired those habits of ostentatious arrogance, which, united to her
early imbibed parsimony, formed the principal traits of her character.
By this marriage Mrs. Sullivan had one son and two daughters; and,
fifteen years after the birth of the former, became a widow, with a
large jointure, as well as all her father's riches, at her own disposal.
She received the addresses of many fortune hunters, but finally gave the
preference to a handsome, good natured, dissipated Irishman, whose name
she now bore. Mr. Sullivan at the period of his marriage was past the
prime of life; he had long served in the Austrian armies, (for being a
Catholic he was incapacitated from holding any high rank in those of his
native sovereign, and therefore preferred following another standard),
but his military career procuring him little except scars and honours,
he gladly availed himself of the wealthy widow's evident partiality, and
at first thought himself most fortunate in becoming the possessor of so
large a fortune; yet soon found he had dearly purchased the affluence
which inflicted on him, not only the disgusting illiberal vulgarity of
his wife, but the petulant rudeness and self-sufficiency of her
children. His only consolation was a daughter Mrs. Sullivan had
presented him with, in the first year of their marriage, and his
happiness as a father, made him in some degree forget his miseries as a
husband. His heart was completely wrapped up in the charming little
Caroline, and bitterly did he repent on her account, that his former
prodigality had obliged him to yield to his elder brother's desire of
cutting off the entail of the family estate; which must otherwise have
descended to her, being settled on the females, as well as males of
their ancient house. Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan associated but little
together; as she was never happy except when she accompanied her elder
daughters to the most fashionable watering places; whilst he, remaining
at home, devoted most of his time to the little Caroline. But here,
unfortunately, in the attempt to banish the uneasy feelings of his
mind, he by degrees formed a habit of indulging in the pleasures of the
bottle, in a greater degree than strict propriety permits. About three
months before his death, the little domestic comfort he had enjoyed was
exchanged for the most complete disquietude, as at that time the
jealousy of his wife was roused by his introducing Miss Wildenheim into
his family as his ward.--Notwithstanding his most solemn assurances,
that this young lady was the daughter of a German baron, who had not
only long been his commanding officer but his most zealous friend, Mrs.
Sullivan constantly asserted she was his natural child. Such a paternity
was in her eyes an almost unpardonable crime; for, considering her
inferiority of rank and sex, she was still more unreasonable than Henry
the Eighth, who made it high treason for those he sought as partners to
his throne not to confess all the errors they had been guilty of in a
state of celibacy. Perhaps nothing but the stipend received for
Adelaide's maintenance could have reconciled Mrs. Sullivan to her
residence at Webberly House, for she was too avaricious not to submit to
a great deal for three hundred a year.

When Miss Wildenheim first appeared in Mr. Sullivan's family she was in
the deepest mourning for a parent, who his wife felt convinced was her
mother. It must be confessed, the affection Mr. Sullivan showed
Adelaide, and his distracted state of mind from the period of her
arrival, gave a very plausible colour to his wife's suspicions. He
avoided the society of his family, and giving himself up to his habit of
drinking, it in a short time proved fatal; for returning late one night
from squire Thornbull's in a state of intoxication, he was killed at his
own gate by falling off his horse. Miss Wildenheim's consequent
affliction, and dangerous illness, left no doubt in Mrs. Sullivan's
mind, as to the justice of her surmises. Enraged by this apparent
confirmation of her imagined wrongs, and urged by the envious hatred the
Miss Webberlys showed of Adelaide's superior charms, she determined no
longer to retain under her roof an object on these accounts so
obnoxious; and, as a flattering unction to her soul, persuaded herself,
that a girl with ten thousand pounds fortune could never be at any great
loss for a home. But at length her darling passion, covetousness,
prevailed over her resentment; as she recollected, that should the
brother of her late husband ever hear of her treating in such a manner a
girl Mr. Sullivan had left under her protection, and in whose fate (from
whatever motive) he had shown so deep an interest, her unkindness might
be construed into disrespect to his memory, and as such be resented with
the warmth of family pride and affection, so natural to the Irish
character; and perhaps prompt the offended brother to revenge the
affront, by leaving his estate to a distant cousin, who had been dreaded
by her husband as a rival to Caroline. These and other pecuniary
considerations finally induced Mrs. Sullivan to accept the guardianship
of Miss Wildenheim in conjunction with a Mr. Austin, who was trustee to
her fortune, and was said to be an old and faithful friend of her
father.

However Mrs. Sullivan had failed in the character of a wife, she had
always been weakly indulgent as a mother, and was easily led by her
children into every expensive folly. Her son's command of money had made
him, on his first entrance into life, a very desirable acquaintance to
some needy young men of fashion, who, in return for the pecuniary
accommodation he afforded them, did him the favour to turn his head and
corrupt his morals. As he became daily more ambitious to emulate his new
associates in all their extravagance, he persuaded his mother to change
her style of living, in order to imitate as closely as possible that of
the relatives of his _professed_ friends. At this critical period, he
had unfortunately found Mr. Sullivan no less solicitous of joining those
secondary circles of fashion, to which alone they could expect
admittance, from his having long been accustomed to lead as a bachelor a
life of gaiety and dissipation; and the Miss Webberlys still more
zealously promoted his wishes, being equally solicitous to reach the
threshold of fashion, which had long been the unattained object of their
highest hope. This was perhaps the only point in the chapter of
possibilities, on which the whole family could agree.

Mrs. Sullivan reversed the order of nature, and followed the path her
children traced for her, supposing them to be better instructed in such
things than herself; for she knew they had received a superabundance of
the _means_, and, poor woman! she had not sense to perceive they had
missed the _ends_ of education. In encouraging her children in the
pursuit of fashionable follies, Mrs. Sullivan but followed the general
example of wealthy parents, whom we so frequently behold acting like the
worshippers of Moloch in elder days, making their sons and their
daughters pass through the fires of dissipation, in the chance of
drawing them forth from the ordeal with greater external brightness; but
the scorching flames too often wither to the root the shoots of honour,
benevolence, and truth.

In nothing was Mrs. Sullivan's lamentable imitation of her children's
follies more perceptible, than in her conversation, which was a mixture
of Cheapside vulgarisms and Newmarket cant, with here and there a stray
ornament from her daughters' vocabularies of sentimental and
scientifical jargon; the whole misapplied and mispronounced, in a manner
that would have done honour to Mrs. Malaprop herself!

Miss Webberly's person was much in the predicament Solomon laments in
his song for his sister; but she had in compensation an addendum which
the Jewish fair had not, in the shape of a protuberance on the left
shoulder, which however she always endeavoured to balance by applying to
the right the judicious stuffing of Madame Huber's stays; and her
deformity was only perceptible by some slight traces in her countenance,
in which there was nothing else remarkable, except a pair of little
black eyes, rather pert than sparkling. Conscious that she could not
shine as a beauty, she resolved on being a "_bel esprit_," for which she
was nearly as ill qualified by nature; and, reversing the fable of
Achilles habiting himself in female attire, she put on an armour she
could not carry, and grasped at weapons she was unable to wield. And as
she sought knowledge "with all her seeking," not to promote her own
happiness, but to subtract from that of others, by mortifying their
self-love, in the anticipated triumphs of her own, her preposterous
vanity led her to deform her mind as much by art with misplaced and
uncouth excrescences of pedantry, as her person was by the unlucky
addition it had received from nature: but while she sought to conceal
the one with the most anxious care, she laboured as incessantly to
display the other; thus resembling the infatuated being, who first held
up for the worship of his fellow mortal a disgusting reptile, or a
worthless weed.

Miss Cecilia Webberly was in face and figure entitled to the appellation
of a fine bouncing girl, if for that a mass of flesh and blood
exquisitely coloured could suffice; but though to lilies and roses of
the most perfect hues were superadded fine blue eyes and beautiful
flaxen hair, her countenance was neither good-natured nor gay, but
indicative of the most supercilious self-conceit. She had enjoyed what
are usually termed the _advantages_ of a London boarding school, and
through their influence had acquired sufficient French to read the tales
of Marmontel, by a strange misnomer called "_Contes moraux_," and to
which, for the benefit of the rising generation, we would humbly advise
prefixing a syllable in any future edition. From these tales she learned
to be sentimental, and fancied herself in turn the heroine of "_Le mari
Sylph_," "_L'heureux Divorce_," &c.

Moreover, the fair Cecilia had here been taught to move her ponderous
fingers with considerable swiftness over the keys of a piano forte, and
to exercise her powerful lungs in Vauxhall songs.

In this seminary she was unfortunately inoculated with a virus, that
totally diseased a heart nature had intended for better
purposes--namely, an aching desire after fashionable life, which led her
to caricature those airs of _ton_ which she had not _tact_ to imitate.
The eye that is always turned upwards must be blinded by the brightness
of a sphere it is not fashioned to; and Cecilia Webberly was so dazzled
by the accounts she read in the daily prints, and La Belle Assemblée, of
"great lords and ladies dressed out on gay days," that she looked on the
inhabitants of Bloomsbury Square with sovereign contempt, her mother and
sister inclusive, who notwithstanding encouraged and emulated her
flights, flattering themselves that her eccentricities would carry her,
and them as her attendants, into regions of splendour, though in truth
they were only thus brought forth to the "garish eye of day," to be
exposed to the contempt and ridicule her folly excited.

A few days after the expedition of Mrs. Martin and her friends to
Webberly House, as she was standing one fine morning at her parlour
window, Mrs. Sullivan's dashing equipage drove past, and her involuntary
exclamation at the sudden, and to her unpractised eyes, terrifying stop
of the four horses, which were a second before at their utmost speed,
was changed into an expression of pleasure, when she saw Miss Wildenheim
alone alight at Mr. Slater's shop, and the showy carriage from which she
descended drive away ere the door was well closed; for Mrs. Sullivan and
her daughters never condescended to enter _the shop_, as it was in token
of pre-eminence called in the village of Deane. The great Frederick has
wisely remarked, that "_custom_ guides fools in place of _reason_;" and
they had sapiently agreed amongst themselves, that "no lady of fashion
was ever seen in a shop out of Bond Street;" but as for many reasons
they were always anxious to prevail on Miss Wildenheim to execute their
commissions, they took care not to inform her of the solecism in
etiquette they had thus discovered, lest her timid and scrupulous
attention to propriety should overcome her good nature, and deprive
them of the benefit of her taste and judgment. The place of sale these
ladies thus contemned, was a rustic pantheon-physitechnicon, where were
to be had--food for the mind, at least for those who were content to
"prey on garbage," and countless articles for the ladies' use. Part of
the counter was covered with stationery of all descriptions, school
books, last speeches, and ballads, besides a few miscellaneous articles
in the reading way, such as Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the Seven
Champions of Christendom, and the Methodistical Magazine, relating how
Mr. Goodman "put on by faith," not "the armour of the Lord," but a pair
of "leathern conveniences," vulgarly called _breeches_. The remainder of
the counter showed, through glass panes, plated and pinchbeck _tiaras_
for farmers' daughters, and every species of low-priced disfigurement
for the person, in the shape of necklace or ear-ring, with a variety of
other articles of equal utility. The drawers, on one side of the
counter, contained groceries of all kinds; those on the other, a no less
various assortment of haberdashery and millinery, the latter, when
unsaleable, being altered from year to year to "the newest London
fashion." The shop also displayed a considerable store of hardware and
crockery, from the unglazed brown pan to the gold edged tea cup and
painted sailor's pig--lastly, boasting of a delectable circulating
library, which presented volumes that, like the highly prized works of
classic fame, had a most oleaginous odour.

The contents of the shop were scarcely less various than the occupations
of its master and his family. In part of the second floor, Miss Slater
held her "Academy for young ladies." In the other her sister performed
the office of mantua and corset maker. Their father was upholsterer,
undertaker, and _barber_, and by consequence _politician_ to the parish.
His gratuitous office of quidnunc had perhaps gained him more wealth
and patronage than all his others collectively, as in it he had never
made any direct attack on the purses of his neighbours, but by reading
the newspapers and gazette every market day free of cost, he assembled
all the farmers of the vicinity in his shop, who generally discovered
something amongst its various contents they felt an imperious necessity
to purchase, thus successfully following the plan of the ingenious
advertiser of----_A pair of globes for nothing!!!_----with an atlas,
price five guineas.

On the above mentioned occasions Mr. Slater was furiously loyal, in a
flaming red waistcoat, which scarcely rivalled his rubicund face.--When
he first became the village orator, he had endeavoured, from motives of
interest, to persuade others he felt more than he really did; and, as is
commonly the case with those who _exaggerate_ but are not
_hypocritical_, he ended in feeling more than he got credit for.--In
the proceedings of the English government he now really thought, that
"whatever is is right."--And perhaps it is to be regretted, that in his
class this belief is not more general.--Illiterate politicians are
scarcely less dangerous than self-constituted physicians--It requires
men of skill to medicate for the body physical or political.--Quacks in
either injure in proportion to their ignorance and consequent audacity;
it may often be better to let a disease alone, in the constitution of
the state or individual, than to run the risk of aggravating it by the
nostrums of the venders of concealed poisons.

Mr. Slater's window was always adorned with a bulletin of the news of
the day, of his own writing! and this singular composition set at
defiance all rules of grammar and orthography; but he had none of the
pride of authorship, and unfeignedly thanked the village schoolmaster
for his emendations, though perhaps it might sometimes be said, that
the _correction_ was the worst of the two.

The good man also amused himself with what he called "mapping" and
"drawing." The few unoccupied spaces in his shop walls were stuck over
with representations of the Thalaba of modern history in a variety of
woful plights; and he had made more changes in the face of Europe than
that archconjurer himself--for, to elucidate the Duke of Wellington's
campaigns, he exhibited a map with Portugal at the wrong side of
Spain[3]! not failing to take similar liberties in his representations
of _actions_ of various kinds.

[Footnote 3: Matter of fact.]

It may be supposed, that a shop so filled, and a master thus
accomplished, would be unremittingly attended.--In truth, "The Shop" was
seldom empty; and what with haranguing, bargaining, and the ceaseless
creaking of the pack-thread on its ever revolving roller, with
interludes of breaking sugar, and chopping ham, the noise on market days
was so deafening, that the tower of Babel might serve as an emblem, but
that there only one faculty was confounded, whilst here three of the
five senses were assailed at once.

At the moment of Miss Wildenheim's entrance, however, a comparative
"silence reigned within the walls,"--as in the shop were only Mrs.
Temple (wife of the rector) and her youngest son and daughter, the one
teazing her for a Robinson Crusoe, the other coaxing for a doll; but at
the sight of their "dear dote Miss Wildenheim" the little petitioners
forgot their requests, and throwing their arms about her neck, to the no
small damage of the muslin frill, that contrasted its snowy whiteness
with the sable hue of her other garments, made her cheek glow with their
kisses, whilst their friendly mother not less cordially shook her hand.

After a little social chat, Miss Wildenheim proceeded to fulfil the
object of her visit to the shop, namely, to choose a novel for Miss
Cecilia Webberly.--"What are you looking for there, my dear, with so
much perseverance? any thing will do for her," said Mrs.
Temple.--"Here's the Delicate Distress--The Innocent Seduction."--"I
fear, from their titles, they would serve to aid her in her search after
romance; don't you think that would be a pity?--I was looking for
Patronage, or Almeria."--The peculiar tone, half foreign, half pathetic,
in which Adelaide said the word _pity_, joined to the ludicrous but just
parallel she had in sober sadness unconsciously drawn for Cecilia
Webberly, struck with so comic an effect on Mrs. Temple's risible
nerves, that she burst out into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
Adelaide opened her eye-lids to their utmost expansion, and cast the
beautiful orbs they had concealed on Mrs. Temple's face, with a look of
mingled surprise and inquiry.--"I only thought, my dear girl, (laying
her hand on Miss Wildenheim's arm), it was a sin you should waste your
morality and your _pit-tie_ in so useless a manner: believe me, Miss
Edgeworth's wit and sense would be lost on a girl too stupid to
comprehend the one, and too silly to profit by the other: if Miss
Cecilia Webberly were only a _fool_, I might encourage your laudable
endeavours, but----" "Hush, hush, my dear Mrs. Temple, here are
strangers;" and turning round Mrs. Temple discovered Sir Henry Seymour's
carriage at the door. It was a vehicle as old fashioned as the owner,
"the good Sir Henry," and formed a striking contrast to the showy
_cortège_ of the Webberly family. It was drawn in a steady quiet trot,
by four heavy steeds as gray as their driver, who, seated on a
hammer-cloth adorned with fringes as numerous as those on the petticoat
of a modern belle, carefully avoided the sharp turns and charioteering
skill of the Four-in-hand Club. Sir Henry Seymour's carriage contained
only his sister-in-law, Mrs. Galton, who was addressed by Mrs. Temple
with all the intimacy of friendship, and answered a variety of inquiries
concerning Miss Seymour, which were made with real interest.

After giving Mrs. Temple an invitation to join a dinner party at the
hall on the following Thursday, Mrs. Galton whispered, "I suspect; that
elegant girl in mourning is the interesting foreigner whose unexpected
appearance at Webberly House last November excited so much
gossip."--"Yes, she is."--"Then pray introduce me; we have never met,
though I called on her the last time I visited Mrs. Sullivan." This
request was soon complied with; and the ceremony being over, Mrs. Galton
politely appealed to Adelaide's taste, regarding the colours of some
silks she was choosing to work a trimming for her niece's first gown,
which, on her ensuing birth-day, was to mark her approach to womanhood;
for in Sir Henry Seymour's family the difference in dress between
sixteen and forty-five was preserved: Selina had not yet laid aside her
white frock, nor was Mrs. Galton in her own person anxious to antedate
the period of second childhood. Mrs. Martin and Lucy, accompanied by
Mrs. Lucas, now walked in to pay their compliments to the ladies they
had seen enter, and were as usual received by Mrs. Galton with the
utmost civility; and as she knew that a visit to Deane Hall was an event
and a distinction in the annals of village history, she included them in
her invitation for Thursday, which was delightfully accepted by them.
Mrs. Sullivan's carriage having now returned for Miss Wildenheim, she
took her leave. And Mr. Mordaunt, having executed some business the
worthy baronet had intrusted him with, entered the shop, and reminded
Mrs. Galton, that if they did not hasten home, Sir Henry would be kept
waiting dinner, and, what was to him of much more interest, Selina
Seymour would be disappointed of her evening ride.



CHAPTER IV.

    Each look, each motion, wak'd a new born grace,
      That o'er her form its transient glory cast;
    Some lovelier wonder soon usurp'd the place,
      Chas'd by a charm still lovelier than the last.

    LYTTELTON.


Mr. Mordaunt, finding it impossible to persuade Sir Henry Seymour's
veteran coachman to resign his office of charioteer, or even willingly
to admit a partner on his throne, was obliged to solace himself with
Mrs. Galton's conversation, till they entered the park of Deane. At
last, as the carriage turned up the long dark avenue which led to the
magnificent though antique mansion, his delighted eye beheld Selina, as
she supported her father, whilst "with measured step and slow" he walked
up and down the broad smooth terrace, which stretched along the south
front of the house, and commanded all the beauties of the rich vale
below. Her fragile form and firm yet elastic step were contrasted with
Sir Henry's tottering feeble gait. But though her sparkling eyes gave a
joyous welcome, even from a distance, to Mrs. Galton and Augustus, yet,
with the fond solicitude of filial love, she restrained her father's
hastening steps, till Augustus relieved her from her charge; then light
as a zephyr which scarcely bends the flower over which it passes, she
flew to Mrs. Galton, and had already seen, if not examined, all her
purchases, recapitulated her various occupations during her three hours'
absence, and made Mrs. Galton repeat twice over all the particulars she
could recollect, of "dear Mrs. Temple," and Miss Wildenheim, before
Augustus had conducted Sir Henry to the hall door, or replied to more
than half his inquiries about "poor Brown's lease, and the arrangements
that were made for his wife and children."

Selina Seymour was nearly seventeen; her person

    "Fair as the forms that, wove in fancy's loom,
    Float in light vision round the poet's head;"

and her mind as well cultivated as could be expected under the peculiar
circumstances of her situation; for she had lived entirely in the
country, and never had as yet an opportunity of acquiring that
brilliancy of execution in the fine arts, by which so many of our modern
girls of fashion rival the painters, and the dancers, and the singers,
and the players on musical instruments, who live only by the exertion of
their talents in those different lines. Of what are usually called
_accomplishments_ she was comparatively ignorant. She knew little or
nothing of fancy works--had never made any pasteboard screens--could
neither waltz nor play on the flageolet--nor beat the tambourine in all
the different attitudes practised and taught to young ladies by the
Duke of York's band--but with several modern languages she was well
acquainted, and had learned to draw from Mrs. Galton, who particularly
excelled in miniature painting, and delighted in transmitting all her
knowledge to her adopted child. Music was however Selina's favourite
amusement, and for it she early discovered a decided genius. An old
blind organist, from the town of ----, generally attended her for three
months every summer, and certainly taught her well the only part of the
art he understood, namely, thorough bass--but of the soul of music, he,
poor man, had no idea; for that she was indebted solely to her own
intensity of feeling; and whatever execution she possessed she had
acquired by the indefatigable practice of such lessons of Handel's,
Corelli's, Scarlatti's, and Bach's, as her father's old music chest
afforded; for Sir Henry had not added an air to his collection since the
death of her mother Lady Seymour, nor did he suppose it possible, that
any improvement could have taken place in the art of composition since
that period. Perhaps, had he heard Selina play some of Mozart's
admirable melodies, he might have been induced to acknowledge their
merit, as he generally thought all she did was perfection; though in her
education he never interfered--the care of that had been intrusted, ever
since she had lost her mother, to Mrs. Galton, and the excellent rector
of the parish, Mr. Temple, who had been tutor to Sir Henry Seymour's
ward, Augustus Mordaunt. With them Selina often joined in studies of a
graver cast than those usually appropriated to her age and sex. And
perhaps the peculiar style of her education was the one best adapted to
her disposition. She had naturally uncommon vivacity. "Her cheek was yet
unprofaned by a tear," and her buoyant spirits had never been depressed
by those unfeeling prohibitions and restraints, which, "like a worm i'
th' bud," feed on the opening blossom, and turn the happiest season of
our lives into days of protracted penance. To her elasticity of spirits
and brilliancy of imagination, which, but for an uncommon superiority of
talent, might have degenerated into frivolity of mind, this calm and
almost masculine education formed an admirable counterpoise. But yet
such was her natural pliability of character, that Mrs. Galton scarcely
deemed even this antidote sufficient; and looked forward with trembling
anxiety to the period of her being introduced to society, knowing how
probable it was, that her fancy, and even her heart, might be seriously
affected, long before her reason or understanding were called into
action.

Selina was the only one of Sir Henry Seymour's children who had survived
their mother; in her were centred all his hopes and nearly all his
affections; her vivacity amused, and her talents gratified him. But he
was not capable of justly appreciating or fully comprehending her
character; he had so long considered her as a mere child, it never
entered into his calculation, that she was now approaching that eventful
period of life, when more was required from the discretion and affection
of a parent, than a mere tolerance of harmless vivacity. It did
certainly sometimes occur to him, that she might marry, but he generally
banished the idea from his mind as quickly as it arose; for it was
always accompanied by a painful feeling, arising in truth from a dread
of losing her delightful society; but he never analyzed this feeling,
and always repeating to himself that she was still but a child, he
concluded by his usual reflection, that there "was no use in thinking
about it; for, if it was to happen, he could not help it."

Thus, with infatuated security, he anticipated no danger in allowing his
daughter to associate with Augustus Mordaunt. They had been brought up
as children together, and their manner to each other was so
unrestrained, so free from all those artificial precautions, that by a
premature defence first apprise innocence of its danger, that even wiser
heads than poor Sir Henry's might have believed, as Selina really did,
that only the affection of brother and sister existed between them: it
is true, Mrs. Galton and Mr. Temple sometimes talked over together the
possibility of their future union; and so desirable did it seem to both,
and so certain to obtain Sir Henry's consent, that they left them to
their fate, scarcely wishing that any circumstance should arise to
prevent a mutual attachment taking place.

Augustus was nephew to the earl of Osselstone, and heir to his title.
His father, dying when he was four years old, had left him to the
guardianship of Sir Henry; and the boy had been removed to Deane Hall
the year before Selina was born, where he had constantly resided since,
except during the periods he had passed at Eton and Oxford. Sir Henry
felt for him an affection almost paternal; nor was it unreturned, or
unworthily bestowed. The disposition of Augustus was naturally
benevolent and ardent in the extreme. Even in the most trifling pursuit
either of knowledge or amusement, the fervency of his character was
manifested; and where the susceptibility of his heart was once called
forth, though expression might be repressed, his feelings were not
easily to be subdued.

