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Title: The Younger Sister, Vol. III.
Author: Austen, Jane, Hubback, Catherine Anne Austen
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 "The Younger Sister, Vol. III." ***

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Edwards, The University of Iowa, Stanford University and

                          THE YOUNGER SISTER.


                                A Novel


                                   BY

                             MRS. HUBBACK,


                      IN THREE VOLUMES.—VOL. III.



                                LONDON:
                    THOMAS CAUTLEY NEWBY, PUBLISHER
                     30, WELBECK ST., CAVENDISH SQ.

                                 1850.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          THE YOUNGER SISTER.



                               CHAPTER I.


The afternoon passed away, and Margaret, who had been incessantly
walking from one window to another, to watch for her lover's curricle,
now began to create a new sensation for herself, by a conviction which
suddenly seized on her, that some dreadful accident had happened to him.
It was towards the end of March, and the lengthened days allowed them
plenty of time to dine by daylight, and enjoy a long twilight
afterwards; as the evening began to close in, her alarm and tribulation
increased; when, at length, her fears were dissipated by seeing the
curricle drive up to the door with a most important bustle, followed by
a loud and prolonged knock, which instantly brought twenty heads to the
neighbouring windows.

Margaret sank on a sofa, and exclaimed in feeble tones,

"He is there—my heart tells me he is there—support me, my dear
sisters—support me in this trying hour."

Before any one had time to answer her, his step was heard on the stairs,
and recovering as rapidly as she had appeared to lose her strength, she
flew to the door and was ready to have thrown herself into his arms on
the smallest encouragement. He did not, however, seem to desire her
embraces, but coolly held out his hand, and enquired how she was—then,
without waiting for an answer, turned and paid a similar compliment to
the other ladies. She looked a little disappointed at the want of
tenderness her lover displayed, but consoled herself by smoothing down
the nap of his hat, which she took from his hand, and stretching out the
fingers of his driving gloves—of which she also assumed the care.

At this moment, Robert Watson and Mr. Morgan, who had been sitting over
their wine in the dining-parlour, appeared up-stairs, and Robert
immediately suggested to Mr. Musgrove that he must want some dinner, to
which the latter readily acceded.

Jane and Margaret who appeared to be almost equally interested in the
new-comer, both left the room to see after the necessary preparations,
and whilst they were gone George Millar came in and persuaded Elizabeth
to go home with him, to take tea with his sister and mother-in-law.
Robert and his new guest adjourned to the dining-room where the two
ladies joined them, and Emma was left to a _tête-à-tête_ with Mr.
Morgan.

He had seated himself in a corner, and was looking over the newspaper
during all the bustle attending the arrival of Tom Musgrove, and the
successive entrances and exits of the several members of the party. But
when they were all gone, and Emma was quietly sitting down to work, he
threw away the paper and walking across the room drew a chair close to
hers and seemed inclined to enter into conversation.

"How happy your sister must be," was his first speech, whilst he fixed
his uncommonly penetrating eyes on her face.

"Which sister?" replied Emma, without looking up from her embroidery.

"Both must be happy," replied he; "but at this moment I imagine your
sister Margaret's feelings must be the most agreeable; meeting after a
prolonged absence must be so delightful. Don't you envy her?"

"I hope not," said Emma, for she was not quite satisfied with his tone
and manner; there was something of sarcasm in it which she did not like.

"I did not mean envy in the bad sense," he remarked, as if comprehending
her thoughts from her tone; "of that I know you to be incapable; but can
you not fancy how pleasant her emotions must be when again enjoying the
society of an attached and faithful lover like the gentleman in
question?"

"Perhaps I can—but I must be in her situation thoroughly to enter into
her feelings," said Emma rather wishing to drop the subject.

"And hitherto you have not been placed in this interesting situation?"