Mr. Temple, profiting by the example the fate of Mordaunt's parents had
presented, early laboured to bring his passions under the control of
reason. He succeeded in regulating them, though they were not to be
extinguished; and though Augustus early acquired a habit of
self-possession, yet the natural vivacity of his character was expressed
in every glance of his intelligent countenance, which served to portray
each fleeting sentiment as it arose, whilst his dark expressive eye
seemed to penetrate into the inmost thoughts of others, and to search
for a mind congenial to his own. His figure was not less remarkable for
elegance than strength; and he particularly excelled in all those manly
exercises and accomplishments in which grace or activity are required.
He had derived, partly from nature, partly from education, such high and
almost chivalrous ideas of principle, that, even as a boy, no temptation
could have induced him either to deserve or submit to the slightest
imputation on his honour; and as he approached to manhood, this jealousy
of character had given him a reputation of pride, which his dignified
manner and appearance in some degree corroborated.--Though to his
inferiors his address was always affable, yet to strangers of his own
rank in life he was generally reserved: he was therefore not always
understood; and those who were incapable of fully comprehending his
peculiar merits, frequently attributed that apparent haughtiness of
demeanour, which repelled officious familiarity, less to the superiority
of his individual character, than to the adventitious circumstance of
his high birth and expectations.

He had early shown a strong predilection for the army, but he could
never prevail on Sir Henry to consent to his entering that profession;
and as a coolness existed between his uncle and his guardian, none other
had yet been decided on for him. Nor, if it was to depend on Sir Henry's
advice or exertions, was the selection likely soon to be made; for such
was the habitual indolence of the baronet's character, that, unless the
natural benevolence of his disposition was peculiarly called forth by
any accidental circumstance, he was content with feelings of unbounded
good will to all mankind, without making a single effort to promote the
welfare of any individual. Yet, nevertheless, he was an affectionate
father, an indulgent landlord, a hospitable neighbour, a kind friend,
and as such universally beloved and respected. In his establishment at
Deane Hall, old English hospitality was maintained to the fullest
extent; and the regularity of this establishment was united to such an
uniformity of pursuit, that it almost amounted to a monotony of life.
The care of directing his household and doing the honours of his table
he left entirely to Mrs. Galton, the sister of the late Lady Seymour.
She was, however, only called "mistress" by courtesy, for though "still
in the sober charms of womanhood mature," just "verging on decay," she
was yet unmarried. In her youth this lady had been as beautiful as she
was amiable, and being possessed of a large fortune, had many suitors:
on one of these, a Mr. Montague, she had bestowed her affections, and
was on the point of marrying him, when she discovered that he was an
inveterate gamester, ruined in fortune, morals, and character, and of
course unworthy of her regard; and though her good sense enabled her in
time to recover from the misery this discovery occasioned her, yet she
was never afterwards prevailed on to make another choice. Shortly after
her refusal of him, Mr. Montague married a Miss Mortimer, who was as
depraved as himself, and lost his life in a duel with one of his
dissipated companions. Mrs. Galton had resided at Deane Hall from the
period of her sister's death; and Selina soon filled the place of
daughter in her affectionate heart. As that heart had been so deeply
wounded, she had turned assiduously to the cultivation of her
understanding; and in endeavouring to engraft her own perfections on
Selina's ductile mind, she preserved the peace of her own, by
withdrawing it from those corroding remembrances, that had threatened it
with irreparable injury.

The day at last arrived, which was fixed for the annual visit of Mrs.
Sullivan and her party at Deane Hall; for it may easily be supposed,
that where such dissimilarity of character and pursuit existed, little
intercourse would be maintained. At least an hour after the appointed
time, the loud and peremptory knock of their London footman proclaimed
their arrival; but their welcome was much less cordial, than it would
otherwise have been, from all the assembled party at Deane, as they came
unaccompanied by Miss Wildenheim.

Mrs. Sullivan, on entering the room, displayed a low, fat, vulgar
figure, arrayed in all the shades admissible in fashionable _mourning_.
Her gown was a _soi-disant_ grey, approximating, as nearly as possible,
to a sky blue, relieved with black and scarlet, and profusely ornamented
with artificial flowers. On her head waved a plume of white ostrich
feathers, which, in their modest color and airy form, served perfectly
to contrast her piony cheeks and lumpish person.

Her petticoats, wired at the bottom, kept unbroken the ample circle, of
which her breadth from hip to hip formed the diameter. Her shuffling
gait put all her finery in motion from head to foot; and Selina could
not help thinking, that, "if she might just give her one _little_
twirl," she would make to perfection what in her girlish plays was
called a _cheese_. Mrs. Sullivan was followed by her two elder
daughters--Miss Webberly, loaded with all the superfluous decorations of
modern costume, which could be called in aid to conceal her natural
deformity, and her sister, dressed in the opposite extreme of capricious
fashion, equally solicitous to exhibit her all unobscured charms. Soon
after, the entrance of the remaining guests completed the circle, and
the company insensibly dividing into small separate parties, Mrs. Galton
found herself between her two intimate friends, Mr. and Mrs. Temple,
and expressed to them her sincere regret at not seeing Miss Wildenheim,
for whom Mrs. Sullivan had made an awkward apology.

"What a beautiful style of countenance hers is," said Augustus Mordaunt,
who was standing by: "quite the Grecian head." "I look more to the
inside of the head," replied Mr. Temple, "and find it as admirable as
you do the outside." "You are always so warm in your admiration of your
young favourite, that I am really quite jealous," said his amiable wife,
with a look that expressed her love and pride in the speaker, and her
regard for the object spoken of. "I do indeed admire her; nay, youthful
as she is, I reverence her," resumed Mr. Temple.

"And how did you happen to know so much of her?" asked Mrs. Galton; "for
she has been carefully secluded from the rest of the neighbourhood."

"I was called upon to attend her in my pastoral office last winter,
during her dangerous illness; and having good reason to think that her
pillow was unsmoothed by any kind hand, I pitied her most sincerely; and
when we heard she was recovering, we both visited her frequently, and
without much difficulty prevailed on Mrs. Sullivan, to permit her to
come to the parsonage for change of air, where my ill-natured wife
nursed her for six weeks." "I think," said Mrs. Temple, "one becomes
better acquainted with a person in an invalide state, than in any other;
the sort of charge that the healthy take upon them for the sick,
entitles them to discard much of the formality of common intercourse."
"You are right, my dear; and the being that is in hourly uncertainty of
its stay here, is anxious to part with its fellow mortals, not only in
peace, but in love; and receives every proffered kindness with
gratitude. Impressed with these feelings," continued Mr. Temple, "Miss
Wildenheim suffered us to gain a knowledge of her disposition no other
circumstance could have procured us.--To know and not to admire her is
an impossibility!"

Mrs. Sullivan, who had kept herself aloof to impress on her mind an
inventory of the furniture, and to listen to the whole company at once,
could no longer keep patience or restrain her indignation; and having
gathered sufficient to understand that Mr. and Mrs. Temple were praising
her lovely ward, she exclaimed with involuntary vehemence, "Lauk! how
can you admire Miss Wildenheim, with her sallow complexion, and such a
poke?" "Pardon me, Mrs. Sullivan," replied Mrs. Galton; "the only time I
ever met her I thought her complexion the most beautiful brunette I ever
saw: but perhaps her colour was heightened by exercise." "And her
carriage"--rejoined Mrs. Temple, with less ceremony, "is grace itself!"
"_Et vera incessu patuit Dea_[4]"--said the worthy rector to Mordaunt;
and, as he abhorred gossips, sheered off to the window, to ask him some
questions regarding his studies at Oxford. "Well, well!" resumed Mrs.
Sullivan, "I loves a girl as straight as the poplars at Islington, with
a good white skin, (casting a look of triumph at Cecilia); I never liked
none of them there outlandish folk: why she's for all the world like a
gipsy. My poor dear Mr. Sullivan didn't ought for to bring his casts-up
to me and my daughters, who are come of good havage!--If she and my
Carline wasn't sisters, they never would be so out of the way fond of
one another. If Miss was her natural mother, she couldn't make more of
her than she does now, for her father's sake: and my foolish little chit
thinks this Frenchified lady a nonsuch. I'll warrant me her schooling
cost a pretty penny in foreign parts, where she got that odorous twang
on her tongue; howsoever, she's culpable to teach my little girl to
jabber French; and, as one good turn deserves another, I takes a world
of pains to teach her not to misprison her words: and would you believe
it? she looks sometimes as if she had a mind to laugh; and then she
casts down her hugeous eyes, and colours up as red as a turkey cock, all
out of pride! But I'm resolved she shan't ruinate Carline's English;
I'll supersede that myself."

[Footnote 4:

    And by her walk the queen of love is known.

    DRYDEN.
]

Dinner being announced, prevented Mrs. Sullivan's female auditors from
making either comment or reply, except by an "alphabet of looks," which
had this sapient lady possessed sufficient shrewdness to decipher, she
would not have been much gratified by its import.



CHAPTER V.

    Once on a time, so runs the fable,
    A country mouse, right hospitable,
    Received a town mouse at his board,
    Just as a farmer would a lord.

    POPE.


The dessert was scarcely laid on the table and the servants withdrawn,
when a clatter of pattens and a loud talking announced the arrival of
the guests from Deane. Mrs. Galton and Miss Seymour were anxious to
retire immediately; but Mrs. Sullivan was too busily engaged paying her
devoirs to a fine peach, and her second daughter in monopolizing those
of Mr. Mordaunt, to attend the signal; whilst Miss Webberly was
slanderously attributing to the family of "Gases" affinities and
products that never before had been hinted at; and was so eagerly bent
on astonishing Mr. Temple by a discourse "_Enflé de vent, vide de
raison_," that some minutes elapsed before the _debouching_ was
effected. They however reached the huge fire-place, now decked in all
the pride of summer's bloom, which marked the centre of the
old-fashioned hall, before the finishing strokes were given to the
toilets of the newly-arrived party. "I declare here they all come!"
exclaimed Mrs. Martin; "Lucy, my dear, hold up your head. Here, put this
pocket-handkerchief in your bonnet for night, whilst I just slip your
shoes and stockings into your ridicule." "How d'ye do, Mrs. Galton?
Thank ye, ma'am, my Lucy's used to walking--never catches cold. We were
twice at Vauxhall last spring two year. Well certainly, Miss Seymour,
the country air does agree with you; you look vastly well. Pray, my dear
miss, isn't that Mrs. Sullivan and the two Miss Webberlys? They don't
seem to remember me. I'll just go and ask whether the currant wine I
made 'em a present of was good or not." So saying, the active Mrs.
Martin bustled up to Mrs. Sullivan to recommence her usual string of
queries, without waiting for an answer to any one of those she had
already made with such uninterrupted volubility. But Mrs. Sullivan's
pomposity was not to be discomposed by any sudden attack. She was by
this time sitting, or rather reclining, (for reposing it could not be
called) on the high-backed, hard-bottomed, uncushioned, damask-covered
sofa, which had not yet resigned its proud and ancient place against the
side wall of Sir Henry's drawing-room. She was paying as much attention
to Mrs. Galton's conversation as repeated yawns would permit, an
attention ostentatiously redoubled at the entrance of Mrs. Martin, while
Mrs. Lucas was balancing herself on the edge of an immoveable arm-chair,
assiduously offering her assenting monosyllable, and smiling "he hem" at
the close of every sentence the two ladies uttered, however
contradictory its import might be to the last expressed opinion.

Mrs. Temple had in the mean time joined the young people who had
withdrawn to one of the deep recesses of the windows, collected together
in a groupe, by that indescribable attraction which is found in a
similarity of age, however unlike the characters or pursuits of the
different individuals may be. Some beautiful roses which filled an old
china vase, and scarcely rivalled its colours, served for the subject of
their conversation. "I suppose," said Miss Webberly, "you have plenty of
time, in this out of the way place, Miss Seymour, for the study of
botany and the fine arts. How I envy you! Now in town we have never no
time for nothing." "No, indeed," replied Miss Seymour, "I know nothing
of botany, though I delight in flowers." "Not understand botany!" "Why
indeed, my love Emily," interrupted Miss Cecilia Webberly, "no person
of taste likes those things now, they are quite out; indeed, 'the loves
of the plants' is a delightful book, that will always go down. I have it
almost off by heart. Don't you admire it, Miss Seymour?" "I have never
read it," answered Selina. "And what do you read?" continued Cecilia; "I
suppose you hardly ever get a new book at Slater's?" "Yes; do let us
hear what your studies are," said Miss Webberly, in a tone approaching
to contempt. "My employments scarcely deserve the name of studies,"
modestly replied Selina. "I am very fond of drawing, and spend a great
deal of time in that occupation; but any information I receive from
books has been principally gathered from what Augustus reads out to my
aunt and me, whilst my father sleeps in an evening." "How extatic must
be your communication with Mr. Temple, my dear madam!" said Miss
Webberly, turning from Selina to Mrs. Temple; "yours must be the feast
of reason and the flow of soul. Does the vegetable creation ever attract
your notice?" "Yes;" quietly answered Mrs. Temple; "but I principally
cultivate flowers for the sake of my bees; they, you know, are my second
nursery." "And pray, while you are practising horticulture, do you think
you ever suffer from imbibing the hydrogen?" "To tell you the truth, my
dear Miss Webberly, I feel I so little understand either hydrogen or
oxygen, that I never think about them." "Nothing more easy! nothing more
easy, I assure you! Every body learns chemistry in town. I always attend
the Royal Institution;--Sir Humphrey Davy is so dear! so animated! so
delightful! I once asked him, 'My dear Sir Davy,' says I, 'what's the
distinction between oxygen and hydrogen?' 'Why,' says he, 'one is pure
gin, and the other gin and water.'" Poor Selina was as little capable of
enjoying the scientifical jargon of Miss Webberly, as she was of
comprehending the more fluent discourse of her sister, who had already
talked over the contents of Slater's library with Miss Martin and Miss
Lucas, and astonished them with a minute description of the last spring
fashions. The arrival of the tea and coffee was therefore to her no
unwelcome interruption.

But the occupations attending the tea-table were scarcely commenced,
when the approach of Sir Henry Seymour from the dining-room was
announced by the quickly repeated sound of his knotted cane, which kept
due measure with his hurried footsteps along the well polished floor of
the hall, as it preserved the worthy baronet from its slippery
influence. "Why, Selina! Mrs. Galton! Selina!" exclaimed he, hastily
opening the door, "Who is it? what is it? are there any more asked to
day? have I forgot any one? bless my stars!" "What is the matter?"
exclaimed both ladies at once. "Matter!" quoth Sir Henry, "why a coach
and four's the matter, and a man galloping like the devil up the long
avenue is the matter. God forgive my swearing. Well, to be sure, that I
should never have thought of them! Who can it be? I have certainly
offended some of my neighbours! Good Lord!" The ladies had by this time
thronged to the windows to see the unusual sight, except Miss Webberly,
who affected to keep at a distance, though she could not refrain from
peeping over their heads as she stood on tip-toe. At the same instant,
all the family dogs joined in one chorus of welcome; and the equestrian,
arriving at full speed, jumped off his horse, and pulling the door-bell
with a vehemence it had seldom felt before, so electrified poor Sir
Henry, that he almost unconsciously repaired with unpremeditated haste
to the scene of action. "I say, old Square-toes," vociferated the
stranger, "is this Harry Seymour's castle?" "Ye-e-s," answered its
hospitable owner, whilst astonishment and indignation impeded his
utterance. "Ye-es! why you look as queer as the castle spectre yourself.
Well, send somebody for my horse, for here's my lord and lady; and, I
say, order beds." Perhaps Sir Henry would in his turn equally have
astonished his unexpected visitor, had not a sudden turn of the open
barouche, as it approached the door, presented to his view the faces of
Lord and Lady Eltondale. "Why, Gad's my life! Good Lord! Selina, here's
your aunt! Good Lord! well to be sure!" The name of "aunt," a title that
always called forth from Selina's affectionate heart sentiments of the
tenderest gratitude and delight, acted like a talisman on the lovely
girl, and brought her in an instant to the spot with sparkling eyes,
glowing cheeks, and steps of fairy lightness; while Mrs. Galton, who
better knew _the aunt_ she was about to meet, advanced to offer a more
sober, though not less polite reception.

From the side of the barouche next the door descended Lord Eltondale,
with as much activity as his unwieldy body would permit, encumbered as
it was by an immense bang-up coat, which, by a moderate computation of
the specific gravity of like solids, would in all probability have
increased the weight of the ponderous carcase it enclosed to nearly that
of his Lordship's own prize ox. With much less alacrity his fair spouse
prepared to alight; an open pelisse, wrapped in a thousand folds,
partially concealed her yet beautiful figure, while an enormous London
_rustic_ bonnet, with the affectation of simplicity and the real stamp
of fashion, equally disguised her face. During that time, Lord
Eltondale, in no subdued tone of voice, was expressing his lively
pleasure at meeting Sir Henry, almost dislocating Mrs. Galton's wrists
with the fervency of salutation, and with no less zeal imprinting
oscular proofs of satisfaction on the fair retiring cheek of his niece.
Lady Eltondale had full time to kiss her white hand in turn to each
individual, to commit her smelling-bottle and work bag to the particular
charge of the footman who had preceded them, and to descend leisurely
from the carriage with apparent timidity, but real anxiety, to save her
shawls, and exhibit her well-turned ancle to Mordaunt, who supported her
faltering steps.

"Why, Gad's my life, I'm glad to see you all, though I never should have
thought of it," exclaimed Sir Henry, his wig nearly as much turned round
as the brains underneath it. "Why, Bell, what the devil brings you
here?--Come to spend the summer, eh, with that chaise full of band
boxes? Well, to be sure, to think of your coming to Deane Hall again!
But I can't reach your mouth till you kick off that trumpet you've on."
"Good God!" exclaimed Lady Eltondale with an involuntary shudder, but
instantaneously recovering herself, "I am quite delighted, my dear
brother, to find you in such charming spirits. How do, Mrs. Galton? I
declare you look younger than ever. And Selina! why, child, you are
almost as tall as I am." Selina's first impulse had been to throw
herself into Lady Eltondale's arms, believing innocently that an "aunt"
was another Mrs. Galton. But the boisterous _bonhomie_ of the Viscount's
compliments, and still more the fashionable frigidity of Lady
Eltondale's address, were repulsive to her feelings, and she
unconsciously withdrew to that part of the hall to which Mordaunt had
retired, whilst a tear trembled on her long eye-lashes. "She is not at
all like aunt Mary," said Selina in a half whisper, "I'm sure I shan't
like her." "But she will surely like you, Selina," answered
Mordaunt.--"Come, you foolish girl," continued he, taking her hand,
"don't you know aunt Mary said this morning, you were almost old enough
to do the honours yourself! Let us see your _coup d'essai_." Meantime
Sir Henry and Mrs. Galton led the travellers to the drawing-room, and
introduced them to the wondering party they had left there.

Lady Eltondale returned their salutations with a sweeping reverence,
between a bow and a curtsy, accompanied by one of her most fascinating
smiles; and walking deliberately to the head of the room, "I am afraid,
my dear Mrs. Galton, we have discomposed you;--we have arrived at an
unseasonable moment," said her Ladyship in a voice of dulcet sweetness;
though this demi-apology was accompanied by a look round the room, which
plainly indicated that the fair speaker felt assured her arrival would
at any time have discomposed _such_ a company. "Well, Sir Henry,"
bellowed out Lord Eltondale, "how goes on the farm? I shall taste your
beef admirably--I'm confoundedly hungry." "Hungry!--Beef--Good
Lord!--Bless my heart, haven't dined yet? Now I should never have
thought of that! Why, Selina! Mrs. Galton! Selina! do order something to
be got ready directly. Bless my heart--not dined! why it's past seven
o'clock! James! John! I say, Wilson!" "Pray, my dear brother," said the
Viscountess, seating herself, "don't trouble yourself; a pâttié, a
Maintenon, anything will do for us." "Aye, aye, Sir Henry, give us a
beef steak or a mutton chop; any thing will do for us, if there is but
enough." Lady Eltondale's fragile form underwent that species of
delicate convulsion, between a shudder of horror and a shrug of
contempt, which was her usual commentary on her lord's speeches; and
very calmly untying her bonnet, she threw it on a chair at some
distance, and discovered a little French cap, from beneath which a
glossy ringlet of jet black hair had strayed not quite unbidden. She
then no less leisurely proceeded to slip from under her silken coat, of
which young Webberly, with officious velocity, flew to relieve her,
though she still retained as many shawls as she could well dispose of in
attitudinal drapery, without regarding the too apparent contrast they
formed to the transparent summer clothing, which shaded, but scarcely
hid her once perfect form. Mrs. Sullivan's impatience to be recognized
would not suffer her to wait till the tedious ceremony of disrobing was
finished; but finding her curtsies, and her nods, and her smiles, and
her flutterings, had not yet procured her the notice she was so
ambitious to obtain, she gave an audible preluding "hem!" and then
addressed Lady Eltondale with "'Pon honour, my lady, I'm delighted to
counter your ladyship. Your ladyship looks wastly vell. How is that 'ere
pretty cretur, your Ladyship's monkey?" Lady Eltondale turning her head
quickly round at the first sound of the sharp discordant voice that now
assailed her ear, saw something so irresistibly attractive in the vessel
of clay from which it proceeded, that she found it impossible
immediately to withdraw her eyes, and, taking up her glass, remained in
total silence for some moments, examining the grotesque figure opposite
to her, displayed as it was to particular advantage in the operation of
opening and shutting a brilliant scarlet fan with accelerated motion.
"Forgive me, my dear madam--I am quite ashamed; but really your name has
escaped my recollection:--your person I should think impossible to
forget." A polite inclination of an admirably turned head and neck
concealed the sarcasm of this equivocal compliment. "To be sure, my
lady," continued the gratified Mrs. Sullivan, "ve town ladies can't get
our wisiting lists off book like primers, he! he! he!--Sulliwan, my
lady, Sulliwan's my name, and them there two girls are my daughters, and
that there----" "Indeed, Mrs. Silly-one, you do me much honour,"
interrupted her Ladyship. "Selina, my love, I want to talk to you;--how
goes on music?" "I think, Lady Eltondale," said Miss Cecilia Webberly,
with assumed _nonchalance_, "the last time you and I were together was
at the Lord Mayor's ball--a sweet girl that Lucy Nathin is!" "Brother,
you must let La Fayette dress this dear girl's hair to-morrow; these
ringlets will be _superbe_ done _à la corbeille_." "Yes, my Lady, I
quite agree with you, my Lady. All Miss Seymour vants is a little
winishing and warnishing, as we hearties say. Her bodies ought to be cut
down, my Lady; and her petticoats cut up, my Lady, and she would be
quite another guess figure, my Lady. Six weeks in town would quite
halter her hair and her mane; and as for music, Pinsheette's the man to
improve her in vice." "Pucit-ta-a-a, mother!" screamed Cecilia, "can you
ever learn that man's name?"

A most opportune summons to the "beef-steak" relieved Lady Eltondale
from the discussion, which was on the point of commencing between mother
and daughter. She rose with an air of dignity, that immediately silenced
both combatants; and, while she leaned on Sir Henry's offered arm, she
drew Selina's through her own, and, turning to Mrs. Galton, said with a
bewitching smile, "You must spare this Hebe to be my cup-bearer. I
almost envy you having monopolized her so long, notwithstanding all she
has gained by it." Mordaunt, who had hitherto stood aloof, now advanced
to open the door for them, and smiled significantly to Selina as they
passed; while Webberly, who had just sense enough to perceive the
distance of Lady Eltondale's manner, called loudly for his mother's
carriage. The rest of the party, who had hitherto remained in dumb
astonishment, gladly took the hint, and began the tedious ceremony of
curtsying, bidding good night, and packing up; leaving Mrs. Galton at
liberty to do the honours of the second dinner table, which lasted till
nearly the hour when the good Baronet usually retired to rest.



CHAPTER VI.

    And all your wit--your most distinguished art,
    But makes us grieve you want an honest heart!

    BROWN.


Lady Eltondale was arrived at the meridian of life, and no longer
boasted the charms of youth, "_Elle ne fut pas plus jolie; mais elle fut
toujours belle_:" and perhaps the finished polish of her manners, and
matured elegance of her person, were now scarcely less attractive than
the loveliness of her earlier days had been: for beautiful she once was;

    "Grace was in all her steps--Heav'n in her eye,
    In all her gestures dignity:"

and, if "love" could have been added, she would have been, almost,
faultless.--But a cold, selfish disposition blasted the fair promise;
it was, "a frost, a chilling frost," that withered every bud of virtue!
And yet she was not absolutely wicked; she could not be accused of
having a _bad_ heart; it might rather be said she had no heart at
all.--And with every other requisite to form perfection in a female
character, this one defect neutralized all the bounteous gifts of
nature--her very talents, like those of Prometheus, were perverted, and
preyed on her own soul; whilst the aching void, left by the total
absence of all the nameless charities of life, she had vainly
endeavoured to fill up by a restless, endless passion for scheming,
either for herself or others.--She would, perhaps, have shuddered at the
thought of designedly laying a plan to undermine the happiness of
another; yet such were the sophistical powers of her mind, that she
seldom failed in sincerely persuading herself, that whatever plan she
proposed to execute, was, in reality, the most desirable that could be
adopted,--and, with this conviction, she had scarcely ever been known
to relinquish a project she had once formed, and seldom failed, either
by art or perseverance, to obtain her end.

Her history was a very common one--Her father died while she was young,
leaving her mother and herself a comfortable, though not a splendid
provision, as all the landed property descended to her brother, Sir
Henry Seymour, who was many years older than she was.

The dowager lady Seymour, a weak woman, but indulgent parent, was easily
prevailed on by her lovely daughter, to choose London for her place of
residence; and when Sir Henry married, their visits to Deane Hall, which
had never been frequent entirely ceased. Miss Seymour meantime took
every advantage of the opportunities her new line of life afforded. She
cultivated with assiduity and success every brilliant accomplishment,
and was admired even more than her own vanity, and her mother's blind
partiality, had taught her to expect. Her pretensions rose in proportion
to her success; and at one time she fancied nothing less than a ducal
coronet could render the chains of matrimony supportable. At last,
however, after a thousand schemes and speculations, in a moment of
pique, she accepted the title of viscountess, which was all Lord
Eltondale had to offer, except a splendid temporary establishment; as
nearly all his property was entailed on his son by a former marriage.
Indeed, so dissimilar were their tastes, characters, and pursuits, that
their union was a seven days' wonder; and would not, perhaps, ever have
taken place, had not Miss Seymour, in the prosecution of a far different
plan, at first unguardedly encouraged, or rather provoked, Lord
Eltondale's addresses; and he, "good easy man," _had not time_ to
develope the cause of the flattering selection.

Lord Eltondale was one of those unoffending, undistinguished mortals,
who would most probably have returned to his original clay unnoticed and
unwept, had not fortune, in one of her most sportive moods, hung a
coronet on his brow, and thus dragged the Cymon into observation. He
possessed neither talents nor acquirements, and held "the harmless
tenour of his way" in equal mean betwixt vice and virtue.

By nature he was a gourmand, and by fashion a farmer; for, strange to
say, amongst the other changes this century has produced, not the least
remarkable is the insatiable ambition of our peers to rival--not their
ancestors--but their coachmen and ploughmen. But, even in the only
science Lord Eltondale affected to understand, his learning was only
superficial: he delighted in going through the whole farming vocabulary;
could talk for hours of threshing machines, and drilling machines, and
Scotch ploughs, and bush harrows; particularly if he was so fortunate
as to meet with an auditor, whose learning on those subjects did not
transcend his own. He was also an inimitable judge of the peculiar merit
of sheep and oxen, when they were transformed into beef and mutton: but
of real useful agriculture, that art which is one of England's proudest
boasts, he only knew enough to entitle him to imitate a clown in
appearance, and to constitute him an honorary member of different
farming societies; which, besides procuring him sundry good dinners,
particularly suited the supineness of his disposition, by giving him an
excuse, "_De ne rien faire, en toujours faisant des riens_[5]."

[Footnote 5: To do nothing in always doing nothings.]

Such was the partner the lovely Miss Seymour chose for life; and as the
death of her mother, and that of the only child she ever had, occurred
before the expiration of the second year of her marriage, she was left
without any tie to attach her to a domestic life; while her own
conscious superiority to her lord deprived her of any support from him,
which might have guided her, as she swam on the highest wave of fashion.

Sir Henry Seymour experienced at least as much surprise as pleasure, at
such an unexpected visit from his sister and the viscount; but he did
not suspect the object of it, till her ladyship herself explained it to
him the following morning. Indeed the only motive that could have been
strong enough, to induce her to return, even for a few hours, to a place
she so much abhorred, was that which now had brought her; namely, an
anxious desire to promote a marriage between Selina Seymour and her
step-son, Mr. Elton. Lady Eltondale was well aware, that her
extravagance, and her lord's indolence, had already swallowed up any
ready money they had originally possessed, and that whenever the
property came into the hands of Frederick Elton, little, if any thing,
would be left for her support, except what she should receive from his
generosity; and therefore she had determined to secure for him one of
the richest and loveliest brides England could offer, believing, that by
so doing she should not only increase his power of being generous, but
also establish her claims on his everlasting gratitude. It is true she
was not certain, that such a step would ensure the happiness, or even
meet the approbation of Frederick. On that point, strange as it may
appear, Lady Eltondale had bestowed but little consideration,
(self-interest being always paramount in her mind), as this plan would
be certainly beneficial to herself, she determined to consider it
equally advantageous to him. In fine, she had been the first to suggest
it; she had long meditated on it, and at last resolved upon it: having
thus made up her own mind, the difficulties which might occur in the
prosecution of her scheme, if any should arise, would but make her more
solicitous for its accomplishment.

At first Lady Eltondale found some little difficulty in persuading Sir
Henry to accede to her proposal; not that he for a moment recollected
the cruelty of engaging irrevocably his daughter's hand, before he even
enquired into the state of her affections; or that he reflected on the
danger of confiding a character so volatile as was Selina's to the
guardianship of a young man they were both totally unacquainted with.
Sir Henry only hesitated, from an unwillingness to part from her
himself; for he was one of those fatally partial parents, who, prizing
too highly their daughters' society, often sacrifice their happiness to
that selfish consideration. But to every objection he could urge Lady
Eltondale had some specious answer ready: she reminded him, that Mr.
Elton was then abroad, and that his return might possibly be delayed
for some time; dwelt upon the excellence of his character; and finally,
more by perseverance than argument, succeeded in obtaining Sir Henry's
promise, that he would consent to their marriage taking place, as soon
as Frederick returned from the continent. Lady Eltondale well understood
that magic, which is the empire a strong mind exercises over a weaker;
and had so well worked on all the springs of poor Sir Henry's, that he
gave the required promise as explicitly as she demanded it; for she was
well aware, that if once she prevailed on him to give such a promise,
not even his deference to Mrs. Galton's opinion would induce him to
break it. But as of the tendency of that opinion Lady Eltondale had a
sort of presentiment, she wished to save herself the trouble of
combating it; and therefore prevailed on her brother not to mention it
during the short remainder of her stay at the Hall, on the pretence of
sparing her "dear Selina's feelings;" and as he was for many reasons
not unwilling to dismiss the subject from his thoughts, he agreed to the
required silence.

The evening of that day, which sealed Selina's destiny, passed over
without any particular circumstance to mark its progress, save only that
Lady Eltondale was even, if possible, more attractive than ever. She
eminently possessed that "complaisance, which adopts the ideas of others
as its own; and all that politeness, in fine, which perhaps is not
virtue itself, yet is sometimes its captivating resemblance, which gives
laws to self-love, and enables pride to pass every instant by the side
of pride, without offending." This art she was in the daily habit of
exercising towards all her associates; but to delude or flatter Mrs.
Galton, Lady Eltondale always felt, was a task of no small difficulty.
Her penetration and her modesty were both too great to be easily evaded;
and her character was composed of such delicate tints, blended
insensibly into so admirable a whole, that to bring forward only one
part seemed to destroy that unity, which constituted its perfection.
Besides, Mrs. Galton was so true, so simple, in all she said, and
thought, and did, that she seemed sanctified by her own purity: and
though the artful viscountess could not feel all the beauty of such a
mind, its very greatness, unadorned as it was, impressed her with an awe
so unusual, that the stranger feeling degenerated into repugnance and
distrust. Yet even to her her manner on the eventful night was
complaisant in the extreme--to Sir Henry it was affectionate, to Selina
indulgent; and to Mordaunt a veil of tempered coquetry gave a dazzling
attraction to all her words, looks, and actions. In her intercourse with
him, she chose to avail herself of all the privileges she could derive
from her seniority; while the fascinations of her wit, the elegance of
her manner, and the real beauty of her person, gave her a dangerous
power over an unpractised heart, which the artless charms of
inexperienced youth dared not have used, and could scarcely have
possessed. Little aware were the innocent members of the circle she was
delighting, that her increased animation and her improved charms arose
from the glow of conscious pride, as she triumphantly reflected on the
success of her scheme; a scheme which, nevertheless, she had sufficient
penetration to discover, would blight the fairest prospects of those she
appeared most sedulous to please; and which might destroy for ever the
happiness of a scene, that, till the moment of her intrusion, had
bloomed another Paradise.



CHAPTER VII.

    Ah! gentle pair, ye little think, how nigh
    Your change approaches, when all these delights
    Will vanish, and deliver ye to wo,
    More wo, the more your taste is now of joy!

    PARADISE LOST.

The next morning, notwithstanding its being Sunday, was fixed for the
departure of the Eltondales for Cheltenham; as, in addition to Lady
Eltondale's dread of passing a Sunday evening at the Hall, the hallowed
day was one usually set apart by her and her obedient lord for
travelling.

The whole of Sir Henry's household, unused to such an appropriation of
the Sabbath, was thrown into disorder. The arrival of the post horses;
the bustle and importance of the servants who were departing, with the
confusion of those who were to remain; the enumeration of the packages
by Madame La Fayette, who was, if possible, a finer lady than her
mistress; and the awkward, and perhaps not quite unintentional, mistakes
of her aides-de-camp the house-maids, in their arrangement, presented
altogether a scene of clamour that totally dismayed poor quiet Sir
Henry: and even Mrs. Galton could scarcely refrain from expressing a
part of her discomposure, at perceiving the slow progress, that was
actually making in the work of preparation, would effectually prevent
either the domestics or themselves joining their worthy pastor in his
public worship. At last Lady Eltondale appeared, to partake of what she
called the early breakfast; and before this affair, always so important
to the Viscount, was concluded, the different forms of farewell had been
gone through, and the last part of the train had fairly moved from the
door, the greatest portion of the morning was elapsed. Selina stood at
the library window, watching the rapid motion of the carriages, and the
spirited action of the postilions; as, cracking their whips over the
horses' heads, they turned out of the long avenue, and disappeared down
the hill. She listened for some time, involuntarily wishing to hear
again the sound of the carriage wheels; then turning suddenly round, and
casting her eye hastily over the dark damask hangings and massy
furniture of the room, wondered why she had never before seen it look so
gloomy as it now appeared. Mrs. Galton, who had silently marked the
changes of that countenance, which so eloquently depicted every passing
idea, now abruptly asked her, what she had been thinking of. Selina
started and colored. But, as yet, she had never been conscious of a
thought she would not wish to own; and, with her usual ingenuousness,
replied--"I wonder, Aunt, what sort of place Cheltenham is? How I
should like to go there!"--"I dare say, Lady Eltondale would gladly have
taken you there, Selina," replied Mrs. Galton, with a look of sadness,
blended with anxiety.--"But you don't think, surely, I should like to
leave you and Papa behind?--no; if you, and Papa, and Augustus, would
all come with me, I should be delighted to go! but not else." So saying,
she threw her polished arms round Mrs. Galton's neck, and kissing her
cheek with an effusion of affection, gave a gratifying and unequivocal
proof of the sincerity of her assertion.

Meantime, Sir Henry had strolled out, leaning on the arm of Augustus: at
last, after a silence unusually prolonged, the Baronet exclaimed, "Good
Lord! bless my heart, who would have thought, this day se'ennight, that
Bell and Lord Eltondale would have been come and gone again by this
time?"--"She must have been very beautiful," returned Mordaunt. "Aye,
she was once very handsome indeed," replied Sir Henry.--"Bless my
heart, how time passes on! I remember the winter she was presented at
Court, how much she was admired! and good Lord! how things come about:
every body said she was to have been married to your uncle, Lord
Osselstone, though, I believe, there was never any truth in the report.
That was the very year you were born, Augustus, two-and-twenty years
ago, last Michaelmas. I have never been in London since; and, please
God, never shall!" Augustus had attended more to his own thoughts, than
to Sir Henry's observations; and would perhaps have continued his
reverie, had not the old man's silence had the effect of rousing him,
which his conversation had not. "I think," said he, at last, "Selina is
very like her aunt: her eyes, to be sure, sparkle more, and her
countenance is more animated, but her figure is nearly the same, if she
were but a very little taller."--"Aye," returned Sir Henry, with a
sigh, "Selina will grow a great deal yet, I dare say.--Well, to be sure,
who would have thought it? Bless my heart, she was but a child the other
day: and then," he added, after a few moment's pause, "I wonder what
sort of a chap that Frederick Elton is? I wonder will he like to play
backgammon with me of an evening, as Selina does? Poor girl! he mustn't
think of taking her to London, it would be the death of me, God help
me!"

"Frederick Elton!" rejoined Augustus, "Good God, sir! what do you mean?"
"Aye, Augustus, I thought you would be surprised. Bless my heart! why, I
never should have thought of it myself. Do you know, Bell and Lord
Eltondale came all this way out of their road to ask my consent to
Selina's marrying his son Frederick Elton? It was very kind of them to
think of it, to be sure; but I had rather they hadn't troubled
themselves." "Well, sir, well surely, Sir Henry, you didn't give it?"
"Bless my heart! well, to be sure, what makes you stare so?--to be sure
I gave it. What had I to say against the young man? and Bell told me he
would always like to live here." "And Selina, Miss Seymour, has given
her consent too?" "Oh, poor child! she knows nothing about it yet;--I
haven't told her a word of it.--But what makes you shiver so? Are you
cold? Why, Augustus, boy, you look as pale as ashes! Good Lord!--Bless
my heart, what's the matter with you?" "Nothing, sir, I've only a
confounded head-ache, which a ride will cure." So saying, he turned
abruptly from Sir Henry, who had by this time reached the hall door, and
resumed his knotty cane. "Good Lord! well to be sure, he's not half so
happy about it as I expected he would have been. I wonder what Mrs.
Galton will say." And the doubt of the possibility of her not approving
the plan, as he knew she was not partial to Lady Eltondale's plans in
general, made him at first hesitate about informing her. But the habit
he had acquired of consulting her on all occasions, and a certain
restless anxiety, which persons of weak minds always feel to have their
opinions or actions sanctioned by others, at last preponderated; and he
retired to his study, after sending to request to speak to Mrs. Galton,
fortifying himself, previous to her appearance, with as many of Lady
Eltondale's arguments as he could recal to his disturbed memory.

Mrs. Galton was not as entirely unprepared for the communication as poor
Augustus had been. She knew enough of Lady Eltondale's character to
surmise, that her sudden re-appearance at Deane Hall could neither have
been unpremeditated or without design; and, from some hints which Lady
Eltondale had casually dropped in the course of conversation, her
penetration had led her to form some tolerably accurate surmises on the
subject. When, therefore, she entered the study, she was more grieved
than surprised at the looks of painful emotion, with which Sir Henry
received her. The poor old man, embarrassed with his own thoughts, began
with more circumlocution than explicitness, to relate the circumstances,
and ended a most perplexed speech by abruptly informing Mrs. Galton of
the proposal. "It is as I expected," calmly replied she. "Aye! aye!"
exclaimed the delighted Baronet, "I knew if any one would guess it you
would.--I should never have thought of it myself." "But have you given
your consent, Sir Henry?" "Given my consent--Good Lord! what do you
mean! Well to be sure, all the world's run mad to-day, I think! Why,
bless my heart! didn't you say it was what you expected?" "I could not
expect; my dear sir, that you would give your consent to any proposal on
which the future happiness of Selina's whole life depends, without
deliberation, and a proper understanding and consideration of her
feelings on the subject." "But, good Lord! I tell you again I _have_
given my consent." "Not irrevocably, I hope, Sir Henry; you know nothing
of Mr. Elton's character, taste, or disposition; you know nothing.--"
"God forgive me for being in a passion," interrupted Sir Henry, "but the
perverseness of women is enough to provoke a saint, which, the Lord help
me, I'm not.--But you know, Mrs. Galton," continued he, in a more
moderate tone, "you know Frederick Elton is a connection of our
own;--and as for our not being acquainted with him--don't you remember
he came here from school one Easter holidays, and gave Selina the
measles by the same token, poor child!" "Forgive me, Sir Henry," calmly
replied Mrs. Galton, "but I do not think that is knowing him well enough
to decide on his title to Selina's esteem; and, believe me, that dear
girl will never be happy unless she marries a man she not only esteems
but loves." "Well, and didn't Lady Eltondale tell me Selina would
certainly love Frederick Elton? She says he is twice as handsome as
Augustus Mordaunt; which, good Lord! is unnecessary, for Augustus, poor
boy, is as fine a young man as ever I saw in my life." "Aye, poor
Augustus!" sorrowfully exclaimed Mrs. Galton, "he would indeed have been
happy with Selina, and God knows, he is the character that of all others
would best have suited her." "Augustus Mordaunt, Mrs. Galton! Well to be
sure! Good Lord! who would have thought of that! However, poor boy,
though I don't give him Selina, I'll take care to give him something
else--he shall never be dependent on that old uncle of his."

Mrs. Galton saw it was in vain to contend at that moment with the
Baronet, who was fully convinced that his promise was irrevocable, and
that after all it was the best thing he could do, for Bell had told him
so. All that Mrs. Galton could procure was a promise no less positive,
that he would not give Selina the most distant hint of the project, by
which she hoped not only to prolong her present days of peace, but also
faintly flattered herself, that something might occur to prevent their
union, between then and the time of Mr. Elton's return from abroad.

In the mean time Augustus prosecuted his useless ride--

    "Il va monter en cheval pour bannir son ennui,
    Le chagrin monte en croupe et galoppe après lui."

Finding solitary reflection rather increased than cured his malady, he
at last determined to open his heart, to his reverend friend, Mr.
Temple; and, alighting at the parsonage, sent his servant back to the
hall, to say he should not return to dinner--an intimation which
considerably increased the gloom which pervaded the countenance of each
individual of the trio, that was seated in silence round the
dinner-table. Sir Henry and Mrs. Galton were each occupied by their own
reflections; and Selina felt depressed, not only by the unusual absence
of Augustus, but also from the effects of that vacuum, which the
departure of guests, however few in number, always makes in a country
house. After dinner she strolled listlessly from one room to another;
took up and laid down, alternately, all the books that lay on the
library table; sauntered to the harpsichord, and played parts of several
anthems, without finishing any, and stopping every five minutes, in the
vain belief that she heard the trampling of Mordaunt's horse. At last,
at an hour long before her usual bed-time, she retired to her room,
wondering what could keep him so late, and thinking she had never spent
so long, so tiresome an evening; whilst she involuntarily contrasted it
with the hours winged on swiftest pinions, which the fascinations of
Lady Eltondale's manners had so delightfully beguiled the night before.



CHAPTER VIII.

              ----Men
    Can counsel and give comfort to that grief,
    Which they themselves not feel.

    MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.


Augustus met with his usual kind reception at the parsonage; nor was it
long before he found the opportunity he wished of consulting his
earliest and most revered friend; for Mrs. Temple quickly perceived,
that something hung heavy on the bosom of this young man, whom she loved
almost as a son, and therefore soon retired from the dinner-table,
leaving the two gentlemen _tête à tête_, believing that he would find as
much comfort as she ever did, from conversing freely with him who was
"her guide, her head;" for, like our first parents, they lived, "he for
God only, she for God in him."

No sooner did Augustus find himself alone with Mr. Temple, than his
oppressed heart found a ready vent, and he poured into the sympathetic
ear of his reverend auditor a full detail of all his feelings. He had
first discovered how ardently he loved Selina, at the moment he had
learned she was destined for another; and he described, with all the
eloquence of passion, the agony, the despair he now experienced. Mr.
Temple had not yet forgotten what it was to love; and, "though time had
thinn'd his flowing hair," his feelings had not yet become torpid under
its benumbing influence. He could listen with patience, and even pity,
to the wild effusions of his favourite's grief, while he waited calmly
till the first burst of passion should subside, and leave room for the
exercise of sober reason.--"Come, come, my dear Augustus," said he, at
last, "your case is neither a singular nor a desperate one: there are
very few young men of your age, that do not fancy themselves as deeply
in love as you do now, and, of the number, not one in five hundred marry
the object of their first choice: indeed it is often very fortunate for
them they do not."--"But Selina Seymour! where is such another woman to
be found?" exclaimed Augustus: and then, with all a lover's vehemence,
did he expatiate on her "matchless charms." "I grant you," replied Mr.
Temple, "she is a very delightful girl; and, as far as we can judge, is
likely to make a most estimable woman. But you know her disposition is
naturally volatile in the extreme, and much of her future character will
depend on her future guides. Well, well, we will not dispute on the
degree of her merits," continued Mr. Temple, seeing Mordaunt ready to
take up the gauntlet in her defence;--"hear me only with calmness, and I
will promise to confine my observations as much as I can to yourself.
You know, my dear boy, you are yet very young, and very inexperienced.
It is true you have been three years at Oxford. But of the world you may
literally be said to know nothing. Selina is now certainly the most
charming woman you have yet seen; but how can you be sure she will
always hold her pre-eminence in your estimation? Aye, my dear fellow,
you need not tell me;--I know you are at this moment perfectly convinced
of your own inviolable constancy, and so forth. But let me tell you, you
do not yourself know yet what would, and what would not, constitute your
happiness in a wedded life. The girl, whose vivacity and animation we
delight in at seventeen, may turn out a frivolous and even contemptible
character at seven and twenty. And can you picture to yourself a greater
calamity, than being obliged to drag on the lengthened chain of
existence with a companion, to whose fate yours is linked for ever,
without one tone of feeling in unison with yours; to whom your pleasures
and your griefs are alike unknown, or, if known, never comprehended; and
where every misery is aggravated by a certainty that your fate is
irremediable--when

    'Life nothing blighter or darker can bring;'

when

    'Joy has no balm, and affliction no sting?'

"It is very true that you think now, because Selina's pursuits have
hitherto been similar to yours, that her character must likewise be in
sympathy with yours. But, though I grant that it appears so now, I deny
that it is in any way so formed as to be safely depended on. She is very
young and very docile; and, believe me, her disposition, chameleon-like,
will, most probably, take the shade of whomsoever she associates
with:--'_Dimmi con chi vai, e vi diso quel che fai_[6].' You say, if
you were her husband you would be her guide; and that similitude of
character, now faintly traced, would be confirmed for ever. But without
dwelling on the argument, that your own is yet scarcely formed, let me
remind you, that Selina is even still more ignorant of the world than
yourself. Let me ask you, even in this moment of unrestrained passion,
would you consent to accept that dear innocent girl's hand, without a
certainty that with it you received her heart? And how could you be
certain of her affection, till time and experience, by maturing her
judgment, had confirmed her feelings? How, Augustus, would you support
the conviction, nay the bare suspicion, that when, as your wife, you
first introduced her to that world from which she has hitherto lived so
totally secluded, she should meet with another, whom she even thought
she could have preferred to you; and, while you continued to gaze on her
with the eye of tenderest love, you found your heart's warm offering
received with the cold petrifying glance of indifference? You shudder at
the very thought. Think, then, how the arrow that wounded you would be
doubly sharpened, if the slanderous tooth of envy galled your fair fame,
by accusing you of having secured to yourself Sir Henry Seymour's
property by marrying his heiress, before the poor girl was old enough to
judge for herself. What, then, my dear boy," said Mr. Temple, grasping
his hand with a fervour almost paternal, whilst his eyes swam in tears,
"What, then, Augustus, is the result of these observations, more painful
to me to make than to you to hear? You acknowledge you would not even
wish to marry Selina under these existing circumstances. What then is
your misery? Look at it boldly in the face; and, trust me, few are the
anticipated evils of life, which, by being steadily gazed at, do not
dwindle into insignificance. Lord Eltondale has proposed his son to be
Miss Seymour's husband; and the match is sufficiently desirable, in a
worldly point of view, to obtain Sir Henry Seymour's consent. But
Selina, you say, knows nothing of it yet, and has never seen Mr. Elton.
What then does it all come to? Why, when she does see him, if she does
not like him, do you think her father would force her to marry him? and
if she should like him, would you accept her hand, even if it were
offered to you?"

[Footnote 6: Tell me with whom she goes, and I'll tell you what she
does.]

Mr. Temple had not so long continued his discourse without frequent
interruptions from Augustus, who could not at first easily be persuaded
to assent to assertions, which tended to destroy the fairy dream of
bliss that floated in his imagination. By degrees, however, as his
judgment cooled, he acceded to the plain but severe truths which Mr.
Temple uttered; while the deference and regard, which his pupil had
always felt for the excellent old man, served still more effectually to
obtain the conviction he aimed at, than even the logical strength of his
reasoning.

By degrees, Mordaunt not only confessed the truth of his remarks, but
submitted to the wise plan of conduct, which Mr. Temple laid down for
him.

He proposed that Augustus should immediately leave the hall, and return
to the prosecution of his studies at Oxford, leaving to time not only
the development of Selina's character, but also the proof of to what
extent he was actually attached to her.