There was something in the tone in which Mr. Morgan made this comment,
with his eyes fixed on her countenance, that gave it rather the
character of a question than a reply. She felt offended at his manner
and tone, and proudly raised her head with a look which seemed to ask
what right he had to enquire on that subject. He understood her meaning,
but did not seem inclined to take any notice of it, proceeding in the
same way to observe,

"They whose hearts are untouched cannot of course understand all the
pleasing emotions which the sight of a beloved object raises after a
prolonged absence—nor indeed does it require a _prolonged absence_ to
give occasion to the emotions I speak of. A month, a fortnight, even a
week passed without the intercourse which becomes dear and therefore
necessary, is sufficient to raise a variety of pleasing but most
overpowering feelings in an affectionate heart."

"Very likely," replied Emma coolly, and then she added immediately an
enquiry as to whether he thought the next change of the moon would bring
them more settled weather.

He answered that he could not tell, and then added,

"Do you not think your future brother, Mr. Musgrove, is a very charming
young man?"

"I have often heard him called so," said Emma; "but you know it is not
my business to be charmed with him," smiling a little as she spoke.

"You are most discreet," said he, delighted that she appeared inclined
to relax a little from her former gravity; "but to tell you the truth I
should _not_ have expected, from what I know, that you _would_ be
charmed with him."

"From what you know of _him_ or of _me_?" inquired Emma.

"Of you both, but especially of _you_: it is not for nothing that I have
been studying your character, and I am convinced that a man who would
attract _you_, Miss Emma, must possess more good qualities than Mr.
Musgrove can boast of."

"Perhaps I might be a little difficult to please," replied Emma; "but do
you think there is any harm in that?"

"Harm, no!" replied he with enthusiasm; "minds of a common order cannot
discriminate between what is good or evil in its tendency; they see only
what is evil to their own capacities, and are entirely unaware of the
vast difference between the intellects of one man and another. Whilst
those who by their own intellectual powers are raised above the common
level, take in, at one keen and rapid view, the different mental
altitudes of their companions, and appreciating alone the grand and
elevated turn from more ordinary minds with indifference, contempt or
disgust."

"I hope," said Emma rather doubtingly, "that your description is not
intended to apply to me: that is, if I understand you rightly. I should
be very sorry to think I am guilty of setting up my understanding as a
measure for that of others, or of despising any of my companions as
thinking them less clever than myself."

"Indeed I did not mean to accuse you of voluntarily giving way to such
feelings—the sensation I meant to depict is as involuntary as your
perception of light or colour. A person endowed with a superior
understanding could no more help deciding on the different mental
capacities of her companions than she could on the beauty or fitness of
the patterns of their gowns."

"But the superiority of mental capacities, or our own estimation of them
ought not to be the standard by which we should judge of the merits of
our fellow-creatures, Mr. Morgan. Surely their moral superiority is a
far more important point, and it would be much better to live with a
good but ignorant man, than with a wicked one however clever and
well-informed."

Mr. Morgan rather curled his lip.

"I doubt whether you will find your maxim work well in every day life,
however well it may sound in theory. The practice of mankind is against
it universally, and where that is the case it is because the sense of
the world leads them to the conclusion which you reject. Look around,
and see who has most success in life, the clever, unscrupulous, and if
you will the unprincipled man, or the sober, plodding, moral one,
without wit or wisdom to prevent his sinking lower than the condition in
which he was born."

Emma had not the vanity to suppose that she could be a match for Mr.
Morgan in dispute, she was, therefore, contented to let the subject
drop. Finding she did not reply, he moved his chair a little closer than
before, and said, in a tone of the softest sympathy,

"Are you quite well this evening? dusk as it is, I am struck with your
looks, and was so at dinner."

She thanked him, and replied she was pretty well. He did not seem
satisfied.

"Are you sure you have no head-ache? there is a languor in your
movements, and a heaviness about your eyes, which plainly shows that all
is not quite right with you. Confess the truth—does not your head ache?"

She owned it did a little.

"I thought I knew your countenance too well to be misled," said he,
complacently—then taking her hand, without the smallest ceremony, in
both of his, he felt her pulse, and told her she was nervous and
feverish. She smiled, and said she was only a little tired, and that he
must not persuade her she was ill; she had not time for that.