Their conversation was prolonged to a late hour; and when Mordaunt
returned home, the family had all retired to rest, and the door was
opened by a servant, who, at the same time, shaded with his hand the
glimmering candle, which but partially illuminated the darkly
wain-scotted hall. Augustus felt a chill creep through his veins as he
quickly traversed it; and walking mechanically into the empty
drawing-room, stopped a few minutes in melancholy silence. The music
Selina had been playing was carelessly strewed over the harpsichord; the
sermon book, in which Mrs. Galton had been reading, was laid open on the
table; and Sir Henry's knotted cane had fallen down beside the chair, in
which he usually took his evening nap. A sort of involuntary reflection
passed through the mind of Augustus, that he might never again meet
those three beloved individuals in that room, which had hitherto been to
him the scene of his happiest hours; and shrinking from the melancholy
train of ideas which this reflection gave birth to, he hastily retired
to his room, though not to rest. Many a time, during that wakeful night,
did the same reflection cross his mind; and many a time, in his future
life, did it recur to his recollection with a poignant force. So often
does it happen that melancholy fancies, occasioned in the mind by the
temporary pressure of sorrow, are recalled to the memory by subsequent
events, and, dignified by the accidental confirmation of casual
circumstances, receive the name of _prophetic warnings_.



CHAPTER IX.

     _Sneer._--True; but I think you manage ill: for there certainly
     appears no reason why Mr. Walter should be so communicative.

     _Puff._--For, egad now, that is one of the most ungrateful
     observations I ever heard;--for the less inducement he has to tell
     all this, the more I think you ought to be obliged to him; for I am
     sure you'd know nothing of the matter without it.

     _Dangle._--That's very true, upon my word.

     THE CRITIC.


Augustus rose next morning at the first dawn of light; and, anxious to
avoid seeing Selina, whilst agitated by the unhappy feelings that had
now taken possession of his mind, left the hall before any of the family
were up, and in a short note, excused the abruptness of his departure,
by informing Sir Henry, that he had the evening before received at the
village a letter, to inform him that his Oxford friends had set out on
their long promised excursion to the lakes.

Selina, though totally unconscious of the real cause of his absence,
felt it with unusual acuteness, which Mrs. Galton remarked with regret,
and for some time vainly endeavoured to turn her thoughts into their
usual channel. At length they were in some degree diverted by the
arrival of a letter from Lady Eltondale to Sir Henry, enclosing one from
Frederick Elton to his father; for Sir Henry's noble sister was fully
aware, that it was adviseable to remind him, from time to time, of the
existence of this young man, that such reminiscence might refresh his
memory as to his promise respecting him.

Mr. Elton had been three years abroad, during which time he had kept up
a constant though not very confidential correspondence with his father;
for, dreading Lady Eltondale's satire, and knowing she was in the habit
of reading all his letters, he pictured to himself her smile of
contempt, or shrug of pity, at what she would term his romance, with a
repugnance he could not summon resolution to encounter: so that, though
his colloquial intercourse with his father was that of the most perfect
confidence, his written communications might have been posted on a
gateway, without the smallest detriment to his prospects in life. But,
as he thus felt himself debarred of the happiness of expressing, without
reserve, to his first and best friend, all his feelings and wishes, he
endeavoured to console himself for this deprivation, by a most
undisguised correspondence with a Mr. Sedley, with whom he had formed a
friendship during their academical course in the university of
Cambridge, where they had both been honourably distinguished.

About twelve months before Lady Eltondale's visit to Deane Hall, Mr.
Sedley had received the first of the following letters, and seven
months after its arrival the two latter, though of different dates,
reached him on the same day: of course they did not meet the eye of the
viscountess, so that she remained ignorant of their contents; but even
had she known them entirely, no consideration for Frederick's
_happiness_ would for an instant have caused her to waver in her plan
for promoting his _prosperity_, as on the fulfilment of her long
meditated scheme for this purpose depended the possibility of her future
continuance in the London world.

     MR. ELTON, TO CHARLES SEDLEY, ESQ.

     Catania, January 9. ----

     If you have received the various letters I have written to you, my
     dear Sedley, since I left England, you are perfectly _au fait_ of
     all my rambles; and of my perils, and "hair-breadth 'scapes" by
     sea and by land, beginning with a shipwreck on the island of
     Rhodes, and ending with the dangers I encountered in paying my
     compliments to the Dey of Algiers: if not I must refer you to my
     note book, as a twice told tale is still more tedious to the
     relater than to the hearer. You must not be incredulous, if said
     manuscript should contain many wonderful adventures; but I have met
     with something more rare, more "passing strange," than all the
     marvels it describes: a woman I _can_ love! nay, that, for my very
     soul, I could not help loving if I would; and, to say truth, at
     present I do not wish to make the experiment.

     You see, Sedley, you were in the main no bad prophet. When we were
     together, I forswore all womankind in the way of matrimony, because
     I was disgusted with the manoeuvres of title-hunting mamas, and
     the _agaceries_ of their varnished daughters, who have little
     distinction but name, and nothing to guide a selection in the mass
     of resemblance--nothing to mark their identity--except a scruple,
     more or less, of folly or coquetry! Now don't plume yourself too
     much on your penetration; you were not altogether right, it was not
     the Gallic "_Erycina ridens, quam Jocus circumvolat et Cupido_[7],"
     who captivated me.--Man seeks in man his fellow, but in woman his
     contrary; and I am too volatile to be touched by a creature as
     thoughtless as myself. I should not say as _thoughtless_, but as
     _gay_; for their heads are continually filled with schemes to
     excite admiration, or ensure conquest: besides, the Parisian belle
     is only the more spirited original, of which our own girl of
     fashion is the elegant but insipid translation. Having told you
     those I do _not_ like, it is time to give you a faint, a very
     faint, idea of her I _do_ admire.--But let me go on regularly, and
     tell you first how I happened to meet with her.

     [Footnote 7: Laughing Venus, encircled by Love and Joy.]

     At Palermo there is a very numerous, if not good society, made up
     of shreds and patches of the staple manufacture of all nations, but
     principally of the English produce. You know, it is my practice to
     profit, when abroad, by that of whatever country I may happen to be
     in, as our own is to be had better and at a cheaper rate at home.
     Impressed with this idea, I procured some introductions to the
     principal nobility of this enchanting place, where, I understood,
     there was a delightful native society, and the gentlemanly
     amusements of drinking and gambling (the only ones to be found at
     Palermo and Messina) were nearly superseded by those afforded by
     music, dancing, and literary conversation. I have not been
     disappointed; and if you should ever come to Sicily, I advise you
     to take up your abode here, and I will introduce you to all my
     acquaintance, with _one_ exception. About four months ago, I found
     myself, one evening, at the Marchese Di Rosalba's, listening to
     some exquisite music: I was as melancholy as a poet in love, for "I
     am never merry when I hear sweet music;" when my eyes happened to
     rest on a lady, whose image will never leave my mind.

     From the looks of the gentleman who accompanied her, I soon
     discovered that the fair creature, who rested on his arm, was his
     daughter. In his face was a strangely mingled expression of
     habitual care, and present pleasure; his forehead was furrowed in a
     thousand wrinkles, and the feverish glare of his eye spoke a mind
     ill at ease: but when he turned to his daughter, to point out to
     her notice, in the tacit language of the eye, any beautiful passage
     in the music, he looked like a saint raised from his penance by a
     vision of celestial nature. Her countenance formed the most perfect
     contrast to his; it was the abode of peace, which seemed to repose
     in her eye; her whole outline of face and form was so perfect, that
     a sculptor might have taken her as a model for the statue that
     Pygmalion worshipped; and, like him, I longed to see the beauteous
     image waken to incipient thought--I was not long ungratified--its
     apparent absence was only the effect of the music, which, to use
     her own expression "_fait tout rêver et ne rien penser_." When she
     joined in conversation her ever varying countenance resembled a
     mirror, which transmits to our eye every passing image, (though the
     polished surface is itself unmasked by any), and, like it, owing
     its animation to the strong reflecting power gained from within. I
     could not decide then, and I cannot tell you even now, whether I
     most admire the angelic placidity of her countenance when silent,
     or its luminous brilliancy, when her ideas and feelings are called
     forth in interesting conversation. At such moments the brightness
     of her soul is reflected in her eyes, and the lambent flame, which
     then plays in them, seems, like the summer's lightning, to open a
     Heaven to our view.

     You will easily suppose I lost no time in introducing myself to her
     notice: she received my attentions in the most unembarrassed
     manner--not courting--not repulsing them, but seeming to consider
     them as justly due to her sex, and her rank in society. These
     attentions I have not ceased to pay at every possible opportunity
     since that delightful evening, and my admiration grows stronger
     every day. I find her conversation truly charming; and I devoutly
     believe it would be so were she externally the reverse of what she
     is; for, in speaking, "she makes one forget every thing--even her
     own beauty." She has not found out, that her extensive knowledge is
     any thing to be ashamed of. But, poor thing! a short residence in
     England would teach her that! She neither conceals nor displays
     her acquirements. The stream of thought, in _her_ mind, flows, not
     like the little mountain torrent, swelled by accidental rains,
     exceeding every bound, and defacing the fair soil it should adorn;
     but, like the fertilizing river,

       "Though deep yet clear, though gentle yet not dull,
       Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full."

     In the beginning of our acquaintance we conversed in Italian, but
     as I was not very fluent, she politely adopted the French language
     as the circulating medium of our commerce, and I was half sorry for
     it; for besides the beauty of Italian in her mouth, her
     good-natured smile, when I eked out my scanty stock with a word or
     two of Latin, pleased me better than all the rest, it was so
     encouragingly kind, so _untutored_!

     I soon found out she had a quick sense of the ridiculous, but only
     because sharp-sighted people cannot go through the world with their
     eyes shut. She forbears, from the benevolence of her heart, to use
     the powers of ridicule her penetration furnishes her with; and I
     admire her the more for having at command an arsenal of wit, with
     so many polished weapons unused. We are always attached to the
     generous enemy, who can strike, but spares!

     I have been so delighted with the employment of defining to myself,
     for the first time, my ideas of the object of my admiration, that
     (pardon me, my dear Sedley) I quite forgot they were to be read by
     another; and, perhaps, should have gone on till to-morrow, had not
     my servant, coming to inquire if my letters were ready to be
     conveyed to the ship which is to carry them to England, roused me
     from my soliloquy, (if you will permit me to extend this expression
     to writing).

     I would not display the amulet, which guards my heart by its potent
     charm, to any eye but yours; but I cannot, even in this instance,
     depart from my usual habit of confidence in you; therefore, here
     goes my unread rhapsody.

     Yours, dear Sedley, ever truly,

     FREDERICK ELTON.

       *       *       *       *       *

     TO CHARLES SEDLEY, ESQUIRE.

     Catania, March 5, ----

     My dear Sedley,

     About two months ago I sent you my confession, which you have no
     doubt received and answered, ere this. It was no sooner gone than I
     repented I had sent it, thinking it would have been wiser to
     endeavour to restrain my perhaps unrequited passion, than to run
     the risk of confirming it, by imparting it to another. This was
     only the escort of a long train of reflections, which ended in a
     resolution to leave Catania immediately; and in order to divert my
     mind from the train of thought that had seized it, I resolved to
     visit Mount Etna, in company with a party of Savans, assembled for
     that purpose at this place. We had all the _de quoi_ for a most
     amusing excursion, men of real science and literature, and still
     more entertaining pretenders to both; amongst the latter I held a
     distinguished rank, for in my zeal to acquire the "hardest
     science," _ere_ "taught a lover yet," I mistook one mineral for
     another, and miscalled every plant I met; indeed, I might give you
     a long list of similar blunders, that raised many a learned
     shoulder and eye-brow to the altitude of contemptuous surprise!

     After the descent from the mountain, I insensibly separated myself
     from all the party, whose weak senses I had so much astonished; and
     wandering about the exquisite scenery at the base of Etna, I was
     more than ever possessed by feelings I had endeavoured to stifle;

        Pour chasser de sa souvenance
          L'objet qui plait,
        On se donne tant de souffrance,
          Pour si peu d'effet!
        Une si douce fantaisie,
          Toujours revient,
        Et en songeant qu'on doit l'oublier,
          On s'en souvient[8].

     [Footnote 8:

        From mem'ry's length'ning chain to part
          The object that we love,
        How vain the pang that rends the heart,
          What fruitless grief we prove!
        The dear idea, cherish'd yet,
          Returns still o'er and o'er,
        And thinking that we should forget,
          Impresses it the more.
     ]

     So to make a long story short, here I am again at Catania, for the
     purpose of making myself quite sure, that Adelina is as charming as
     my imagination has depicted her. I really don't think she is, for I
     certainly did not love her half so much when I was with her as I
     do now; perhaps my _mind_ was so much amused by her conversation,
     that little room was left for the expansion of the _feelings_; but
     they are unrestrained in absence, and its melancholy regrets are, I
     verily believe, more powerful than the most potent present charm.
     If Adelina is the superior character I take her for, I see no one
     good reason why she should not be my wife: I have, on considering
     the matter more maturely, put to flight the phantoms I had raised
     previous to my departure from this place.

     My father, when twice my age, (with therefore half the excuse)
     married for love, therefore why should not I?

     I am sure he will give me no opposition, for he has always been a
     most indulgent parent, and on a point where my happiness is so much
     concerned, I feel convinced my wishes would be his. Whenever he
     has, on points of minor importance, wavered in the least, my
     charming step-dame has always used her influence, to decide him in
     my favour, therefore I am certain of her support. Indeed what can
     my father object to in Adelina? He cannot surely want fortune for
     me? I do not know whether Adelina is or is not possessed of this
     root of all evil, but if she is not, it is the only want she can
     possibly have.

     But all this is for an after-thought, the preamble must be to gain
     Adelina's consent: she has shown me no particular preference as
     yet, but I am determined to think she will not withhold it; _Qui
     timidè rogat docet negare_[9], and the conviction of the success of
     our plans so often ensures it!

     [Footnote 9: Who timidly asks teaches to deny.]

     With these hopes I am now as happy, as I was miserable a short time
     ago. What fools we are to throw away the bliss we might enjoy, at
     the suggestions of that preposterous prudence, that leads us to
     seek for flaws in the short leases of happiness that are granted to
     us, and which, after all, when they expire are renewable at
     pleasure, if we would but pay the necessary fine, by sacrificing
     our proud splenetic discontents. Hypochondriac spirits may say as
     they like; but I will maintain, that to those who make the best of
     it, this is a very delightful world!

     The Marchese di Rosalba has promised to take me to-morrow to the
     Villa Marinella, where Adelina always goes with her father in the
     beginning of spring. I shall establish my head quarters within two
     or three miles of it at Aci reale, through which flows the river
     immortalized by the loves of Acis and Galatea; and if my Galatea
     should prove equally kind, no mental or corporeal giant shall
     destroy our happiness.

     Ever yours, dear Sedley,

     FREDERICK ELTON.



CHAPTER X.

    ----He says he loves my daughter,
    I think so too: for never gaz'd the moon
    Upon the water, as he'll stand and read
    As t'were, my daughter's eyes: and to be plain,
    I think there is not half a kiss to choose,
    Who loves another best.
    If young Doricles
    Do marry with her, she'll bring him that
    Which he not dreams of.

    SHAKESPEARE.


     Mr. ELTON TO CHARLES SEDLEY, ESQ.

     Aci reale, July 15,

     My dear Sedley,

     I believe I informed you, in the beginning of spring, of my
     intention of coming to this beautiful place, on account of its
     vicinity to the Villa Marinella, the residence of "La belle
     Adelina,"

     (the appellation my fair one is known by at Catania). I have
     accomplished almost domesticating myself at this charming villa. I
     did not give its inhabitants the alarm at first, wishing to
     ingratiate myself in their favour before they should be aware of
     the object I had in view. My appearance excited no surprise, as Aci
     reale was such a natural place for me to choose for my abode at
     this fine season, from the facilities it affords for examining at
     leisure all the natural wonders of Etna, and all the wonders of art
     displayed in the antiquities of Taurominium. Adelina and I
     conversed on the beautiful ruins of Syracuse; of course, I could
     not do less than go there to take drawings of them, and she was
     equally bound in gratitude to examine them most minutely in my
     presence. One day her father, rather abruptly, asked me if I
     understood _perspective_? I said I was at that moment studying it,
     and thought it a most delightful employment! He was concerned that
     so much good inclination should be thrown away, so insisted on
     teaching me; and to make the matter worse, took the most abstruse
     method of doing it. To make a good impression on him I was obliged
     to brush up my rusty mathematics, and I assure you it required no
     small self-command to fix my attention on the points of _sight_ and
     points of _distance_ he expatiated on; whilst my mind was busily
     employed in settling these points to my satisfaction, as they
     regarded Adelina and myself. We have now got on a more agreeable
     subject, which gives us many delightful hours'
     conversation--namely, the beauties natural and artificial of this
     island. On my second visit to the Villa Marinella, I was taken into
     a saloon adorned with specimens of every thing Sicily could boast
     of: the floor was mosaic, of all her different marbles; the
     hangings of Sicilian silk; the walls were embellished with the
     paintings of Velasquez--in vases, of the alabaster of the country,
     bloomed every fragrant flower it produced. There was a cabinet of
     beautiful workmanship containing highly wrought amber, coral, and
     cameos; and a Sicilian museum and library of all the best books
     extant, of native authors ancient and modern, completed the
     collection. Amongst the moderns Adelina particularly pointed out to
     me the works of the Abate Ferrara, of Balsamo, Bourigni, and the
     exquisite poems of Melli and Guegli: the contents of this room
     afford us constant discussion. Nothing can exceed the beauty of
     this villa; the hand of taste has been impressed on it from the
     first stone to the last: it is seated in a rich vale at the foot of
     Etna, from which pours many a stream in foamy swiftness. The sea is
     seen, here and there, like a smooth glassy lake, through the dark
     foliage of magnificent forest trees, whose sombre hues are
     admirably contrasted with the brilliant tints of the orange and
     the vine. The myrtle, the rose, and all the choicest favourites of
     Flora are "poured forth profuse on hill, and dale, and plain." The
     beauty of the sky, the balmy fragrance of the air, and the
     classical and poetical associations which the surrounding scenery
     brings to the mind, conspire to give a charm to this delightful
     spot, which no words can convey to the mind of one who has not
     roamed amidst its enchantments, and still less can language do
     justice to the feelings of him who has!

     Adelina is just the being you would fancy such a scene should
     produce; no cloud of sorrow, or of error, seems ever to have thrown
     on her its dark shade; serene in conscious virtue and happiness,
     and resplendent in mental and physical loveliness,

        "She walks in beauty, like the night
        Of cloudless climes and starry skies."

     I have this day said to this charming creature every thing that
     man can say, except those four words, "Will you marry me?" and was
     proceeding to give them utterance, when I was most unseasonably
     interrupted. From her surprise and confusion I augur well; whenever
     I am secure of my happiness you shall know it, but perhaps you are
     tired of all this, and are ready to say with Virgil,

        Sicelides musæ, paullo majora canamus;
        Non omnes arbusta juvant, humilesque myricæ[10].

     Yours ever,

     FREDERICK ELTON.

[Footnote 10:

    Sicilian muse, begin a loftier strain;
    The lowly shrubs and trees that shade the plain
    Delight not all.


    DRYDEN.
]

       *       *       *       *       *

     TO CHARLES SEDLEY, ESQUIRE.

     Aci reale, August 3, ----

     Upon my soul, Sedley, you are a pretty father confessor, and give
     pious admonition!

     I am quite _indignant_ at your answer to my first letter from
     Catania; either you or I must be greatly changed since we parted. I
     don't think our friendship could ever have been formed, if in the
     first instance our sentiments had been so dissimilar. I must
     honestly tell you, that if you ever write me such another letter
     about Adelina, our correspondence ceases on that head. It is true
     this charming Sicilian maid is fairer than Proserpine; but am I
     Pluto, that could tear her from the arms of her fond parent, and
     from the bright sphere she now moves in, to condemn her to the
     shades of woe, from which she could know no return? So powerfully
     do I feel "the might, the majesty of loveliness," that such a
     thought never entered my head, nor would it yours, if you had ever
     seen her; for one glance of her angelic eye would, like the touch
     of Ithuriel's spear, put to flight all the offspring of evil. Since
     I wrote to you last, Adelina's manner to me has totally changed; I
     scarcely ever see her when I come to the villa. I can't tell what
     to attribute this to, unless she thinks I have said too much and
     too little. The matter shan't rest long in doubt;--her father goes
     to Catania to-morrow, and I will take that opportunity for a
     complete explanation. I cannot tell you how much I dread the crisis
     of my fate so near at hand! No folly of my own shall deprive me of
     a wife possessed of every charm, and every virtue, that can sweeten
     or adorn life. If it did, I should deserve to be condemned to that
     matrimonial limbo my father and his frigid Venus are so pitiably
     bound in. I would prefer to such a trial the most ardent Purgatory!
     A wife so charming and so unloving would drive me mad!

     Yours truly,

     FREDERICK ELTON.

A few months after the date of this last letter, Mr. Sedley received one
from his friend, written at Paris, but probably from pique at the style
of raillery in which he had continued to express his ideas on the
subject of his love for "_La bella Adelina_," Mr. Elton never afterwards
mentioned her name; and therefore, from that period, those Sedley
received contained nothing of sufficient interest to present to the
reader, who will now, however, have little difficulty in guessing the
motive of the visit to Sicily, which Frederick mentions his intention of
paying, in the letter which Lady Eltondale forwarded to Sir Henry
Seymour, of which the subjoined is a copy. The "hopes and fears" he
there speaks of, she supposed, alluded to some diplomatic appointments,
as, for several months past, all his attention appeared to have been
devoted to politics. And, whilst his father exulted in the hope of one
day seeing the son he was so proud of "Minister Plenipotentiary" at
Berlin, Petersburg, or Vienna, his fair spouse thought, with her usual
sarcasm, "Frederick Elton is, no doubt, peculiarly qualified to carry on
or develope the intrigues of a court, with his ridiculously romantic
generosity, and high spirit, and candour! His elegant manner and his
handsome person would carry every point he wished, if he would but avail
himself of the influence these advantages would give him with the
females, who are all-powerful in such scenes;--but the youth is much too
high flown to have common sense on such matters. My Lord Eltondale is as
silly on this subject as on all others, to wish to see his son in a
situation where his _mal-adresse_ will undoubtedly cover him with
disgrace!"

     MR. ELTON TO THE VISCOUNT ELTONDALE.

     Paris, July 25, ----

     My dear Father,

     I hope to be able to give you a satisfactory answer to your
     question of "How do you spend your time at Paris?" for I have been
     constantly employed, during the last year, in endeavouring to
     acquire the political information necessary for the public career
     you have chalked out for me; and this course of study I have
     pursued with increased ardour, since my return to this capital,
     with the congregation, not of preachers, but of kings, in order to
     compensate for the unpleasant interruption my pursuits received in
     spring from the marvellous apparition of the resuscitated French
     Emperor. I am now tired of being a gentleman at large; and if you
     will insist on my shining as an orator in the British senate, my
     maiden speech ought shortly to be made, for being five and twenty,
     I think I have no time to lose.

     I see the time approach, which we agreed on for my return to
     England, with a pleasure that is unalloyed by a shade of regret, as
     the Continent contains no object whatever of interest to me. I
     hope to add much to your stock of agricultural knowledge, as I have
     made the various modes of practising that useful art one of my
     principal objects of inquiry; and from Syria to Picardy I think I
     shall be able to describe the present processes of husbandry to
     your satisfaction. After all, perhaps, you will find me only an
     ignoramus, though I fancy myself quite an adept.

     I set off to-morrow to pay a short visit to Sicily. You will, no
     doubt, be surprised at this retrograde movement; but should my
     mission prove successful, I will explain the cause of it when we
     meet, as I cannot trust my motives to paper; and if I do not carry
     my wishes into execution, you will, I am sure, spare me the pain of
     recapitulating them. But until my hopes and fears are at an end, I
     at least shall not repose on a "bed of roses."

     I cannot well express my anxiety to see you, my ever kind father,
     after so long an absence! Pray remember me to Lady Eltondale. I am
     sorry she should so far impeach my gallantry, as to suppose it
     possible I could leave the letters of so fair a correspondent
     unanswered. I hope ere this the receipt of mine will have induced
     her to do me justice; if not, pray be my intercessor.

     By the ship Mary, bound for Plymouth, I sent Lady Eltondale some
     Sicilian vases and cameos, with a few bottles of ottar of roses,
     and some turquoises I procured at Constantinople. If her Ladyship
     has not received them, will you have the goodness to cause the
     necessary inquiries to be made at the office of my agent in London,
     to whom they were directed.

     Believe me, my dear Lord,

     Respectfully and affectionately yours,

     FREDERICK ELTON.