"I am certain," replied he, still detaining her hand, which she had made
a slight attempt to withdraw, "I am certain, from the tremulous motion
of your little fairy-like fingers that you are suffering from
over-excitement of mind. You have so much to worry and distress you, so
many small privations and never ceasing annoyances, that your nervous
temperament is wrought up to too high a pitch. This little hand is
looking too white and delicate for health. You must indeed, for your own
sake, and for the sake of those that love you, take care of yourself,
and do not tax your constitution too far."

"I do not mind what you say, Mr. Morgan," replied Emma, playfully, again
attempting to withdraw her hand from a clasp which she felt rather too
tender for a doctor. "I know you only speak professionally, and it is
your business to persuade those who listen to you that they are ill,
that you may have the satisfaction of making them believe you cure them
afterwards."

"Fie, fie," replied he, tapping her on the arm, "I did not expect such
malice from you, fair Emma!"

She decidedly drew her hand from his, and moved her chair away towards
the window, saying, as she did so, in a graver tone,

"Remember _I_ have not placed myself under your power, Mr. Morgan, and
you have no business to attempt to mislead me."

The rapidly decreasing light prevented his reading the expression of her
countenance; but he felt from her tone and action that _she_ would not
endure the small personal liberties in which some of his patients
permitted him.

There was a pause, which she broke, by saying,

"My sisters are a long time away, I must go to see for them."

"No, pray stay another moment," cried he, rising too, as she rose.
"Allow me one moment more, one other word."

She stopped; and he was silent for a minute, till she said,

"Well, Mr. Morgan, what am I to stop for?"

"Tell me," said he, "why you freeze me with that look and manner—did I
offend you with my remarks? is my friendship—the warm interest I feel
for you—is it unpleasant—or in what way have I sinned to deserve this
sudden check."

She was excessively embarrassed, and mentally determined not to remain
in the dusk _tête-à-tête_ with a man again, at least, not with Mr.
Morgan: but this resolution, however good for the future, did not help
her at the present moment; when she was thus standing before him, and
under the unpleasant necessity of either admitting that she was
capricious, or allowing that she attached more importance than, perhaps,
it deserved to a trifling action on his part. Seeing that she hesitated,
he continued—

"I will not press for an answer if it vexes you; and you must own
mentally, if not openly, that you judged me harshly. I forgive you,
convinced when you know me better, you will not do so again."

He took her hand again, and was just in the act of putting his lips to
it, when the door opened suddenly, and several young ladies—whom in the
dusk she could hardly distinguish—burst into the room.

"Is that you Margaret?" said one advancing, "that we have caught making
love in the dark—no, upon my honour it's Emma Watson and my brother! ha,
ha; so you are found out, James?"

"Oh, it's not the first time that Miss Emma Watson has indulged your
brother in a _tête-à-tête_" cried a voice, which Emma recognised as
belonging to Miss Jenkins, a particular friend of Margaret's, towards
whom she felt a strong repugnance. "They have been found _out_ before
now—they are very fond of taking long walks together, aren't you, Mr.
Morgan—and carrying Janetta, too."

It was too dark for the expression of any one's countenance to be seen,
so that the angry look with which Mr. Morgan received this attack, and
the confusion and distress which Emma betrayed, were alike invisible;
but could he have annihilated the young ladies who thus intruded,
including his sister, he would certainly have done it with pleasure. Any
answer, on his part, was prevented by the entrance of the party from the
dining-room with lights, when a general scene of confusion and
chattering followed, which concluded by a general invitation to the
young visitors to stay for tea, and have a little fun, to which they
readily assented.

Tom Musgrove having eaten and drank soon made himself very agreeable to
the whole party, and after the tea and bread and butter were removed, he
proposed a game at blind man's buff, or hunt the slipper, to finish the
evening. The former was adopted, and a very noisy party it proved. Tom,
of course, was the first to be blinded, and, unless he contrived to see
out from under the handkerchief, the dexterity with which he avoided
catching Margaret, though she perpetually threw herself in his way, was
quite wonderful. His first victim was the younger Miss Morgan, a pretty,
giggling girl, who laughed so excessively, and twisted about so much,
that he had great difficulty in holding her at all, and it was only by
clasping his arm very tightly round her waist, that he succeeded in
keeping her prisoner. However, he named her rightly, and the
handkerchief was secured on her; her brother was the next—apparently he
threw himself in her way, whether because he disliked her going through
the process of catching and naming Mr. Musgrove was not quite certain.
Perhaps he wished himself to succeed her; he certainly was very
successful in catching prisoners, but made extraordinary blunders in
recognising them; never once hitting on the proper name, and,
consequently, having no right to make over the bandage to another. At
length, after several attempts, he succeeded in catching Emma herself.
She had not been able to avoid joining in the game, though it was not
much to her taste; but she took great pains to move about as quietly and
keep as much out of the way as possible. His ear, however, was quick at
detecting her light footstep, and, unknown to her, he had traced her
into a corner, where she was quietly resting, when he succeeded in
laying hold of her. As she neither struggled nor laughed, he knew
instantly who it was, and whilst he held her hand in his, and made
believe, as usual, to feel her features, and ascertain her identity, he
whispered, under cover of the noise which some of the other girls were
making,

"Do you wish to be blinded, Emma Watson?"

"Certainly not," replied she in the same tone, and he immediately
guessed her to be some one else, and with a gentle pressure of her hand
he let her go.

Emma was very well pleased to escape, but she felt a half scruple at the
manner in which it was done, from the sort of private understanding
which Mr. Morgan assumed to exist between them. On turning away too, she
caught the malevolent eyes of Miss Jenkins fixed on her, and she could
not encounter their look without a feeling of embarrassment. Mr. Morgan
soon afterwards caught and rightly named Mrs. Watson herself, who in her
turn chased with great vigour but little success her different visitors.
The whole affair ended in a complete romp—the table was upset, chairs
thrown over, and Emma's gown narrowly escaped from a lighted candle,
which the dexterity of Mr. Morgan alone succeeded in averting. It was
now judged that they had enjoyed fun enough for one evening, and Emma,
wondering much at the taste which could select such an amusement,
retired to recover from the fatigue it occasioned. She had never seen
anything of the kind before, for the associates of her uncle and aunt
were very quiet people, and she had been quite ignorant of the extent to
which liveliness might be carried when unchecked by the restraints of
good breeding.

It was a very unexpected pleasure to her, to receive the next morning a
letter from Miss Osborne, containing an announcement that the day for
her wedding was fixed and that it was to be celebrated in about three
weeks. She hoped Emma would be able to keep her promise and spend some
time with them whilst at Osborne Castle, but she did not assign any
particular time as the date of their visit.

Margaret likewise had her share of excitement and pleasure. It appeared
that Tom Musgrove had come down with serious intentions of persuading
her to marry on the same day as Sir William Gordon and Miss Osborne had
fixed on. To be distinguished, and to appear connected with the great,
was so completely the object of his life, that he did not like even to
fix a day for his own wedding entirely with regard to his own
convenience, and now he was determined to make it as important as the
reflected grandeur of Miss Osborne and her noble family could do.

The credit of this idea, however, was not entirely due to him; it was
suggested originally by Sir William himself. Miss Osborne, who could not
feel quite happy or at her ease with regard to his steadiness of
purpose, until the ceremony had actually passed, which would make it
certain that her testimony would never be required, induced Sir William
Gordon to question him as to when he intended to marry, and though he
found Tom's ideas rather vague and unsettled on the subject, he had not
much difficulty in persuading him of the advantage of fixing on the same
day as their own. The notion delighted Mr. Musgrove, and he immediately
determined to run down to Croydon and make the proposal at once.

"Well, Margaret," said he, the morning after his arrival, "since it
seems we must be married sooner or later, do you see any good in delay?"

Margaret simpered and blushed, and did not know very well which way to
look or what to say.

"I say," continued he, "there is no use in wasting time, when the thing
must be done—unless, indeed, you have changed your mind."

"Oh dear no, Tom," cried Margaret, "mine is a mind not lightly to be
changed—you know that much, I am sure, of me."

"Miss Osborne is to married this day three weeks," observed Tom, "to my
friend Sir William Gordon, and he was proposing to me that we should
celebrate ours on the same day. I should rather like it, I own, as they
are such particular friends of mine, and we are going to the same
county. They come down to Osborne Castle for their honey-moon, and we
_might_; indeed of course we _should_ be asked up there on our wedding."