Sir Henry Seymour, with an air of triumph, gave the above letter to
Selina to read out to her aunt; at the same time casting a look at Mrs.
Galton, as much as to say, "You see I was quite right. I have provided a
husband for Selina, that we shall all be proud of." But her reflection
on hearing it was, "I trust my affectionate, innocent, candid Selina is
not destined to marry a cold-hearted designing politician. In what a
style of heartless politeness does Mr. Elton speak of his father's wife!
I fear he will treat his own in the same spirit of frigid
etiquette;--indeed, nothing better is to be hoped, from the example he
has always witnessed in his own domestic scene."



CHAPTER XI.

    How hang those trappings on thy motley gown?
    They seem like garlands on the May-day queen!

    DE MONTFORD.


Soon after the family at Deane Hall had lost the society of Augustus
Mordaunt, they had accepted an invitation to dine at Webberly Mouse. The
appointed day having arrived, and Cecilia Webberly, being fully attired
for the reception of the expected guests, placed herself in a negligent
attitude near one of the windows of her mother's drawing-room, with a
book in her hand, not for the purpose of reading, but for that of
tossing it into a chair, conveniently set for the occasion, as she had
seen Lady Eltondale throw her bonnet the evening of her unexpected
arrival at Deane Hall.

There could not, however, be a greater contrast, than the full-blown
Cecilia Webberly presented, to the elegant fragile Viscountess. Full one
half of her massive figure stood confessed to sight, without a single
particle of drapery. Her immense shoulders projected far above her
sleeve; in truth, her arm was bare half way to her elbow, and her back
in emulation nearly to her waist, whose circumference might well be
termed the _Arctic circle_, as it was described at that distance from
the pole, which exactly marked the boundary of those regions of eternal
snow which rose on its upper verge. Her petticoats, descending but
little below the calf of her leg, displayed its "ample round" to the
utmost advantage.

But, to counterbalance this nudity, that moiety of her terrestrial
frame, which was clothed, was loaded with ornaments and puffings of all
descriptions, with reduplicated rows of lace and riband, which most
injudiciously increased her natural bulk; and the little covering which
was above her waist, differing in colour and texture from that below,
made the apparent seem still less than the real length of her garments.
Nor did Cecilia's countenance and manner more nearly resemble Lady
Eltondale than her dress and figure, as what was quiet elegance in the
latter, might, without any great breach of Christian charity, be
mistaken for stupid insipidity in the former.

Miss Webberly had not yet finished the repetition of her anticipated
_impromptus_; and her mother had left the room to reiterate her
directions about the dinner, so that the fair attitudinist had no
spectator of her various rehearsals, except the unaffected Adelaide.

    "And what was her garb?--
    "I cannot well describe the fashion of it.
    "She was not deck'd in any gallant trim,
    "But seem'd to me clad in the usual weeds
    "Of high habitual state.
    "Such artless and majestic elegance,
    "So exquisitely just, so nobly simple,
    "Might make the gorgeous blush."

But Cecilia Webberly was quite unused to _blushing_, though she might
sometimes redden with passion, and was equally unconscious of her
striking inferiority to her unstudied companion. At last the entrance of
the Seymour family presented another contrast to the brazen Colossus in
Selina's sylph-like form, vivacious eye, and glowing cheek:--

    "The one love's arrows darting round,
    "The other blushing at the wound!"

Mrs. Sullivan and her eldest daughter hastened to pay their compliments
to their company, the one in the language of Cheapside, the other in all
the flowers of rhetoric; and the rest of the expected guests soon after
arriving, they all proceeded to the dining-room, Mrs. Sullivan insisting
on giving Selina "percussion," (for so she termed precedence) to the
blushing girl's infinite annoyance, who, never having dined out before,
was unaccustomed to take place of the woman whom, of all others, she
most respected: however her painful pre-eminence at the head of the
table was almost compensated by her aunt sitting next her, and thus
hedging her in from the rest of the company.

The dinner--an object of too much consequence to be passed over
unnoticed in the present state of society--was evidently dressed by a
man cook; but as Mrs. Sullivan had insisted on making her own
alterations in the bill of fare, she had put the poor man in a passion;
and, as a natural consequence, the whole was a manqué, no unapt model of
the family, presenting vulgarity, finery, and high seasoning out of
place.

The warmth of Mrs. Sullivan's temperature was considerably increased by
her vocal and manual exertions; whilst her son was much puzzled to
reconcile the _nonchalance_ he believed fashionable, with the desire he
had to show Selina that obsequious attention he deemed judicious. But
though his tongue was incessantly employed in Miss Seymour's service,
(for the poor girl would have died of a surfeit if she had taken a
fourth part of the eatables he pressed on her acceptance,) his eyes were
involuntarily attracted to Adelaide, who, amidst the confusion of
tongues, was keeping up a seemingly animated conversation with a very
handsome young man, the eldest son of Mr. Thornbull, who sat next her.
Of this Mr. Webberly did not approve; and therefore gave her every
possible interruption, but all in vain. For no sooner did she answer his
inquiry, or assent to his request, than she resumed her conversation,
which seemed much more to interest her; and, for the first time, he
thought the quick succession of smiles, that passed over her countenance
when she conversed, did not become her so much as its placid expression
when she was silent.

At length Selina heard the welcome sound of "Vill you like any more
vine, Miss Seymour?" and this well understood summons relieved her from
her place of penance.

Soon after the ladies had retired to the drawing-room, they separated,
some adjourning to the music-room, some to the green-house, and Miss
Seymour gladly accepted Adelaide's invitation to proceed from it to the
garden. Selina had, before dinner was half over, thought Miss Wildenheim
"the most delightful girl in the world!" But she was too diffident of
her own claims to attention to have sought her acquaintance so
immediately; though, with her usual precipitation, she felt already
convinced she should love her all her life, if she were never to see her
again. "She is too elegant, too clever, to like an unpolished girl like
me," thought Selina. But in this she was mistaken; for Adelaide
bestowed as much admiration on her untutored charms, as her own more
polished graces excited in Miss Seymour's mind, though she manifested
her approbation in a more sober manner; for, besides being three years
older than Selina, she had, unfortunately, had more opportunity of
having youth's first happy feelings chilled by the bitter blasts of
capricious fortune.

When Selina found, from Adelaide's expressive manner, that she might say
to herself, "She really does like me," her surprise and delight knew no
bounds; and, if she had before thought the object of her enthusiasm the
most charming of the daughters of Eve, she was now nothing less than an
angel. Her pleasure did not escape her new friend's notice; for Selina
was too ingenuous to conceal any thing. Adelaide's countenance was
illuminated with one of those joyful smiles, which had brightened it in
better days, as she mentally exclaimed, "Happy creature!" But she
sighed with real sorrow, as she instantaneously recollected the fleeting
nature of youthful impressions, "_when thought is speech, and speech is
truth_."

During the time Selina had employed in her own mind to sign and seal an
everlasting friendship with her new acquaintance, they visited the
pagoda and hermitage, sat under the marquée, where they found the novel
which had been Miss Cecilia Webberly's morning study, and had looked in
vain for the gold and silver fishes; for Mrs. Sullivan was too
fashionable to dine long before sunset, even in the height of summer.
Their fruitless search for their aqueous favourites reminded them of the
lateness of the hour; and they had begun to retrace their steps towards
the house, when a pretty rosy child, about seven years old, with dancing
eyes and disordered hair, came skipping up to them. "This sweet child,
Miss Seymour," said Adelaide, "is Caroline Sullivan, my dear little
companion." Selina kissed the child, partly for its own beauty, partly
for the sake of its patroness; and the little urchin, hearing the name
of Miss Seymour, said, in an arch tone, "I have a secret for you, Miss
Seymour--a great secret." "And what is your _great_ secret, my pretty
little love?" asked Selina. "Why, do you know, brother is going to make
love to you?--Mama bid him. And he said he would, for he thinks you have
a great deal of money; but for all that he says, my dear Adele is
handsomer than you--and I think so too--I believe," said the little
thing, stopping to look up at them both. The young ladies were so
astonished, that at first they had not power to stop the child's
harangue, but both coloured scarlet red from offended pride; and, when
their eyes met, the picture of the all-conquering hero and his mama
rising at once to Selina's mind in the most ludicrous point of view,
she burst out into an immoderate fit of laughter, in which Adelaide
could not resist joining. The child, from their mirth, thought they were
pleased with her observations; and, believing she had said something
clever, continued in the same strain; whilst, by grave faces, and knit
brows, and remonstrating, they endeavoured in vain to check her
volubility.--_Car on ne se quérit pas d'un défaut qui plait._ "Good
Lord! what shall we do?" said Selina, half laughing, half crying; for
the little girl, in the exuberance of her mirth, seemed bent on
following them into the house, with a repetition of her information,
when luckily they thought of diverting her attention; and so taking her
one by each arm, they almost carried her completely round the
pleasure-ground; and, by chattering and running, succeeded in diverting
the channel of her thoughts, and were not a little rejoiced that, on
their entrance into the drawing-room, Miss Webberly, in a peremptory
tone of "brief authority," ordered the little troublesome urchin to bed.

The ladies were all assembled, and Miss Wildenheim thought it necessary
to apologise for their absence; and Selina, immediately walking up to
her aunt, excused herself, and wondered she had left her so long, for
the advanced state of tea and coffee told her it was late.

When Miss Wildenheim, in reply to some observation addressed to her by
Mrs. Temple, entered into general conversation, Selina was as much
surprised as delighted by the graceful ease of her manner; and, in the
simplicity of her ideas, wondered how she could be so enlivening, and at
the same time so elegant. "It is not odd," thought she, "that Lady
Eltondale is elegant, for she is so quiet, she has plenty of time to do
every thing in the most beautiful manner; but, though she is very
elegant, she is not at all entertaining, while Miss Wildenheim is
both."

Though Adelaide's character was ever the same, the style of her
conversation varied with every different person she conversed with. She
was generally _animated_, though seldom gay; and the liveliness of her
discourse was owing to her possessing not only an uncommonly clear
perception of the ideas of others, but also an equally clear arrangement
of her own, which gave her conversation a lucidity, that elicited the
thinking powers of her auditors; so that if she was not absolutely witty
herself, she was often at least "the cause of wit in others." She was
habitually cheerful, and generally self-possessed, except when her
feelings were accidentally excited, and they lay too deep to be called
forth in the common intercourse of society. In a word, her vivacity
proceeded less from the buoyancy of animal spirits, as passing as youth
itself, than from the satisfaction of a soul at peace with itself, and
of a mind amused by a constant flow of intellect.

The entrance of the gentlemen transferred Miss Cecilia Webberly, and of
course her guests, from the drawing-room to the music saloon. Here again
her fine voice, like her fine person, was spoiled by affectation, and by
an attempt at displaying a taste, of which nature had denied her mind
any just perceptions. She had acquired from her master a would-be
expression, which consisted of a regular alternation of piano and forte,
as completely distinct as the black and white squares of a chess board,
with corresponding movements of her eyes and shoulders; the _tout
ensemble_ seeming to the hearer like a succession of unprepared screams,
neither leaving him the peace of a monotonous repose, nor affording him
the charm of variety. "By heavens, I would as soon be shut up in a room
with a trumpeter; she has voice enough to blow a man's brains out!" said
young Mr. Thornbull to Mr. Temple, while his ears yet tingled with
Cecilia's last shout. "I am sure Miss Wildenheim sings in a very
different manner." "I am not sure," replied his reverend auditor,
smiling, "that she sings at all. If she does, no doubt her judgment is
as correct in music as in every thing else;--however, let us see:"--and
walking up to Mrs. Sullivan, they begged of her to procure them a
specimen of Miss Wildenheim's musical abilities. Adelaide complied with
a look and a curtsy, that bespoke the pardon of her imperfections, and
which, strange to say, procured a temporary absolution for her charms,
even from those to whom they were most obnoxious.

The young man was too much engaged in watching the playful variety of
her countenance when she sung (for she never looked half so charming as
when singing), to criticise her performance, but took for granted it
was divine, and so must

    "Those who were there, and those who were not."

For though it is easy to exhibit deformity, it is impossible to describe
the nicely adjusted balance of opposite beauties, which constitutes
perfection: more especially in an art, that is often most felt when
least understood, and whose evanescent charms are passing for ever away,
whilst the mind is yet revelling in a consciousness of their existence!

When the usual routine of complimenting had been gone through by the
rest of the company, and Adelaide was disengaged, Mr. Temple, after
praising her performance, said, "Notwithstanding your delightful
singing, I must say, I think the best days of music are past." The
lovely songstress, casting her eyes on Selina and thereby applying her
words to the beautiful girl's bewitching figure, replied, "I partly
agree with you, my dear sir.--'When music, heavenly maid, was young,'
perhaps her wild graces were more captivating than her mature
elegance."--"Your simile is just, and well applied. Music certainly now
feels her decay, and seeks to hide her faded charms by profuse
ornament."

Mr. Temple not unfrequently talked _by inch of candle_, and would have
gone on, perhaps, for an hour, had not his wife, tapping him on the
shoulder, told him it was time to return home: and, as is usually the
case in parties in the country, the announcement of one carriage was the
signal for the abrupt departure of the whole company; and though Mrs.
Sullivan roared out in an audible voice, "Why, Cilly, you haven't a gone
half through the hairs you practised this morning! Where's your bravo
hair? and your polacker?" before the anxious mother had recapitulated
half the catalogue, she found, equally to her surprise and dismay, that
all her guests had disappeared, nearly as suddenly as Tam O'Shanter's
companions, before he had finished his commendatory exclamations:

    "In an instant all was dark,

And,

    "Out the hellish legion sallied."



CHAPTER XII.

    Pure was her bosom, as the silver lake,
    Ere rising winds the ruffled waters shake;
    When the bright pageants of the morning sky
    Across the expansive mirror lightly fly,
    By vernal gales in quick succession driv'n,
    While the clear glass reflects the smile of Heav'n.

    HAYLEY.


"What a delightful girl Miss Wildenheim is!" exclaimed Selina Seymour,
as she sat at work in Mrs. Galton's dressing-room the day after she had
dined at Webberly House.--"I am sure we shall become intimate friends; I
never saw any body I admired half so much." Mrs. Galton coincided in
Selina's praise of her new favourite; for though she was not equally
prone to form "intimate friendships" at first sight, her penetration
had led her to conceive nearly as favourable an opinion of Miss
Wildenheim as Selina had expressed. Indeed, Mrs. Galton was particularly
desirous of improving her acquaintance with Mrs. Sullivan's interesting
ward; for though she was, in general, extremely suspicious of the
friendships girls so frequently contract and break with equal
precipitation, she was extremely anxious that Selina should meet with a
suitable companion of her own sex; and the refined elegance of Miss
Wildenheim's manners, the calmness of her deportment, and the good sense
which all her observations evinced, led Mrs. Galton to hope, that from
her society her beloved niece might derive as much advantage as
satisfaction. But at the same time, she recollected, that a degree of
mystery seemed to hang over Adelaide's situation; and, therefore, while
she gave a willing assent to Selina's encomiums, she cautiously withheld
her sanction to a sudden intimacy, until a longer acquaintance confirmed
or destroyed her present prepossession in Miss Wildenheim's favour.

Selina had never yet had any female associate, except Mrs. Galton; for
though Sir Henry's considerate attention to "poor Mrs. Martin," and her
inseparable companion Lucy, occasioned their being frequent visitors at
the Hall, yet they were so different in character, pursuits, and
situation from Miss Seymour, that no degree of intimacy could ever take
place between them. Selina had been so much disgusted by the young
ladies at Webberly House, on their first introduction, that she had
shrunk from all subsequent familiarity with them, nor did her aunt, in
this, endeavour to conquer her prejudices.

Mrs. Galton was aware, that such was the susceptibility of Selina's
heart, and the candour of her disposition, that if once she felt a
preference, her whole soul would be engrossed by the object of her
attachment, and that the strength of her regard could probably be more
easily anticipated than its duration: she was therefore particularly
cautious in permitting Selina to have any intercourse with those of
whose merits she did not feel well assured; believing that much of her
own future character, and consequent happiness, would depend on that of
her first guides and associates on her entrance into life. Hitherto, her
only companions and her only confidants had been Sir Henry, Mrs. Galton,
and Augustus Mordaunt. In them all her innocent affections were centred.
To them her whole mind was displayed; and so guiltless was she of even a
thought she could blush to own, that she scarcely imagined her
ingenuousness was a merit. Nor had the want of other companions in any
degree lessened the animation of her character; perhaps, on the
contrary, the very antidotes, to which Mrs. Galton had recourse to avoid
a premature gravity, had rather tended to increase that vivacity, which
bordered on levity, and was her most dangerous characteristic. Whenever
the lessons of her childhood had been concluded, she had always been
permitted, and even encouraged, to join in many of those games and
exercises, that are usually appropriated to the amusement of the other
sex. Often has she quitted an abstruse book, or a beautiful drawing, to
trundle her hoop, or run races with her playfellow Augustus. And when
other girls have trembled under the rod of the dancing master, she has
been gaining health and activity together, by vaulting over gates, that
more refined young ladies would, perhaps, have dreaded to climb. It is
true, that as she advanced towards womanhood, she was taught to attend
rather more to the decorums of life; and, instead of being permitted to
bound through the woods like the fawns she dislodged, or even (shocking
to relate) walk hand in hand with the old steward over half the park,
before girls of fashion would have broken their first slumbers; she now
changed her amusements, and accompanied Mrs. Galton in her charitable
errands to the poor, or, attended by Augustus and her groom, rode
through the delightful lanes in the neighbourhood. However, since his
departure from the Hall, her rides were confined within the park walls,
and scarcely a day passed, when the recollection of their rambles, in
which she so much delighted, did not serve to renew the expression of
her regrets at his absence. But even that circumstance failed to depress
her spirits. Perhaps, amongst all created beings, she at that moment was
almost the happiest. She knew no world beyond the little circle round
her own home, and in that circle she loved and was beloved. Every eye
beamed on hers with satisfaction, and every heart returned her affection
with redoubled fondness. She dreamed not of insincerity, and she knew
not what was grief, except indeed when she enjoyed the luxury of
sharing or alleviating that of others; which her frequent visits to the
neighbouring cottages sometimes presented to her view: and never did she
look so lovely as when she bent over the bed of sickness, or rocked the
cradle of infant suffering, while her eyes swam in tears, or sparkled
with the joy of successful benevolence.

    Beauty, and grace, and innocence in her
    In heavenly union shone: one who had held
    The faith of elder Greece would sure have thought
    She was some glorious nymph of seed divine,
    Oread or Dryad, of Diana's train
    The youngest and the loveliest--yea, she seem'd
    Angel or soul beatified, from realms
    Of bliss, on errand of parental love,
    To earth re-sent; if tears and trembling limbs
    With such celestial nature might consist.

Though Sir Henry Seymour was extremely hospitable, yet so retired was
the neighbourhood of Deane Hall, that the ladies at Webberly House and
the Parsonage were the only ones that Mrs. Galton visited, except Mrs.
Martin and Mrs. Lucas. But as autumn approached, the visits of the two
latter to the Hall became more frequent; for Sir Henry was fond of what
he called a social rubber of whist; and as his constant tormentor the
gout disabled him from using any exercise, beyond what his Bath chair
procured for him, his chief amusement was in the society of his country
friends, who were most happy to assemble round the good Baronet's fire
side, when a blazing faggot corrected the influence of a keen air, and
gave them a foretaste of the comforts of winter, before they were yet
introduced to any of its horrors.

Of these quiet parties Selina was merely a spectator: as, after she had
answered all Mrs. Martin's questions, with the same kindness they were
asked; provided Lucy with the daily newspaper, and the last new
magazine; placed her father's chair and arranged his foot-stool, (for
he thought no one could settle them as comfortably as his Selina); all
her duties of the evening were at an end. She could then amuse herself
unnoticed, with her pencil or her tambour frame, or have recourse to her
harpsichord: where, unambitious of praise, and unstimulated by vanity,
she would, for hours, "warble her wood notes wild."

Sometimes, indeed, Mr. and Mrs. Temple would join the party; and though
without even the acquisition of their society Selina was always
cheerful, yet when she enjoyed the rational conversation of the one, and
the lively good-nature of the other, she felt additional pleasure: for
both these excellent people looked on Selina almost as a child of their
own. Mr. Temple had watched with delight the gradual development of an
understanding, from whose matured powers he fondly anticipated every
good; though his anxious penetration led him sometimes to shudder for
her future character and fate, as he watched the susceptibility of her
heart,

    "Which like the needle true,
    Turn'd at the touch of joy or woe,
    But turning--trembled too."

His amiable consort, however, notwithstanding all her deference to his
opinion, would scarcely acknowledge that the ray of celestial light,
which played round the opening blossom and gave it added brilliancy,
might, by prematurely expanding its charms, doom it to untimely decay.
And, sometimes, when the venerable pastor, with parental solicitude,
almost regretted that volatility, which to indifferent spectators but
gave a charm the more, Mrs. Temple, with that fearful prescience which
but belongs to a female heart, would stop the intended reproof, and say,
"Ah! James, do not check her innocent mirth; the day may come, when we
would give the world to see her smile." Meantime the lovely object of
their care would often, when at night she laid her guiltless head on her
pillow, as yet unwatered by a single tear, add to her pious thanksgiving
a wish that all the world was as happy, as she gratefully acknowledged
she was herself.

Little did this innocent child of nature imagine, that fate had already
marked the hour, when she was to bid farewell to the calm scenes of her
present happiness. Sir Henry never spoke, and could scarcely bear to
think, of the engagement between her and Mr. Elton, to which he had so
precipitately given his consent: and Mrs. Galton was equally averse to
mentioning the subject: of course, therefore, Selina remained totally
unconscious of it, and her time passed in the happy alternation of
leisure and employment, unmarked by accident, and unimpaired by sorrow.
Even the visit of Lord and Lady Eltondale was already almost forgotten
by her, or only occasionally occurred to her memory as a dream, whilst
even the fascination she had wondered at and admired by degrees faded
from her recollection.

One fine autumnal day, in the beginning of October, she had just
returned from one of her favourite rambles in the park, when she
abruptly entered the library, to show to Sir Henry an exhausted leveret,
that she had discovered panting in a thicket, and that she had brought
home in her arms: as she held it she partially covered it by her frock,
which she had caught up to keep it warm; without any recollection of the
consequent exposure of her beautiful ancle, which this derangement of
her drapery had occasioned. Her color was heightened by exercise, and
the wind had dishevelled her luxuriant brown hair, that strayed in
ringlets on her beaming cheek, whilst her straw hat, almost untied, had
slipped off her head, and hung behind, in contrast to the remaining
locks that a comb loosely fastened. Perhaps a painter or a sculptor
would have chosen that moment, to perpetuate the beautiful object, that,
as Selina opened the door, thus suddenly presented itself to the
delighted gaze of two gentlemen, who were then visiting Sir Henry: in
one Selina immediately recognised Mr. Webberly, and to the other she was
introduced as his friend, Mr. Sedley. At first Selina coloured, as she
momentarily recollected her dishabille, if such it might be called; but
in an instant, recovering herself, she apologized to her father for her
intrusion, and calmly obeyed his directions to seat herself beside him,
whilst she dismissed her trembling _protégée_ to be nursed below stairs.
Was it innate good sense, or was it incipient vanity, that saved this
young recluse from the torments of _mauvaise honte_, which so many
votaries of fashion feel or feign? Her colour was as variable as the
tints of a summer sky; but though it was often heightened, and
sometimes changed by quick susceptibility affecting it, it seldom
suffered from that illegitimate timidity, that owes its birth to an
inordinate anxiety to please. The language of compliment was foreign to
her ear, and she had yet to learn that finished coquetry, that wraps
itself in the veil of modesty, and flies to be pursued.

Mr. Webberly stated, the motive of his visit was not only to deliver an
invitation from his mother to a ball she purposed giving in a few weeks,
but also to add his earnest persuasions, that Sir Henry, Mrs. Galton,
and Miss Seymour would accept it. On this occasion the unpolished Selina
broke through all the rules of etiquette; and, totally unmindful of the
presence of strangers, at the mention of a ball jumped up, clapped her
hands, and springing almost as high as another Parisot, exclaimed, as
she threw her arms round Sir Henry's neck, "Pray dear, dear Papa, let me
go, I've heard so much of balls!" It may be supposed, the gentlemen
strenuously seconded her solicitations: their united entreaties having
obtained Sir Henry's consent, they at length withdrew, whilst Selina
reiterated her thanks and her joy with equal earnestness and _naïveté_.

"Well, Sedley, what do you think of Miss Seymour?" exclaimed Webberly,
as they rode leisurely home. "By Heavens! she is quite beautiful,"
returned his friend.--"She has the finest eyes and teeth I ever
beheld."--"And fine oaks too, or she'd never do for me," rejoined her
calculating admirer. A silence of some minutes ensued, which was at last
broken by Sedley's observing, that "he had never seen such a profusion
of silky hair." "For my part," resumed Webberly, "I like black hair much
better: Miss Wildenheim is a thousand times handsomer than Miss
Seymour!"