"Oh delightful, Tom," cried Margaret, perfectly enchanted at the
prospect, and in the rapture of the view, quite overlooking the coolness
of her lover's manner, and the total absence of even any pretence of
affection. "I should like that of all things, only perhaps I might have
some difficulty in getting my wedding things ready in time; to be sure,
as I must wear mourning I should not want much just at first, but a gown
and hat—what should my gown be, dear Tom?"

"Hang your gown! what do I know about your gown? or what has that got to
do with it; but women always make such a confounded fuss about their
gowns and their petticoats. I say, will you marry me this day three
weeks?—because, if you will not, you may just let it alone, for any
thing I care."

"You are always so funny, Tom," said Margaret trying to laugh; "I never
know what you will say next. But you do hurry and flurry one so, asking
in that sort of off-hand way—upon my word I do not know what to
answer—what can I say to him, Jane—is he not odd?"

"For heaven's sake, Mrs. Watson, do try and persuade Margaret to act
with a little common sense, if she has such a commodity in her brain,"
cried Tom, impatiently.

"Really," simpered Mrs. Watson, "you are the most unlover-like lover
that ever I saw—if I were you, Margaret, I would tease him unceasingly
for these speeches. I would say him nay, and nay, and nay again, before
I would give him his own way."

"Oh! I am not so very cruel," said Margaret, "he knows my disposition,
and how much he may venture on with me."

"Well, when you have made up your mind, let me know," said he, settling
himself in an easy chair, and pretending to drop asleep.

"Upon my word, Margaret," said Mrs. Watson, "he gives himself precious
airs—would I submit to such a thing from any man in the world—no,
indeed—I would see the whole sex annihilated first, that I would."

"Do not be so dreadfully severe, Mrs. Watson," said Tom, without
unclosing his eyes, "Allow me to enjoy my last few days of liberty; when
I have taken to myself a wife, where will my domestic freedom be?"

"Impudent fellow," said Mrs. Watson, going up and pretending to pat his
cheek; he caught her hand and told her in return, she was his prisoner
now, and must pay the penalty of the box on the ear, which she had so
deliberately bestowed on him. She giggled exceedingly, and he was
insisting on his right, when Robert entered the room and said, in a cool
off-hand way:

"I suppose, Margaret, Musgrove has told you he wants to marry this day
three weeks, and as I presume, you have no objection, I have resolved to
get the settlements in hand immediately. I suppose you have not much to
do in the way of preparation, have you?"

"Well, I suppose, as you all come upon me so suddenly, there is nothing
for me to do but to submit," said Margaret, "and really, I see no harm
in it. Of course you will have the marriage put in the newspapers; it
must be sent to 'The Morning Post,' Tom."

"I have no objection," observed the ardent lover.

"Well then, Jane, I suppose I had better be seeing about my gown and
wedding clothes—will you come with me and help me choose some dresses,
Tom?"

"Not I, by Jove! what do I know about dresses, I tell you!—it's all
woman's nonsense, and I will have nothing to do with it. I believe if a
woman were dying, her only care would be to secure a handsome shawl—and
the idea of a plain funeral would break her heart."

"Don't be so dreadfully severe, Tom," interposed Mrs. Watson again, "you
are a naughty, spiteful, ill-tempered satirist, and we must teach you
better manners before we have done with you."

"Beyond a question you will soon do that," returned he, "I already feel
wonderfully humbled and penitent, from sitting with you for the last
hour; and what I shall arrive at, after being your brother for a
twelvemonth, can only be guessed at now."

Margaret and Jane soon afterwards set off on the important business of
looking for wedding dresses, and purchasing more clothes than she would
know what to do with, whilst obliged to wear her deep mourning—a
circumstance which was particularly distressing to Margaret—who, whilst
anxious to make a very splendid figure in her new establishment, was
perpetually checked in her aspirations by the remembrance that she must,
for many months, continue to wear black. It was, however, a great
delight to her to think that she should be married almost as soon as
Penelope, and before Elizabeth; but, since her own good luck was now
certain, she felt no particular envy of either of her elder sisters;
for, though she could not help seeing that Elizabeth's establishment,
house and carriage, would be more expensive and grand than her own, she
did not think that she would have given up the independence and idleness
of Tom's situation as a gentleman, for the large income and luxuries
accompanying the brewer's occupation.