Mr. Sedley neither contradicted nor assented to this observation, but
with apparent _nonchalance_ turned the subject to that of shooting and
hunting; which promised amusements had been his inducement for visiting
Webberly House. The conversation was not again resumed, and they
returned scarcely in time to dress for dinner, which the anxious Mrs.
Sullivan declared would be quite "ruinated," assuring them, "the cook
was always arranged and discordant by them there long preambulations
a-horseback they were so fond of."



CHAPTER XIII.

    "All is not empty whose low sound
    Reverbs no hollowness."

    KING LEAR.


The excuse, which Mordaunt had made for his abrupt departure from Deane
Hall, was not, in truth, totally devoid of foundation: for he had really
received an invitation to join a party of college friends, on a tour to
the Lakes; though such a cause would not alone have been sufficient to
tear him from a scene, in which all his hopes and wishes were centred.
Notwithstanding his being an enthusiastic admirer of the beauties of
nature, and moreover a proficient in drawing, all the charms of the wild
country he then visited were insufficient long to rivet his attention;
and with an agitated mind and aching heart, he returned early in
September to Oxford, of which he meant to take his final leave at the
end of the following term. No profession had yet been determined on for
him, for his uncle, Lord Osselstone, whose title he was one day to
inherit, had never, in the least degree, interfered on the subject of
his education; and the habit of procrastination, which was one of the
principal failings of Sir Henry Seymour's character, had hitherto
prevented his making the important choice. Thus the period of Mr.
Mordaunt's minority had expired, before his guardian could be prevailed
on to come to any final determination; and Augustus now deferred his own
decision till the period, which would speedily arrive, of his quitting
the University of Oxford.

The indolence of disposition, which had rendered Sir Henry Seymour's
judgment inert, had not extended its torpid influence to his feelings;
and a considerable degree of resentment was produced in his mind by the
indifference, indeed total alienation of all regard, which seemed to
mark Lord Osselstone's conduct to his nephew. Once, and once only,
before his going to Oxford, had Augustus met his uncle. For, when Mr.
Temple was deputed by Sir Henry, to conduct Mordaunt on his first
entering college, they had, on their way, passed through London, for the
express purpose of paying their respects to his Lordship. But his
reception of them had been so cold, so ostentatiously polite, that
Mordaunt felt by no means anxious to improve the acquaintance: and yet
it might have been supposed, that opportunity of cultivating the
friendship of Lord Osselstone would have been rather sought for than
declined by his nephew. For all the Earl's estates, which were
considerable, were in his own power; and it was the general opinion of
those who professed to know him best, that he intended to make a Mr.
Davis his heir, who was a distant relation, and had been for many years
as unremitting in his attentions to Lord Osselstone, as Mordaunt had
been the reverse. Not that Augustus was unaware of the consequence such
a disposition of this property might prove to him; for all he inherited
from his father was a few thousand pounds, the little that remained of a
younger brother's portion, after a life spent and finally sacrificed to
the excess of dissipation. But perhaps this conviction on both sides
served to make the barrier between them stronger. Lord Osselstone seemed
prepared to think, that any attention his nephew could pay him must
proceed from interested motives; and Mordaunt was fearful of showing
even the little natural affection, that remained in his breast towards
him, lest it might be construed into dissimulation.

One of Lord Osselstone's estates was situated within a few miles of
Oxford, where he generally spent a few months every summer;--for he was
an upright and considerate landlord, and usually made it a point to
visit all his estates in the course of the year, for the purpose of
inquiring into the actual state of his tenantry--not that he was ever
known to lower a rent or remit a debt: no entreaty, no representation,
could ever persuade him either to break an agreement himself, or to
suffer it to be broken by another. And if ever he found his rights
invaded, or even disputed, there was no extremity or expense he declined
in the defence or prosecution of them. He had often heard, unmoved, a
tale that might have pierced a heart of stone; and seen, with relentless
eyes, the poor man's "one ewe lamb" sold to pay the arrears of rent. But
it not unfrequently happened, that the iron-hearted creditor was himself
the purchaser of the stock at a price much beyond its value; and the
tenant, if deserving, would probably find his Lord's steward inclined,
the next year, to let him have his seed-wheat, not gratis, but nearly
so.

One peculiarity in the Earl's character was an extraordinary disposition
to disbelieve even the most natural expressions of gratitude, and to
doubt any testimony whatever of affection to himself. No way was so sure
of losing any claim on his favour, as to make the least allusion to his
former kindness; and one of the few domestics, that had at any time
remained long in his service, was an old grey-headed valet, who had
attended him faithfully from his youth; and had scarcely ever been known
to agree with him in opinion, or to hesitate in expressing, in the
strongest terms, his disapprobation. Yet even Lord Chesterfield could
not better understand the perfection of politeness than did Lord
Osselstone, or make it more his constant practice in his intercourse
with the world in general. However his real sentiments might differ
from those of his associates, he always took care to soften down so well
the sharp angles of dissent, that no cutting point was left to wound the
feelings of others; while his own remained impervious to every eye. All
acknowledged he was a just man, and every body _felt_ he was a proud
one; but, however dignified his manners were to his equals, to his
inferiors his pride was silvered over with an affability, that, whilst
it made it still more conspicuous, served almost to purchase its
forgiveness.

To those who reflected on the various qualities of his mind, the picture
it presented seemed to be composed of a variety and contrast of colours
rarely to be met with, but all so highly varnished, that their very
brightness confounded. It seemed a mass of contradiction, by some
extraneous power compressed into an indefinable whole. His virtues and
his vices trod so closely on each other, that it was difficult to draw
the line of separation between them, and both appeared to owe their
origin either to the temporary error, or general superiority of his
judgment; all his actions seemed to proceed only from his head--his
heart was never called into play. It was difficult to decide whether the
finer feelings were really extinct in his breast; or whether, dreading
the power passion might usurp, he never for one moment permitted it to
assume the reins. In his general establishment he was magnificent;--in
the detail of its arrangements almost parsimonious. His charity was
ostentatious rather than benign; for, though his name graced every list
of public contribution, he never came forward in his own person as the
poor man's benefactor. None who experienced the urbanity of Lord
Osselstone's manners could believe him to be his own individual enemy;
and yet no person could repose in the calm confidence, that Lord
Osselstone was his friend. It was evident, that, had he not been a
courtier, he would have been a misanthropist.

In conversation he was generally reserved; but, if circumstances called
upon him for exertion, his abilities seemed to rise with the occasion,
and his variety of information, his elegance of language, and even the
occasional playfulness of his imagination, made him one of the most
agreeable of companions. In all Lord Osselstone did, in all Lord
Osselstone said, in all he looked, there might be discovered an
intensity of thought; which, far from being confined to the surface,
seemed to increase in profundity the deeper it was examined. His
character, like his manner, was not to be deciphered by vulgar eyes. He
was generally serious--never dull; and at times his wit was even
sportive. Yet Lord Osselstone, when most gay, could scarcely be deemed
cheerful. At the moments of his greatest exhilaration, when an admiring
audience hung upon his words, or a more favoured few caught the sparks
of animation from the meteor that flashed before them, deriving all
their temporary brilliancy from the electric fire of his talents; even
at those moments, Lord Osselstone seemed scarcely happy;--the brightness
of the emanation was for them;--the dark body remained his own; and few
had skill or inclination to penetrate the dense medium that seemed still
to surround and obscure his soul.

The first year that Mordaunt had been at college, Lord Osselstone had
made no advance towards cultivating the acquaintance that had so
inauspiciously commenced; for, except a very slight salutation in an
accidental meeting in the street, Augustus had received no mark whatever
even of recognizance. And perhaps this inattention was rendered still
more mortifying, as whenever Lord Osselstone was in the neighbourhood of
Oxford, he generally received a great deal of company at his house; and
several of the young men there, whose connections were amongst his
Lordship's associates in London, procured introductions to him, and
frequently partook of the elegant hospitality, that always graced his
table. Nay, many members of the very college Augustus was in, and some
of his own particular friends, received constant invitations to
Osselstone Park, from which he alone seemed to be invidiously excluded.
On Mordaunt's return to college the following year, he had been much
surprised by receiving, in the course of the last week of a term, a
formal but polite card of invitation to dinner, to which he sent a still
more formal apology, being most happy to have it in his power to allege
his intended return to Deane Hall as his excuse; and accordingly he left
Oxford the very day, that had been named by his uncle for receiving him.
Not, however, that he returned immediately to the Hall. Augustus, though
abhorring the excesses into which so many of his contemporaries
thoughtlessly plunged, was still not averse to taste slightly the cup of
pleasure, if placed within his reach; and, therefore, usually adopted
the geography most in fashion at Oxford, by which it is ascertained to a
demonstration, that London is the direct road from thence to every other
place in England. He had not then been taught, that the deprivation of
Selina Seymour's society for a little fortnight was an irreparable loss;
and the theatres and the delights of London were sufficiently new to
him, to beguile that, and even a longer time. It was just that season of
the year when a London winter begins to subside, not into a healthy
spring, but into an unwelcome summer, and when the dying embers of
gaiety are only kept alive by a few forced sparks of unwearied
dissipation. But to Augustus, who had not glared in the full flame, even
these had charms; and he frequented, with unsatiated pleasure, all the
places of public amusement then open.

One night at the opera, whither he had repaired with some of his college
friends in a state of exhilaration, that, though it fell far short of
intoxication, was equally different from his usual tone of spirits,
while he was standing in the outer room laughing rather vociferously at
some ridiculous observation of his companions, his eye suddenly rested
on the face of Lord Osselstone, who, with an unmoved countenance and
steady gaze, had been scrutinizing the groupe with minute attention,
while they were totally unconscious of his proximity. Augustus's colour
rose; and a confused idea that he was the peculiar object of his uncle's
observation crossing his mind, he rather increased than restrained the
vivacity of his manner. "Lord Osselstone's carriage stops the way," was
repeated from stage to stage of the echoing stair-case; and, while the
Earl passed close to Mordaunt as he proceeded to obey the clamorous
summons, he stopped deliberately, and observing that "Mr. Mordaunt's
visit to Sir Henry Seymour had been a much shorter one than usual," made
him a low bow, and pursued his way without waiting for a reply; which,
in Mordaunt's then state of mind, would probably not have been an
amicable one, indignant as he felt at Lord Osselstone's conveying his
only acknowledgement of him in the form of an implied reproof. Here
then, once more, ended all intercourse between uncle and nephew; for,
when Augustus again returned to college, the invitation had not been
renewed; and though in the last examination he had received three
several prizes, and with them the compliments of all his friends, Lord
Osselstone had witnessed his triumph in silence, though it happened he
was in Oxford, nay, even in the school, that very day.

On Mordaunt's arrival at Oxford, at the conclusion of his late northern
tour, his thoughts were so completely preoccupied, that he did not even
take the trouble of inquiring whether the Earl was then in the
neighbourhood. But as he was one evening sauntering along a retired road
on the banks of the river, attending more to the painful reflections of
his own mind than to a book which he mechanically held in his hand, he
was suddenly roused from his meditations by the sound of a carriage
coming furiously behind him; and, turning round, perceived a gentleman
alone in a curricle, the horses of which were approaching at their
utmost speed, and evidently ungovernable. The furious animals were
making directly towards the river, and, if their course was not impeded,
immediate destruction inevitably awaited their unfortunate driver. This
reflection, and his consequent determination, was but a momentary effort
of Augustus's mind. Throwing away his book, he sprang into the middle of
the road; and, though the gentleman loudly exclaimed, "Take care of
yourself--I cannot manage them," he deliberately kept his stand, and,
at the moment the horses reached the spot, dexterously succeeded in
grasping the reins, and stopping the carriage. The suddenness of the
jolt, however, unfortunately broke the axle-tree, and threw the
gentleman at a little distance on the road. A deep groan instantaneously
followed his fall; and Augustus felt a painful conviction, that though
his presence of mind had certainly saved the stranger's life at the
imminent risk of his own, yet the very act had been the cause of much
apparent suffering to him. He hesitated what to do:--the horses, still
more frightened by the noise made by the breaking of the carriage, were
almost furious; and it was as much as he could do to retain his hold,
while the poor suffering man lay helplessly on the road. At length two
grooms appeared, rapidly pursuing each other, with marks of the utmost
consternation in their countenances; and while one jumped off his horse
to assist his master, the other relieved Augustus from his troublesome
charge. The Osselstone liveries proclaimed the stranger's name, as
Augustus had not yet seen his face, and the discovery but increased his
distress:--"Good God, my uncle! Are you much hurt, dear sir?" exclaimed
he, in a tone of commiseration, almost of affection. At the sound of his
voice the Earl languidly turned his head as his servant supported him;
and, stretching out one hand, grasped that of Augustus, expressing
tacitly, but not ineloquently, his gratitude to his preserver. Augustus
flew to the side of the river, and bringing some water in his hat,
sprinkled it over his face, which in a few moments so revived him, that
he was able to articulate thanks, which Augustus, with looks of kindest
anxiety, interrupted, with inquiries as to the injury he had evidently
received in his fall. He soon found that one arm was broken, and Lord
Osselstone otherwise so much hurt, that it was difficult to move him
from the position in which he lay. Without, therefore, an instant's
deliberation, and scarcely explaining his design, he sprang on one of
the groom's horses, and was in a few moments out of sight. Indeed, so
rapid were his movements, that before it could be conjectured that he
had even reached Oxford, he was seen returning in a hired chaise and
four, accompanied by one of the first surgeons of that town, bringing
with him every thing necessary for the accommodation of his uncle.

Before they attempted to remove Lord Osselstone, the fractured bone was
set; and the attendants then carefully assisting him into the carriage,
the surgeon took his place at one side of him, while Mordaunt,
uninvited, supported him on the other; and then desiring the drivers to
proceed carefully to Osselstone Park, left the grooms to take charge of
the broken equipage.

Though Augustus had never been before within the gates of this
residence of his ancestors, its magnificent scenery had not the power to
withdraw his attention, for one moment, from its suffering master. In
addition to the natural benevolence of his heart, which would have led
him to pity any fellow-creature in a similar situation, from a
refinement of feeling, he experienced an additional though certainly an
unnecessary pang, from having been in any degree accessary to the
present pain; and his judicious and unremitting care resembled that of a
son to a beloved father. He watched by his uncle's bed all night, and
could scarcely be prevailed upon to leave it to take any nourishment,
till the surgeon, on the third day, pronounced the Earl out of danger.

Meantime Lord Osselstone, from whose lips no complaint ever escaped,
however painful the operations he underwent, observed every change of
his nephew's countenance with a scrutinizing attention; and when in a
few days he was able to sit up, and enter into discourse, the modest
good sense of Augustus's remarks, animated as they sometimes were by
occasional bursts of a genius not quite dissimilar to his own, seemed
not entirely to escape his Lordship's observation. As soon, however, as
the Earl was able to leave his room, Augustus took his leave, alleging
as his excuse for not accepting Lord Osselstone's polite invitation to
protract his stay, that his services could be no longer useful; which
was indeed his only motive for so soon separating from his uncle, of
whom he now thought with far different feelings than he had done
formerly--so natural is it to the human mind, to imbibe a partiality for
those we have had it in our power to benefit.

These feelings were, however, soon damped by the receipt of the
following note, accompanied by a beautiful edition of Horace, and some
other of the classics:--

"Lord Osselstone presents his compliments to Mr. Mordaunt, and has the
honour of sending him a few books, of which he requests his acceptance,
in return for his late obliging attentions."

"My attentions are not to be purchased," exclaimed Augustus, as he,
perhaps too indignantly, tore the note. "Nor," added he, with a sigh,
"are my affections likely to be gained by my noble uncle." Then hastily
writing the following answer, he returned with it the books by the
servant who brought them:--

"Mr. Mordaunt presents his compliments to Lord Osselstone, and begs to
assure him, that any attentions he had it in his power to show his
Lordship were at the moment sufficiently repaid by the belief, that he
in any degree contributed to the comfort of his uncle."

The first time the Earl was able to venture out in his carriage, he
called at Mordaunt's apartments. But as he did not then happen to be at
home, they did not meet previous to his Lordship's leaving the
country--a circumstance which Augustus by no means regretted.



CHAPTER XIV.

    This is my lady's holyday,
    So pray let us be merry.

    FOUR AND TWENTY FIDDLERS ALL IN A ROW.


Whilst Mordaunt was thus occupied at Oxford, Mrs. Sullivan had been
indulging in a variety of speculations, the object of which were, to
endeavour to secure to her beloved son the rich and beautiful heiress of
Deane Hall. In order to afford him a favourable opportunity of paying
his addresses to Miss Seymour, the anxious mother resolved to give the
ball, for which he had personally taken the invitation; and as soon as
Sir Henry had returned the desired answer, the preparations for the
entertainment were without delay commenced. It was agreed _nem. con._
that a _crowded_ entertainment was more fashionable than a select one;
and therefore, that every person by any excuse pronounced _visitable_,
within a circuit of twenty miles, was to be pressed into the service.
Mr. Webberly, and the gentlemen who were staying with him, proceeded to
York, to enlist as many beaux as they possibly could; whilst Mrs.
Sullivan wrote to London, to engage temporary rooms, transparencies,
coloured lamps, upholsterers, musicians, and confectioners.

For a fortnight before the important day, all was confusion at Webberly
House. The usual furniture was put to flight;--bed-rooms were converted
into tasteful card-rooms, and store-closets into beautiful boudoirs;
whilst all the various operations were accompanied by an unceasing noise
of hammering, scouring, scolding, and arguing.

Miss Webberly and her sister kept themselves aloof from the scene of
action, preferring playing billiards, or riding with Mr. Sedley and the
other gentlemen, to giving their mother the smallest assistance, who
repented of her undertaking ten times a day. But Adelaide was not so
selfish; and the moment she perceived Mrs. Sullivan's perplexity, she
left her usual occupations to offer her assistance. "Well, well,"
thought Mrs. Sullivan, "I wish Meely and Cilly were as discreet as this
poor child. But it isn't their faults, pretty dears. I never used them
to no thrift; and, I dare say, her nose has been well kept to the
grinding-stone, as the like of her ought. My daughters, God bless them,
have got a rare spirit of their own!" (Would to Heaven it were a rare
spirit!)

Miss Webberly thinking that chalking the floor of the dancing-room would
afford a good opportunity for displaying her knowledge of the fine arts,
at first joined Adelaide in the task; but quickly discovering that
kneeling on bare boards was more fatiguing than classical, left her at
the end of a quarter of an hour, to finish it alone, with a request not
to be sparing in the introduction of the Webberly arms. No mention was
made of the Sullivan honours; for, though that family traced its
pedigree _beyond the flood_, it had never been heard of in London, and,
therefore, was of no value.

At nine o'clock on the appointed evening Mrs. Sullivan entered the
reception room; and seeing Adelaide already there, said, "That's right,
Miss Wildenheim, you be's always ready. I never can get them there girls
of mine to dishevel themselves in time. Will you be so kind as to help
me to put out the lights in them there chandlers? They can stay unlit a
bit, for none of the gentlemen ban't dressed yet, and we can light 'em
again when the folk come to the door, you know--I loves to practise
genteel economy." Adelaide executed her commission; and her companion
then proceeded to examine her attire with the most minute attention;
and, as her eye was attracted by the beautiful ornaments, which confined
and were intermixed with her luxuriant hair, she exclaimed, "La! what
fine pearls you have got on--your _mother's_ I suppose, Miss." "Yes,
madam," replied Adelaide, mournfully, "she had a great quantity of
pearls, which were new set for my use," "Wery like, Miss, wery like,"
retorted the scornful lady; and, turning disdainfully from her, bustled
off to another part of the room, muttering, "Oh the vickedness of this
vorld!"

Adelaide was dressed in that last stage of _real mourning_, which, from
its chaste contrast of colour, is perhaps the most elegant attire a
beautiful female can wear, as it seems to throw a veil on the
loveliness, which, in truth, it embellishes. Her mental, as well as
personal charms, were softened by the same garb of sorrow; and perhaps
their beauty,

    "Thus mellow'd to that tender light
      Which Heav'n to gaudy day denies,"

was more winning than when they shone in their original brightness. She
was roused from a train of sorrowful reflections, which the mention of
her mother had occasioned in her mind, by a sound of carriages, and by
Mrs. Sullivan exclaiming, "As sure as the devil's in Lunnon, here they
be; Miss Wildenheim, do light that there candle brass, whilst I turn the
cock of this here lamp;" and the task was but just accomplished, when a
large party entered the room.

The _coup d'oeil_ which Webberly House now presented was really
beautiful; for from London every thing in the way of decoration, even
taste, may be procured. The vestibule and apartments opening into it
were ornamented with wreaths of flowers, laurels, and coloured lamps,
and with beautifully designed and well executed transparencies. The
windows were left open, and displayed the _Chinese_ bridge splendidly
illuminated, beaming like an arch of light in the surrounding darkness.
The carved work of the porch was completely interlaced with wreaths of
colored lamps; and not less splendid were the grotto and hermitage,
which at a small distance from the house were fitted up to resemble the
rooms of rival restaurateurs. At their entrance Cecilia had placed her
own maid and footman, to distribute refreshments; and she had been
busily employed for some days, in teaching them as much French as their
capacity and her knowledge would permit them to acquire, for which the
slang of the one, and the Cockney dialect of the other, admirably
qualified them. A temporary canvass passage led to the station of these
pseudo-Parisians, which soon became the favourite lounge of the
evening, as the constant mistakes they made in the names of all the
refreshments they presented excited so much laughter, that every set of
visitors was sure to recommend another, to enjoy the bodily and mental
entertainment provided for them.

When the company first assembled, a brilliant display of fire works was
let off on the lawn, and just as the last rocket was ascending, Mrs.
Martin and her niece entered the ball room. They had met with sundry
difficulties, as to conveyances, which had delayed their arrival so
long.

Unfortunately for them, the company had, at that instant, nothing more
amusing to do, than seeking for subjects of ridicule; and in poor Lucy
Martin's dress they found an ample field. Her _ci-devant_ blue spencer
had been transformed into a fashionable body for a new pink petticoat,
under the superintendence of Miss Slater, who had informed her, that
"whole gowns were quite out, as all the ladies in London now wore
dolphin dresses," of which no two parts were of the same colour. Nearly
all the finery of Mr. Slater's shop had been deposited on her person;
and it would have been impossible for the greatest connoisseur in
tinting to have decided which was the prevailing colour in her dress:
but as she and her aunt were made happy, by the idea of her being "quite
smart," her appearing to the rest of the company in a most ludicrous
point of view would have been of no consequence, had not the unsuitable
extravagance deprived them of many almost necessary comforts for a long
time afterwards, for which the display of this evening but poorly
compensated.

Before the unfeeling crowd had more than half finished their
commentaries on the curious specimen of taste the unconscious girl
exhibited, their attention was diverted by the arrival of Sir Henry
Seymour, who with all the formality of the _vieille cour_ entered the
room, with a _chapeau de bras_ under one arm, and Mrs. Galton leaning on
the other. At her side walked Selina in unadorned loveliness, her eyes
sparkling with delight at all the wonders that were presented to her
view, and totally unsuspicious that she was herself the goddess of the
fairy scene of pleasure. All eyes were fixed on her beaming countenance
radiant in smiles; and even envy, for the moment, pardoned such
unpresuming charms. Mr. Webberly had waited to open the ball with
Selina, and immediately led her to the head of the room, where, scarcely
conscious of the pre-eminence, her attention was so completely engrossed
by all the beauty and variety of the decorations, that she neither
listened to nor understood the fulsome compliments he momentarily
addressed to her. Though little skilled in the fashionable art of
dancing, the natural grace and vivacity of all her movements, and the
uncommon loveliness of her person, more than compensated for this
deficiency; and when she happened to make any mistake in the figures she
was unaccustomed to, she laughed so innocently and so heartily at her
own blunders, and in so doing displayed such dazzling teeth and
evanescent dimples, that one more practised in the arts of coquetry
would purposely have made the same errors, thus to have atoned them.

From the moment Miss Seymour had entered the room, Mr. Sedley had
watched her every motion; and, as he happened to stand behind Webberly
in the dance, he could not help exclaiming, "By Jove, Jack, if you get
that girl you'll be a lucky dog." Webberly cast a glance on his lovely
partner, in which real exultation was ridiculously blended with affected
contempt; and shrugging his shoulders, replied, "She is half wild now,
we must give her a little fashion when she comes amongst us." Sedley
turned on his heel, and joined a groupe of young men, who were loudly
expatiating on the charms he affected to despise. Sedley also joined in
her praise; for as yet, though his warm admiration was excited, his
heart was not sufficiently interested to create a wariness in the
expression of its feelings; and as the whole party professed their
anxiety to be introduced to her, he laughingly boasted of his prior
claims, and hastened to secure her hand for the two following dances.
And now, according to a writer of the days of Queen Bess, "Some ambled,
and some skipped, and some minced it withal, and some were like the
bounding doe, and some like the majestic lion."

Adelaide alone refused every solicitation to join in the festivity; and
when Mrs. Temple urged her to accept of some of the numerous partners
who contended for her fair hand, she replied, with a mournful
expression, "Dear Mrs. Temple do not ask me; surely this dress was
never meant for _dancing_;" so saying, she cast down her eyes to conceal
their watery visitors. Sedley, who had overheard her observation, took
this opportunity of examining her perfect features. He thought he had
never seen her look so lovely as at that moment, for

    "Upon her eye-lids many graces sat,
      Under the shadow of her even brows;"

and mentally exclaimed, "The braid of dark hair that borders that fair
forehead, 'so calm, so pure, yet eloquent,' is indeed beautiful in
contrast! Of all dresses certainly that becomes her most, it so
harmonizes with the style of her countenance;

    "One shade the more, one ray the less,
      Had half impair'd the nameless grace,
    That waves in every raven tress,
      Or softly lightens o'er her face."

Sedley was proceeding to compare in thought the merits of blondine and
brunette complexions, eyes of bewitching animation or touching softness,
hair of glossy black or silken brown, and in short the various charms,
which united to form the perfect models of the opposite styles of beauty
which Selina and Adelaide presented, when he was diverted from this
agreeable occupation by Mrs. Sullivan screaming in his ear, "Law! Mr.
Sedley, I vish I vas O'fat (probably _au fait_) of what you're in such a
brown study for; there's my daughter, Cilly, keeping herself _enragé_
all this time to dance with you." Of course he could not refuse this
summons, and immediately led her to join the dancers, scarcely
regretting that the set was nearly finished.

When Cecilia passed by, overloaded with finery, and encumbered with
ornament, Mrs. Temple exclaimed, "Good heavens! how that handsome girl
has contrived to disfigure herself! It is no wonder her mother
complained of her being so long dressing: I hope, my dear Miss
Wildenheim, you will never give into such follies." Adelaide smilingly
replied, "I cannot invert the first axiom of mechanics, and say of the
labours of the toilet, _that we gain in power what we lose in time_."
"Never, my dear girl, as long as you live, mention the word _mechanics_
again, on pain of being pronounced a learned lady; which crime, in this
country, is punished by tortures far more severe than the _peine forte
et dure_ of the old French law. I assure you, in England, the reputation
of _femme savante_ is scarcely less odious than that of _femme galante_.
A fool with youth and beauty maybe quite _recherchée_, but no mental or
bodily perfection can atone for the blemish of _learning_ in a woman!"
Mrs. Temple's attention was now attracted by seeing Mrs. Sullivan doing
the honours to a _soi-disant_ beau, who scarcely heard what she said,
being intent on copying the air of real fashion so striking in Mr.
Sedley. "This here's the courting room, Sir--That there's the
refrigerating house for drinking o-shot--And that there's my daughter
Meely, and that there other one's my Cilly--we calls one Grace and
Dignity and the other Little Elegance--I'm sure you must allow we've
given them wery opprobrious names.--Look'ee here, Sir, Meely did all
this here topography herself[11], entirely from her own deceptions; I
assure you, Sir, she's pro-digiars clever." Mrs. Temple, finding Mrs.
Sullivan's discourse utterly subversive of all decorum of countenance,
left the dangerous neighbourhood, and took Adelaide to walk about the
room, for the double purpose of composing her own features, and
informing her young friend of the names and characters of such of the
guests as she was unacquainted with. "Who is that lovely innocent girl,
sitting near the transparency of Mirth and her crew, with her head on
one side, and her eyes cast down with so much modesty?" "I dare say,
Miss Wildenheim, she is at this moment, with affected _naïveté_, saying
something to the gentleman next her, which _he_ finds unanswerable. She
is a most incorrigible little flirt; and as she is no fool, her
conversation is in my mind quite reprehensible. She was the daughter of
a poor baronet of this county, and to counterbalance her want of
fortune, was brought up in the most homely manner, being, for example,
accustomed to iron her own clothes and go to market. Against the consent
of her friends, she married a _petit-maître_ parson, with little except
a handsome person and agreeable manners to recommend him, and nothing
but a curacy to support him and his beautiful young wife. They now live
with his mother, who takes care of their children, the father being too
constantly occupied in fishing, hunting, and snoring, the mother in
dressing, dancing, singing, and flirting, to find time for the discharge
of their duty to their offspring. Delicate as she looks, she will go
through any fatigue to attend a ball or party: I suppose you will
scarcely believe, that she has walked eight miles this morning, carrying
her own parcel, to be here to-night." Before Adelaide could offer any
comment on this portrait, Mrs. Temple's attention was attracted by
another acquaintance: "Why, bless me, (said she) there is old Mr.
Marshall: what can have brought him here all the way from Kingston, to
night? except, perhaps, to have the pleasure of seeing his daughters
admired: and it would delight any father's heart to look at that
beautiful creature in blue, now showing the very perfection of a lady's
dancing. That little laughing girl standing beside her is her sister,
who is one of the pleasantest creatures I ever knew."--"Oh!" said
Adelaide, "I believe she is the Miss Marshall I met lately at
Huntingfield, who gave vent to as many ideas in half an hour, as would
serve an economist in speech for a week; I could not help applying to
her Mrs. Sullivan's adage, that _stores breed waste_."

[Footnote 11: Pointing to the chalking on the floor.]

"And now, my dear Miss Wildenheim," resumed Mrs. Temple, as, weary of
their promenade, they seated themselves, "if you are curious to inform
yourself as to the beaux of this assembly, you have only to keep your
eyes steadily fixed in the direction of that large mirror, and as they
pass point them out to me; for I will venture to say there is hardly a
young man in the room, who will not, in the course of the evening, stop
opposite to it, and settle his cravat. Look there now, already! observe
that youth adjusting his dress----I hope you saw the shake he gave his
head when he had done, as if to ascertain whether he had any brains in
it or not; much in the style of a thrifty housewife, who uses this
method with her eggs, when she wishes to discover if any spark of
animation lurks within. If he had applied to me," continued Mrs. Temple,
"I could have saved him the trouble he has just put himself to, and
would have solved the doubts the vacant countenance he saw in the glass
excited, by answering in the negative without hesitation. This
gentleman, at present, resides a few miles from hence, for the purpose
of canvassing the town of----, in hopes to represent it in the next
parliament. His travelling equipage is not exactly suited to the
character of a British senator. In addition to the usual establishment
of blinds, his carriage is fitted up on the outside with shades to save
his complexion, and in the barouche seat are two monkeys trained to act
as footmen. It is the received etiquette for every new candidate to make
his _début_ as _patriot_; he therefore, of course, talks loudly of
'Parliamentary reform:' perhaps he may have some ambitious views for the
ape tribe; indeed I have heard it whispered, that one or two have been
detected in both honourable houses before now."

Adelaide was much entertained by Mrs. Temple's volubility, but said she
was inclined to differ from her friend as to the conclusion to be drawn
from this singular _cortège_. "You know, my dear Mrs. Temple, to have
'grace enough to play the fool, craves wit,' _sense_ is quite another
affair; but I think it is only those that have at least some talent, who
venture to take out this sort of temporary act of lunacy against
themselves, well knowing they can give convincing proof of sanity when
necessary. I have formed this conclusion from observing, that the
English alone ever make these eccentric exhibitions; you will readily
allow, that if any nation equals, none exceeds them in solid abilities.
If the young gentleman in question is under twenty-five, I would risk
something in favour of the contents of his head, on the strength of the
two monkeys. What a pity Dr. Gall is not here to decide for us, by means
of his soul-revealing touch; our craniologists, you know, tell us, they
have wit, memory, sense, and judgment at their fingers' ends: it is to
be hoped they have them elsewhere also." "What you say of Mr. B----,"
replied Mrs. Temple, "amazes me: I own, from you, who are one of the
most rational of human beings in your own department, I expected no
toleration of folly." "Oh, I think the case is far different in the
conduct of women," said Adelaide: "our minds have not the strong
re-active power those of men possess; they, in the regions of folly not
unfrequently 'fall so hard, they bound and rise again,' but we are not
sufficiently firm to possess such elasticity." "I believe you are right,
my dear girl: would you like to visit the other apartments? I have not
seen them yet." Miss Wildenheim consented with alacrity, and they
accordingly proceeded towards the vestibule, where numerous groupes were
promenading, as the dancing was for a time discontinued.

Adelaide, whilst amusing herself with Mrs. Temple's account of the
company, by degrees herself became an object of general admiration.
Although there were some women present of greater personal beauty than
Miss Wildenheim, yet in her "_La grâce, plus belle encore que la
beauté_[12]," won the eye from the contemplation of more perfect
loveliness. "Who is she?" was repeated from mouth to mouth, as she
crossed the vestibule; and when nobody could answer the question, it was
asked with increased earnestness. All agreed she was foreign, and that
there was something not English in her countenance, her manner of
wearing her dress, but above all in her walk. As an epidemical mania
for every thing continental once more reigns in England, the idea that
Adelaide was a foreigner, above all things, stamped her the belle of the
night; she was followed from room to room, and wherever she turned
innumerable eye-glasses were levelled at her. The attention she excited
at last becoming perceptible even to herself, with a look of anxious
inquiry she said to Mrs. Temple, "Is there any thing remarkable in my
appearance, that those people stare so?" "Yes, my dear, something very
remarkable." "Then pray, pray tell me what it is." "Your ignorance of it
is one of your greatest charms, and I am not envious enough to wish to
deprive you of any of them." This reply covered Adelaide with blushes,
and adorned her with a hue, which was the only beauty her fine
countenance did not usually possess. For sorrow had breathed witheringly
on the roses, that once had bloomed on her soft cheek.--Will the voice
of joy ever recal them from their exile?

[Footnote 12: Grace more lovely than beauty.]

The Webberly family, finding Adelaide the admiration of the company, now
came up to her, not to show _her_ kindness, but to show _their guests_
she belonged to them; and their ostentatious civility provoked a smile
of contempt from Mrs. Temple, who had been indignant at their previous
neglect. Miss Wildenheim was soon surrounded by a crowd of beaux and
belles, who addressed her in good, bad, or indifferent French, Italian,
German, or Spanish--some from the polite wish of showing proper
attention to a stranger, others from a natural curiosity as to subjects
of foreign interest. But a large number, from the pure love of display,
gave utterance to as many scraps of any foreign language as their memory
furnished them with from books of dialogues or idioms; and, as soon as
these were exhausted, found some urgent reason for retreating to the
very opposite part of the room, taking care to keep at an awful
distance from her for the rest of the night. Many a poor girl was
brought forward by her mother, _bon gré, mal gré_, to display her
philological acquirements. Adelaide happened to overhear part of a
dialogue, preparatory to an exhibition of this sort. "Italian, mama!
Indeed, indeed, I can't: besides it is quite unnecessary, for Mrs.
Temple says she speaks English fluently." "But you know, love," replied
the matron, "it is such good breeding to address strangers in their own
language." "Yes, _dear_ mama, it is indeed; she is a German, and, I dare
say, doesn't understand Italian." "That doesn't signify, come and speak
to her directly, Miss." "Pray, pray, let it be in French then," said the
girl, half crying; "I have only learned Italian three months, and it's
ten to one if I happen to know what she says to me." "Why, you know,
Maria, when I brought Flo--Floril--(you could help me to the name if
you chose)--but, in short, that travelling Italian you had your flowers
of, to talk to you, he said he took you for a native; but you may speak
Italian first, and French afterwards, and that will be a double
practice, my dear." There was no reprieve;--and a very nice girl,
colouring crimson deep from shame and anger, stammered out a sentence of
wretched Italian, whilst the mother stood by with an air of triumph, to
see her orders obeyed, and observe who was listening. Adelaide, pitying
the poor girl's confusion, replied in French, apparently for her own
ease, and addressed to her a few sentences, which afforded an
opportunity of throwing in that everlasting self-congratulating "_oui,
oui_," which is the young linguist's best ally, even more useful than
Madame de Genlis' "_Manuel du Voyageur_," which, by the bye, an adept in
short hand might have taken down that night. The young lady and her
mother soon left Adelaide, both highly delighted; and, however
unwilling the former had been to make the experiment mama had enjoined,
she certainly thought much more highly of her own attainments after this
happy result. Adelaide was then introduced to a gentleman who spoke
French with as much fluency as herself, and they soon got into that
style of conversation, to which the term _spirituelle_ is so justly
applied, where appropriate diction and elegant idea lend charms to each
other: in the language to which she had from infancy been accustomed,
she expressed herself with peculiar felicity, and seemed to take the
same sort of pleasure in doing so one feels in meeting a long absent
friend. Mrs. Temple was now a silent and wondering spectator, vainly
endeavouring to find out how such a girl as Miss Wildenheim could have
become an inmate of Mrs. Sullivan's family; and remarked that her manner
and acquirements always rose to the level of the scene which called them
forth. At that instant she acquitted herself with as much grace of all
those dues of society, which the passing moment demanded, as she, with
cheerful sweetness, contributed to the amusement of her friends in the
quiet family circle at the parsonage. Mrs. Temple was half angry at the
ease of her manner in such a situation; but when she again looked at
Adelaide, observed her varying blushes, vainly watched for any symptom
of coquetry or attempt at display; and at last caught an imploring
glance, which seemed to say, like Sterne's starling, "I can't get
out--pray relieve me," she felt the injustice of her incipient censures.
She was for an instant prevented from obeying the summons, by an old
general officer asking her, "If that young lady was any relation of the
Baron Wildenheim, who so much distinguished himself at the battle of
Hohenlinden, and so many other desperate encounters of the same
campaign?" "Possibly his daughter," replied Mrs. Temple; "but pray
don't direct any question of that nature to her; for whenever such
subjects are alluded to, she seems deeply affected." When Mrs. Temple
again took Adelaide's arm, she found Mr. Webberly importuning her to
dance. Mrs. Sullivan had made him promise that morning not to ask
Adelaide to dance, for fear of making Miss Seymour jealous! But he could
no longer deny himself the pleasure, for which he had most looked
forward to this evening; and, in spite of his mother's frowns and signs,
(seldom indeed much attended to at Webberly House) he solicited Adelaide
with much earnestness, to dance a set with him, which he offered to
procure express before supper. But as she steadily refused, he, to
solace himself, prevailed on a city cousin, (whose wealth procured her
admittance to her aunt's house) and his sister Cecilia, to exhibit
themselves as waltzers. Cecilia's partner was the _soi-disant_ beau, who
had been so indefatigable in his polygraphie of ton; and the travesty
of Lady Eltondale and Sedley was inimitably ludicrous to those who had a
key to the libel. The company had long been tired of quizzing poor
innocent Lucy Martin; equally fatigued with the amusements provided for
them; were almost weary of admiring and comparing Selina and Adelaide,
most of the ladies by this time having discovered, that though the
latter had a certain "_je ne sais quoi_" about her that was taking, her
hair was too black, and her complexion too pale, for beauty; and that
the loveliness of the former defied criticism--an unwilling confession,
which rendered their first triumph nugatory; so that the waltzers
afforded a very seasonable diversion. Nothing could be fancied more
laughable than the undextrous twirling of the quartet; and few things
are more worthy, in every respect, to be the subject of that spirit of
ridicule which so unfortunately pervades every society, than this
anti-Anglican dance. Mrs. Temple whispered to Adelaide,

    "So ill the motion with the music suits;
    "Thus Orpheus play'd, and like them danc'd the brutes."

How could Mrs. Temple be so ill bred as to whisper?--The whole thing is
'_mauvais ton_' no doubt some decorous belle now exclaims. Gentle
reader, if thou hast never sacrificed thy friend or thy love of the
_exact_ truth to a joke, thou hast a right to vent thine indignation
against this breach of _etiquette_. When thine ire is exhausted, proceed
to read, and thou wilt find that the cause of thine indignation is at an
end.--Supper was at length announced; the company were conducted into
rooms laid out in the same style of ornamental profusion as those they
had already visited. After supper, dancing was resumed with increased
ardour, and continued to an early hour. When the company separated,
they exchanged the glare of candles for the light of the sun; and the
sound of the harp, tabret, and all manner of musical instruments, for
the song of birds and the whistling of the husbandman.



CHAPTER XV.

    Stranger to civil and religious rage,
    The good man walk'd innoxious through his age.
    No courts he saw.--

    POPE.


Few people were ever endowed with a greater capacity of receiving
pleasureable emotions than Selina Seymour, and the whole tenor of her
joyful life had hitherto tended to increase this inestimable gift of
nature. She had been as happy at Mrs. Sullivan's ball, as it was
possible for any innocent being, without a care for the present or a
regret for the past; and the pleasure of her own mind was reflected back
to her tenfold in the approving smiles of her father and aunt. Her
delight in the gay scene was unalloyed by envy or competition. She had
never been taught to estimate her _happiness_ by her height in the scale
of admiration; for her fond relatives, thinking her always charming, and
ever considering her felicity more than the gratification of their own
pride, had not tortured her by preparations for exhibition; and, as long
as she danced with pleasure to herself, they cared not _how_. The happy
girl so keenly enjoyed the brilliant scene, was so grateful for the
marked attention she received, that she had not time to stop to consider
whether she was _admired_ or not; and, perhaps, if this query had even
occurred to her mind, the answer to it might have been a matter of
indifference--sufficient was it to her felicity to know she was
_beloved_.

But all Selina's delight would have been turned to pain the more
exquisite, could one fold of the veil of futurity have been raised to
show her the near approach of misery. On that night she first saw
pleasure decked in her festal robe, her brow crowned with flowers, her
countenance radiant with smiles, presenting her enchantments with one
hand--but saw not the other beckoning to the hovering forms of disease
and death, to array her in the garb of wo:--a task they too quickly
performed; for alas! this scene of gaiety was but the antechamber of
grief.

Selina rose next day, refreshed with a few hours sound sleep; and,
animated with more than her general vivacity, was skipping down stairs
with her usual velocity, when she was stopped by Mrs. Galton; and,
terrified at the expression of her countenance, "Good God, aunt Mary!"
exclaimed she, "what is the matter you look so pale--are you ill?" "No,
my dear, no; but I am sorry to say your father is very unwell. Don't be
so much alarmed, my dear child--he is better now. Where are you going?"
continued she, holding Selina fast. "To see my dear papa." "You must
not, Selina, Mr. Lucas is with him, endeavouring to compose him to
sleep.--Come to the library, my love, and let us have breakfast." They
proceeded quietly and sorrowfully; and Selina, on entering it, perceived
her aunt was in the dress of the night before. "Why, my dear aunt, you
have never changed your dress. Oh, that vile ball! my dear dear father
has got cold. I wish we had never gone;" and here, quite overcome by the
acuteness of her feelings, she burst into a paroxysm of tears. Mrs.
Galton was not sorry to see her give way to her grief; but when she
became a little composed, addressed her with much solemnity of manner,
saying, "Selina, my dear Selina, command yourself! I require you to
exert all your fortitude; you must not, in a scene like this, render
yourself worse than useless. Do not selfishly give yourself up to your
own feelings. Remember, my child, you may be of much comfort to your
father." Selina answered but by a motion of the hand, and, retiring for
a short time to a solitary apartment, threw herself on her knees, and,
by a fervent supplication for support from Heaven, at last composed
herself so far as to return to her aunt with a calm countenance, though
still unable to speak. One expressive look told Mrs. Galton she was
aware of her father's danger, and was prepared to make every proper
exertion. Sir Henry had at Webberly House most imprudently accompanied
his darling Selina in one of her visits to the hermitage; and, in
consequence of the draughts of air and damps to which he had thereby
exposed himself, was, on his return to the Hall, seized with the gout in
his stomach in a most alarming manner. Mr. Lucas had been immediately
sent for, and, pronouncing him in imminent danger, had requested that
better advice might be procured without delay. At length the violence of
the attack seemed to give way to the remedies administered; and Mr.
Lucas was, as Mrs. Galton said, endeavouring to procure sleep for his
patient, when she heard Selina's bell; and, taking a favourable
opportunity of leaving the sick room, was proceeding to break the
intelligence to her, when they met on the stairs. The ladies continued
at the breakfast in perfect silence, Mrs. Galton not even addressing
Selina by a look, as she well knew that a mere trifle would destroy the
composure she was endeavouring to acquire. When they left the breakfast
table, Mrs. Galton took Selina up stairs, to assist her in changing her
dress, as she feared to leave her alone, and wished to employ her in
those little offices of attentive kindness, which, by their very
minuteness, disturb the mind from meditating on any new-born grief,
though they only irritate the feelings, when sorrow has arrived at
maturity. Mrs. Galton's watchful eye soon discovered Dr. Norton's
carriage at the lower end of the avenue; and that Selina might be out
of the way on his entrance, sent her to walk in the garden, promising to
call her the moment she could be admitted to see her father. When Dr.
Norton arrived, he immediately repaired to Sir Henry's apartment; and,
on hearing it, gave a sad confirmation of Mr. Lucas's opinion,
expressing his fears, that though his patient was tolerably easy at that
moment, violent attacks of the complaint might be expected; and if
_they_ should not prove fatal, the weakness consequent on them most
probably would. Mrs. Galton entreated he would remain at Deane Hall till
Sir Henry's fate was decided, which request he, without hesitation,
complied with.

Had Dr. Norton conveyed his intelligence to Selina herself, it could
scarcely have afflicted her more deeply than it did Mrs. Galton. Her
regard for Sir Henry was great, and not less lively was her gratitude
for the constant kindness he had for a long course of years shown her;
so that had not another being on earth been interested in his life, she
would, in her own feelings, have found sufficient cause for sorrow. But
when she anticipated Selina's grief, should the fears of the physician
be realized, her own misery was tenfold aggravated by her commiseration
for the beloved child of her heart--the dearest solace of her existence!

These reflections even increased the usual fondness of Mrs. Galton's
manner to Selina, when, on her return from the garden, she answered the
anxious child's inquiries for her father. She had a hard task to
fulfil--fearful of telling her too much or too little. To avoid any
direct reply, she informed her she might now go to Sir Henry's room, and
Selina, without a moment's delay, was at his bed-side. The poor old man,
anxious, if possible, to postpone the misery of his child, assured her
he was now easy, and desired her to tell him all she thought of the
night before. The innocent girl, on hearing this request, flattered
herself with all the delusion of hope, that her aunt's fears had
exaggerated the danger; and, elated by the idea that her father's
complaint had subsided, talked with much of her usual vivacity, which
increased as she perceived her lively ingenuous remarks cheered the sick
man's face with many smiles.--Little was she aware, they were the last
her own would ever brighten on beholding.

An express, without delay, was dispatched to Mordaunt, requesting his
immediate presence at Deane Hall. When Selina heard of her father's
anxiety for his arrival, her spirits again sunk, and she reflected in an
agony of sorrow, that "Yesterday she could not have supposed it possible
the idea of seeing Augustus could have been a severe affliction to her."
The night of that sad day Selina requested she might pass in attendance
on her father. Her aunt, fearful of what the morrow might bring forth,
gratified her desire. Dreadful were the reflections that night gave
rise to, as she contrasted the awful stillness of Sir Henry's chamber
with the noisy gaiety of the one, in which she had spent the night
before.

Two or three days of dreadful suspense thus passed over Selina's head:
whenever she was permitted she was at her father's bed-side, passing in
an instant from the utmost alarm to hope. But though she saw despair
expressed in every face, her mind still rejected it. She could not bring
herself to believe her beloved father was indeed to die!

Those who most fervently love most ardently hope, and building their
faith on the most trifling circumstances, cling to it with a force none
less deeply interested can imagine. It is well they do. Their fond hopes
make them use exertions, and bestow comforts, they would be otherwise
incapable of. And thus affection is enabled to cheer the bed of death to
the last moment.

And as for the survivors! no anticipation can prepare them for the
overwhelming despair of the moment in which they lose what they most
prize on earth!

Grief, rising supreme in this her hour of triumph, will have her
dominion uncontrolled, and defies alike the past and the future,--even
religion must be aided by time to subdue her giant force.

On the evening of the third day of Sir Henry's illness Augustus Mordaunt
arrived at Deane Hall; the domestics flocked around him, each conveying
to his agonized ear more dismal tidings,--he spent a dreadful half hour
alone in the library, without seeing either Selina or Mrs. Galton, as
Mr. Temple was at that time administering the sacred rites of the church
to Sir Henry, whilst they joined in prayer in the antechamber. When Sir
Henry had finished his devotions, he asked for Selina, and his voice
brought her in a moment to his bed-side; where, kneeling down, in a half
suffocated voice, she implored his blessing, which never father gave
more fervently, nor amiable child received more piously.

"Selina! you have always been a good child, and obeyed me; when I am
gone, mind what Mrs. Galton says to you. If I had followed her advice, I
should have been better now." The baronet spoke with much difficulty,
and, exhausted with the effort, closed his eyes in a temporary lethargy.
Selina answered not, but with streaming eyes kissed his hand in token of
obedience. At last, raising his head from his pillow, "Where is
Augustus? he is a long time coming."--at that instant footsteps were
heard slowly and softly traversing the anteroom. Selina opening the door
admitted Augustus: she would have retired, but her father signed her
approach; and recovering his strength a little, faltered out, "Happy to
see you, my dear boy--I have been a father to you, Augustus, be a
brother to this poor girl."

Augustus poured forth his feelings with more fervency than prudence,
and was stopped in the expression of them by Selina, who perceived her
father was quite exhausted: he once more opened his eyes, saying, "I die
content;" he struggled for utterance, but his words were unintelligible,
and he could only articulate, "Go away,--Send Mrs. Galton." Augustus
flew to bring her, whilst Selina hung in distraction over her dying
parent: as they entered the room, her exclamation of "Oh! my father, my
dear father!" gave them warning, that all was over; and when they
approached the bed, parent and child were lying side by side, the one
apparently as lifeless as the other.

Augustus, in his first distraction, thought he had lost Selina as well
as his beloved and revered friend, but being recalled to his senses by
Mrs. Galton, assisted her in removing Selina to another room. At length
their exertions revived Selina to a dreadful consciousness of her
misfortune--how agonizing was that moment, when, in her frantic grief,
she upbraided their kind care, and wished they had left her to die by
her father's side! "I have no parent now." "Dearest child of my heart,
have I not ever been a mother to you, and will you refuse to be still my
daughter when I stand so much in need of consolation?" Selina threw
herself into her aunt's arms, and gave vent, in tears, to the sorrow of
her bursting heart; at length she cried herself to sleep, like a child,
and her aunt remained at her side all night, ready to soften the horrors
of her waking moments.

Selina, next day, being comparatively calm, was wisely left in perfect
solitude to disburthen her heart: her grief was not insulted by
officious condolence, too often resembling reproof rather than comfort.
The aspect of grief is obnoxious to the comparatively happy, and they
often use but unskilful endeavours to banish her from their sight, more
for their own ease, than for the relief of the unfortunate beings who
are bound down to the earth by her oppressive power. Those who have felt
it, will with caution obtrude themselves on her sacred privacy, and will
know when to be mute in the presence of the mourner.

But where shall the reign of selfishness end?--Her votaries intermeddle
with sorrows they cannot cure, and absent themselves from scenes where
they might bestow comfort: they are to be found in the chamber of the
mourner, but fly from the bed of death, which their presence might
cheer, leaving an expiring relative to look in vain for a loved face, on
which to rest the agonized eye. The friends of the dying do not fulfil
their duty, if they desert the expiring sufferer whilst a spark of life
remains. For who can say the moment when sense _begins_ to cease? Though
the eye is closed, and the tongue mute, the grateful heart may yet be
thankfully alive to the kind voice of affectionate care, or the last
silent pressure of unutterable love!

Scenes of pain may be appalling to the delicate female. But should a
wife, mother, daughter, or sister, shrink from any task, which may be
useful to the object in which her _duty_ and her love are centred? This
is the courage, this the fortitude, it becomes woman to exert!



CHAPTER XVI.

    Hark! at that death-betok'ning knell
    Of yonder doleful passing bell.

    GILBERT COWPER.


Immediately after Sir Henry Seymour's death Mordaunt wrote to inform Mr.
Seymour of the event, who was the nearest male relative to Sir Henry
then alive, but who had not lived on terms of any intimacy with the
Baronet, having chiefly resided on his own estate in Cumberland. He,
however, lost no time in repairing to the Hall, less out of respect to
the memory of his relation, than in hopes of benefiting by his decease.
The day after his arrival was appointed for opening the will, but in it
he was completely disappointed; it had evidently been written but a few
days before Sir Henry died; and, except small legacies to his servants,
no bequest was made in it to any person but Mrs. Galton, Augustus, and
Selina. To the first, Sir Henry gave a thousand pounds as a slight
testimony of his friendship and esteem; to Augustus he left a small
estate in Cumberland, and to Selina all his other property of every
description, appointing Lady Eltondale sole guardian of her person;
Mordaunt and Mr. Temple trustees to her estates till she married or came
of age. The interest of a large sum in the funds was appropriated to her
support till either of these events occurred; a considerable portion of
which was to be paid to Lady Eltondale for her maintenance, as it was
Sir Henry's wish that she should reside with her.

Mr. Seymour endeavoured to conceal his own disappointment by paying a
variety of compliments to Selina and Augustus, whom he chose to class
together, in a manner which, had either of them been sufficiently
disengaged to observe it, would have been not a little embarrassing to
both: fortunately, however, they were each too much occupied by their
own feelings to attend to him; and, as his only motive for visiting
Deane Hall was now at an end, he was glad to escape from the house of
mourning, with as little delay as possible.

Sir Henry's generosity, which was totally unexpected by Augustus, served
but to imbitter his regrets for the loss of his benefactor. In him he
had lost his earliest friend; for his uncle he considered as an entire
stranger, and of his parents he retained no recollection. Whatever had
been the errors of Sir Henry's judgment, his benevolence had never
failed towards Mordaunt; and, while his many virtues had always ensured
respect, his kindness had sunk deep in the grateful heart of Augustus,
as, in their intercourse, essential obligation had never been cancelled
by casual caprice, or rendered irksome by ungracious austerity of
manner. He however carefully suppressed his own feelings, in order the
better to administer consolation to those of Selina; and while Mrs.
Galton and Mr. Temple, with affection almost paternal, used every
argument which religion and reason could suggest, to reconcile her as
much as possible to her loss; Augustus endeavoured by the tenderest care
and unremitting attention to divert her thoughts from her recent
calamity, and thereby gradually soften the poignancy of her sorrow.
Selina had, till the moment when she was deprived of her father, been
totally unacquainted with grief; for when her mother died, she was too
young to be sensible of her loss; and Mrs. Galton's almost maternal
kindness had filled the void of her infant heart, while she was yet
scarcely conscious of its existence. At first she could hardly be
persuaded that Sir Henry really breathed no more; so sudden, and to her
so unexpected, was his dissolution. But, after she had in some degree
relieved her heart, by giving way to the first outrageous burst of
sorrow, on being convinced he was indeed no longer in existence, she
became almost stupified by the overpowering weight of her misfortune.
Sometimes she would rouse herself from her torpor, by questioning
herself, was what had passed but a dream, or an agonizing reality? Was
it possible she should never more hear his beloved voice, or see the
smile of parental fondness play round the cold lips, that were now
closed for ever? Was she never again to feel the delight of cheering a
parent's couch of sickness by the playful sallies of her imagination, or
soothing the acuteness of pain by those considerate attentions affection
only teaches us to pay. Alas! from whom could she now expect to hear the
joyful sound of welcome, with which her return was always greeted,
however short her absence might have been? or from whom could she now
hope to meet the approving glance, that more than rewarded the merit it
applauded; or experience that partiality, that accorded a ready
extenuation of the errors it could not overlook? Whilst these
reflections crowded on her mind, she felt as if the spring of all her
actions was broken, and in the despondency of the moment, thought she
would willingly have exchanged half the remaining years of her life to
recal a few short moments of her past existence.

From these afflicting ideas she was however roused by receiving a letter
from Lady Eltondale. It was couched in terms that were intended as kind,
though the selfish feelings that dictated them were easily discernible.
The viscountess drew the consolation she offered to the mourner, not
from the source of religion, or that of friendship, but from the cold
unfeeling calculations of interest. She congratulated Selina on her
immense fortune, and on her speedy prospect of being emancipated from
the cloistered seclusion in which she had hitherto lived; and then,
assuming the tone of guardian, left Selina no pretext for refusing her
"orders" immediately to come to reside under her roof, though the
_orders_ were couched in the most polite terms of invitation. She
concluded by asking Selina, whether Mrs. Galton meant to continue at the
Hall, which was immediately understood by both as an intimation that she
was not expected to accompany Selina; but the interdiction was rendered
still more explicit by a postscript, that conveyed her Ladyship's
compliments to Mrs. Galton, and her hopes, at a future time, to prevail
on her to visit Eltondale.

Selina was indignant at this marked exclusion of her beloved aunt; and
Mrs. Galton found some difficulty in prevailing on her to return even a
polite answer to the Viscountess; but being persuaded from the tenor of
her Ladyship's letter that excuses would be of no avail, she, at last,
persuaded Miss Seymour to name that day fortnight for leaving the Hall,
in hopes, her promptitude in obeying the summons, would, in some degree,
conceal the mortification it had occasioned. Mrs. Galton also wrote to
say, that she herself would accompany Miss Seymour to Eltondale, as she
could, on no account, think of resigning her charge, till she delivered
her in safety to her new guardian; adding, that Mr. Mordaunt had
promised to escort Mrs. Galton from thence to Bath, whither she purposed
proceeding immediately. When Selina saw these letters absolutely
dispatched, and found the time was decidedly fixed for her parting from
the beloved scenes of her infancy, she gave way to an extravagance of
grief, that resisted all Mrs. Galton's reasoning, and even Mordaunt's
anxious entreaties, that she would not thus endanger her health. While
Selina thus resigned herself to an excess of feeling, which was one of
the most conspicuous traits of her character; and indulged,
uncontrolled, a sorrow that was too poignant to be permanent, Mrs.
Galton was struggling against hers with that firmness, by which she was
equally distinguished. She not only did not obtrude her misery on
others, but her calmness, her mildness, her fortitude, proved she really
practised her own precepts of resignation. However, her mental was
superior to her bodily strength: and when she found she was suddenly to
be separated, probably for life, from the child of her fondest
affection; and recollected the pains, it was more than probable, her new
guardian would take to eradicate from the too pliant mind of her young
pupil, not only all the precepts she had so carefully instilled, but
even all remembrance of the instructress; her spirits drooped under the
painful anticipation: and her increased paleness, and declining
appetite, betrayed the approach of disease, to which, notwithstanding,
she was yet unwilling to yield. It was not, however, to be warded off,
and, before the day appointed for Selina's departure, Mrs. Galton was
confined to her bed in an alarming fever: for several days she continued
in imminent danger, but at length the complaint took a favourable turn,
and she was yet spared to the prayers of her anxious attendants. It was
by no means an unfortunate circumstance for Selina, that Mrs. Galton's
illness occurred, to divert her thoughts from the melancholy subject on
which alone she had hitherto permitted them to dwell. By feeling she had
yet much to lose, she imperceptibly became reconciled to the loss she
had already sustained. And when Mrs. Galton was able to sit up in her
dressing room, she, in some degree, resumed her natural character, once
more contributing to the comfort of those she loved.

In this delightful task Mordaunt participated: when Mrs. Galton was
able, he would sit for hours reading out to her and Selina, while the
grateful smile that lightened the expressive countenance of the latter
sufficiently rewarded his toil. Sometimes, when Mrs. Galton reclined on
the couch, he would draw his chair closer to Selina's work-table, and
continue their conversation in that low tone, which belongs only to
confidence or feeling, which, therefore he doubly prized; but, though he
thus momentarily drank deeper of the draughts of love, no word escaped
his lips to betray the secret struggles of his soul. It is true, that
profiting by the name of brother, which their long intimacy, in some
degree, entitled him to use, he hesitated not to pay her every attention
the most assiduous lover could devise. But yet he scrupulously respected
the engagement her father had made, and studiously endeavoured to
conceal, even from its object, the passion that prayed upon his soul.
Nor was Selina insensible to his kindness; on the contrary, she felt it
with her characteristic gratitude, and expressed her feelings with her
usual ingenuousness; and such were the charms of Mordaunt's society,
notwithstanding the sincerity and depth of her affliction for her
father's death, the hours thus passed in the reciprocal interchange of
kindness from those most loved were amongst the happiest of her life:
and when, at length, Dr. Norton pronounced his patient sufficiently
recovered to travel, the regrets at leaving the Hall were, probably, not
a little increased on the minds both of Selina and Augustus, by the idea
that such hours might possibly never again recur.

At last the day came, when Selina was to bid adieu to the only scene,
with which happiness was as yet associated in her mind. It was a cold
stormy morning in December. A mizzling rain darkened the atmosphere, and
the leafless trees presented a scene of external desolation, that in
some degree corresponded with the mental gloom of the travellers. The
sun was scarcely risen, and the domestics, that flitted about in the
bleak twilight, all eager to offer some last attention to their beloved
young mistress and her respected aunt, seemed by their mourning habits,
and sorrowful countenances, to sympathize in their grief; whilst the
mournful present was contrasted in every mind with the recollection of
those joyous days of benevolent hospitality, that season of the year had
formerly presented. Mrs. Galton, suppressing her own feelings, to soothe
those of others, stopped to take a friendly leave of all, while poor
Selina, overcome by their well meant commiseration, rushed past them,
and threw herself into a corner of the carriage in an agony of grief.

When they reached the outer gate of the park, they found a few of her
father's favourite tenants, and some of the cottagers on whom Selina had
formerly bestowed her bounty, assembled to offer their last token of
respect and hearty wishes for her future happiness; but few of the
number could articulate their simple, though honest, salutations.
Unbidden tears trickled down their furrowed cheeks, as they thus parted
with the last of their revered master's family. The old men stood in
silence with their bare heads exposed to "the pelting of the pitiless
storm," while their hearts gave the blessing their lips refused to
utter. And the mothers held up their shivering infants to kiss their
little hands as the carriage passed, in hopes their infantine gestures
would explain the feelings they only could express by tears.

When they arrived opposite to the parsonage, they found its kind
inhabitants equally anxious to bestow the parting benediction. Nor were
their greetings as they drove through the village less numerous or
sincere: most of the windows were crowded; and the few tradesmen Deane
boasted were waiting at their doors, to make their passing bow, whilst
poor Mrs. Martin and Lucy continued waving their handkerchiefs over the
white pales, till the carriage was out of sight.



CHAPTER XVII.

    Alquanto malagevole ed aspretta,
    Per mezzo im bosco presero la via,
    Che, oltra che sassosa fosse e stretta,
    Quasi su dritta alla collina gia.
    Ma poiche furo ascesi in su la belta
    Usciro in spaziosa pratiera--
    Dover il piu bel Palazzo e'l piu giocondo,
    Vider che mai fosse vecluto al mondo[13].

    ORLANDO FURIOSO.

[Footnote 13: No doubt most of my readers will prefer their own
translations of my mottoes to any I could offer them; but for those who
choose to avoid this trouble, I add my imitations, which claim no other
merit than that of giving a general idea of the spirit of the original
passage.

    They through the wood their path descried,
    Which climb'd the shaggy mountain's side;
    Dark, narrow was the winding way,
    O'er many a piercing stone it lay.
    But when they left the forest's shade,
    A spacious platform stood display'd,
    On which a palace rose in sight,
    The smiling scene of gay delight.
]


In proportion as Mrs. Galton and Augustus approached Eltondale, their
regrets increased from their anticipation of so soon parting with
Selina; whilst, on the contrary, her spirits seemed to rise with the
varying scene. Almost every object was new to her, and, as such, was a
fresh source of enjoyment. It would be impossible to describe Selina's
astonishment when she entered Leeds. She had never before been in any
large town; for though York was within thirty miles of the Hall, it had
been, in point of intercourse, as much beyond Sir Henry's circle as
London itself. The throng of people, the constant bustle of passengers,
the gaiety of the shops, and above all the comfort, and even elegance of
the hotel where they slept--were all to her subjects of agreeable
surprise. Even the rapid motion of the carriage whirled on by the post
horses, whose pace was so different from the sober gait of poor Sir
Henry's antiquated steeds, animated and delighted her. And will the
confession be forgiven?--such was her ignorance, or perhaps her
frivolity, that she not only felt, but was vulgar enough to acknowledge
a childish pleasure in the races the postillions frequently entered into
with the stage coaches. Augustus was enchanted with the _naïveté_ of her
observations, and gazed with delight on her sparkling eyes and changing
colour, which needed no interpreter to express her varying emotions. But
Mrs. Galton sighed to think how that pliability of disposition, that
now rendered her so bewitching to others, might hereafter become
dangerous to herself. Lady Eltondale, finding Mrs. Galton and Mordaunt
were determined to accompany Selina to the end of her journey, had
written a polite invitation to them to remain at her house some days;
but they had both resolved not to avail themselves of this tardy
civility, even for one night; however, unforeseen delays having
occurred, they did not reach Eltondale till past nine o'clock in the
evening. It was a dark stormy night; the wind, which blew in tremendous
gusts, had extinguished the lamps of the carriage, and they with
difficulty found their way through a thick wood, that climbed the side
of a hill on which the house was situated; but when they emerged from
this Cimmerian darkness, the superb mansion broke upon their view in an
unbroken blaze of light. The exterior rivalled the elegance of an
Italian villa from the lightness of its porticoes, the regularity of
its colonnades, and the symmetry of its whole proportion. Nor was the
interior less elegant. Almost before the carriage reached the steps of
the porch, the ready doors flew open, and a crowd of servants welcomed
their approach: and such was the brilliancy of the scene into which they
were thus suddenly introduced, that it was some minutes before the
travellers could face the dazzling glare of this sudden day. When,
however, they were enabled to look round, the _coup d'oeil_ called
forth involuntary admiration. Three halls, _en suite_, lay open before
them, all illuminated, particularly the centre one, which contained a
light stone stair-case, that wound round a dome to the top of the house,
only interrupted by galleries that corresponded to the different floors.
Out of the hall in which they stood, a conservatory stretched its length
of luxuriant sweetness. The roses, that were trained over its trellised
arches, were in full blow, and formed a beautiful contrast to the
icicles that hung on the outside of the windows, whilst the blooming
garden itself was equally contrasted by the winter clothing of the
adjoining halls. In them large blazing fires gave both light and heat;
whilst thick Turkey carpets, bearskin rugs, and cloth curtains to every
door, bid defiance to the inclemency of the severest season.

Before Selina had time to express half her rapture and surprise, the
Alcina of this enchanted palace approached to welcome them. And such was
the elegance, the fascination of Lady Eltondale's address, particularly
to Mrs. Galton and Augustus, that they for a moment almost doubted
whether they had indeed rightly understood her prohibitory letter. Lord
Eltondale had not yet left the dinner table; but the moment he heard of
the arrival of his guests, he bustled out, napkin in hand, to bellow
forth his boisterous welcome: "Gad, I'm glad to see ye all. How do? how
do? Why, Mrs. Galton, you're thinner than ever; but this is capital
fattening ground. Selina, my girl, what have you done with the rosy
cheeks you had last summer? Come, child, don't cry; you know you could
not expect Sir Henry to live for ever--and you've plenty of cash, eh?"
Lady Eltondale, perceiving her Lord's condolences by no means assuaged
Selina's tears, took hold of her hand and that of Mrs. Galton, and with
a kindness much more effectual, though perhaps not more sincere, led
them away from her unconscious Lord, who, without waiting for reply or
excuse, seized Mordaunt by the arm, and dragged him into the eating
parlour, as he said, "to drink the ladies' health in a bottle of the
best Burgundy he ever tasted."

The drawing-room, to which Lady Eltondale introduced her guests, was
perfectly consistent with its beautiful entrance, for here,

              "If a poet
    Shone in description, he might show it,--
    Palladian walls--Venetian doors--
    Grotesco roofs--"

in short, all that taste and extravagance could procure to combine
comfort and elegance.

Before Lady Eltondale drew aside the curtain that screened the door of
the anteroom, a few chords on the harp were distinguished--and on
entering the apartment they perceived two ladies. One was an old woman,
dressed in mourning, with a large black bonnet, which almost entirely
concealed her face, whom Lady Eltondale introduced as Lady Hammersley.
She looked up, for a moment, from a book she appeared to be perusing
intently, and after saluting the strangers with an obsequious
inclination of the head, resumed her studies in silence. The other
lady, who was reclining against the harp, was dressed in the extreme of
French fashion. Her face, though not youthful, appeared, at that
distance, handsome, from the judicious arrangement of white and red,
with which it was covered. But a closer inspection proved the only
charms it could really boast were a pair of large black eyes, that could
assume any requisite expression, and a set of teeth, which, whether
natural or artificial, were certainly beautiful. Her dark hair was
crowned with a wreath of roses _en corbeille_, the colour of her cheeks;
and her tall slim figure was covered, not concealed, by a loose muslin
robe _à la Diane_.

At first the Viscountess took no notice of the fair minstrel; but having
placed Mrs. Galton close to the fire in a Roman chair, and ordered
coffee, and an opera basket for her feet, she drew Selina's arm through
her own, and, approaching the stranger, addressed her, saying, "At
last, Mademoiselle Omphalie, here is my niece: have I said too much of
her?" "_Ah! mon Dieu, qu'elle est belle!_" returned the complaisant
foreigner. "_Ma foi, elle est fail à peindre._[14] _Ma chère_ young
ladi, ve must be ver good friends: I am positive I shall dote a you." So
saying, she held out her hand to Selina, who returned the proffered
courtesy with a glow of gratitude for the unexpected kindness. But the
Viscountess did not give her niece time to profit much by the stranger's
civility. She just happened to recollect, that Selina's furs were
unnecessary in her ladyship's drawing-room, and proposed to the
travellers to have them introduced to their apartments, which they
gladly acceded to. But here a new fashion struck their wondering eyes.
The Viscountess desired her footmen to send "Argant" to show the rooms.
Mrs. Galton and Selina ignorantly imagined they were to be consigned to
the care of a house-maid. What then was their dismay, when a Swiss groom
of the chambers made his appearance, with their wax tapers, and escorted
them, not only to their rooms, which adjoined each other, but familiarly
entered the apartments with them; and having deliberately lighted the
candles on their respective toilets, with a thousand shrugs and grimaces
asked, "_Si mesdames lui permettront l'honneur d'ôter leurs
pelisses[15]?_" When he had at last retired, Mrs. Galton could no longer
suppress her feelings; the tears trickled down her cheeks as she clasped
Selina to her bosom, with a fearful anticipation of the trials and
temptations, a scene so new and so bewitching was likely to offer to a
girl so totally inexperienced. But unwilling, unnecessarily, to damp
the dear girl's spirits, which were already fluttering between joy and
sorrow, she attributed her depression solely to the idea of so soon
parting with her, as she had fixed to leave Eltondale with Augustus very
early the following morning. When the two ladies returned to the drawing
room, they found the gentlemen had joined the party. Besides Lord
Eltondale and Mordaunt, the circle was enlarged by Sir Robert
Hammersley, an old fat Scotch admiral, and his son, who had thrown
himself, at full length, on a sofa, listening to an Italian _arietta_,
that Mademoiselle Omphalie was warbling forth in "liquid sweetness long
drawn out," whilst he occasionally interrupted her finest cadences with
an audible yawn, or an almost unintelligible "_brava_." Lady Eltondale,
Lady Hammersley, and Mrs. Galton formed a group together, and entered
into general conversation, while Sir Robert and his host were warmly
engaged in continuing a political dispute. Selina remained attentively
listening to the delightful harmony of Mademoiselle Omphalie's melodious
voice, till at length her eye meeting that of Mordaunt, which rested
solely on hers, her expressive countenance told him in a moment all her
admiration and delight. He softly approached her, and, leaning over her
chair, said, in a low tone, "All these new pleasures will soon make you
forget----I mean you will scarcely have time to think of Yorkshire." She
turned her beautiful face towards him, with an expression of melancholy
and surprise, but meeting his speaking glance, she hastily withdrew her
eyes, and coloured, with an ill defined feeling of painful pleasure:
some flowers, that she had inconsiderately taken from a china vase, that
stood on a table near her, suffered from her agitation, as she
unconsciously scattered some of the myrtle leaves on the floor.
Augustus picked up one of the fallen branches, and, looking at Selina,
"_Je ne change qu'en mourant_," said he, with an emphasis that seemed to
apply the motto in more ways than to the leaf he held. Selina's
confusion increased, and a tear stood on her long eye-lashes, but before
she could articulate the half formed sentence that trembled on her lip,
Lady Eltondale advanced to the table, and abruptly asked her to give her
opinion of some drawings that were scattered about it; and so completely
did she monopolize her for the remainder of the evening, that she had
not again an opportunity of speaking to Augustus. When, however, the
company were separating for the night, he advanced to ask if she had any
further commands for him; but, with a trepidation she did not wait to
analyse, she postponed her adieus, entreating him not to say farewell
then, as she meant certainly to be up long before Mrs. Galton and he
would leave Eltondale in the morning.

[Footnote 14: "Ah! how beautiful she is!" "She is divinely formed."]

[Footnote 15: "If the ladies would allow him to take off their
pelisses."]

END OF VOL. I.

       *       *       *       *       *

Printed by S. Hamilton, Weybridge, Surrey.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Transcriber's Note: Hyphen variations within volume and between volumes
left as printed.]

       *       *       *       *       *

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