Emma looked on and wondered at Margaret's state of contentment under the
indifference and contemptuous treatment which her lover bestowed on her.
_She_ would not have borne it for a single hour; but Margaret seemed to
feel nothing of it—and her own foolish and caressingly fond ways, were
enough to disgust a sensible man altogether.

He did not mean to remain more than a couple of days; and, during that
time, Mrs. Watson took care to occupy each evening with a party of young
people; a most judicious arrangement, which saved an immense deal of
unwilling labour and unnecessary love-making. The Morgans, the Millars,
and many others, joined them—and they had country dances and reels
enough to tire many indefatigable dancers. Emma continued to refuse to
dance; and, as the ladies out-numbered the gentlemen, she was less
tempted to break her resolution. In consequence of this, she was, on the
second evening, for a good while left quite alone, until Mr. Morgan,
declaring himself quite knocked up, took refuge in the corner where she
was sitting and engaged her in an agreeable conversation.

They were not discussing any thing very remarkable, but Emma was amused
and lively, when she heard Miss Jenkins say, in reply to something:

"Oh! no doubt, Emma Watson finds it quite agreeable to sit out—no great
sacrifice there, I fancy! She takes every opportunity of throwing
herself in somebody's way!"

It was said so loud that there could be no doubt but that it was
intended for them to hear, and from the quick glance round, and the
elevation of eyebrows which followed it on his part, it was evident it
had not failed of its object. Emma wished she could have stopped the
blood which rushed to her face and coloured her cheeks so deeply; but
she could neither conceal her feelings nor command her voice
sufficiently to finish her sentence, for she felt that Mr. Morgan's eyes
were fixed on her with a keen, scrutinizing glance, which seemed to read
her thoughts in a moment. When Miss Jenkins was out of hearing, he
observed very quietly,

"I think, Miss Emma, you have not been brought up in a country town?"

"No, indeed," said Emma.

"You seem peculiarly unfitted to continue in one, with any comfort or
peace of mind," continued he.

"Indeed—I doubt whether I am to take that as a compliment or the
reverse," replied Emma smiling a little.

"I never pay compliments," said he, "but if you want to know why I think
so, learn that I can see you mind being talked about, dislike gossip and
scandal, and have no taste for romping or noise: therefore you are
unfitted for a resident in a country town!"

"You are _not_ complimentary to-night, Mr. Morgan; what has put you out
of humour with your fellow towns-women?"

"I assure you I feel most amiably disposed towards them all, especially
those who by dancing to-night have left me at liberty to converse with
you. They are all charming chatterers, and delightful dancers, and
equally exquisite, enlightened, eloquent and endearing."

"Your compliments are rather equivocal, Mr. Morgan, I do not know that I
should like such problematic praises."

"_You_—you need not be afraid, I should never think of applying such
terms to you—did I not begin with observing that you were not brought up
in a country town."

"There are some people I have observed," said Emma thoughtfully, "who
always hold the society in which they happen to move very cheap, because
they have an unfortunate power of vision which enables them alone to see
the weak, the ridiculous, the faulty side of things."

"Thank you—do not find fault with my compliments after that speech—I
never made one more severe."

"I beg your pardon," replied she colouring deeply. "Perhaps it did sound
a little harsh."

"Yes, I am deeply indebted to you for your good opinion—you probably
suppose me incapable of appreciating the beautiful and excellent when I
meet it, because I am alive to the follies, the littleness, and the
absurdities of those amongst whom I am forced to mix—some day I trust
you will judge me better."

He understood Emma's character completely—the idea that she had been
harsh in her speech, and that he felt hurt by her injustice, was
decidedly the most likely thing to produce kindness and conciliatory
manners to make it up. He assumed an air and tone of injured innocence
which quite touched her, for straightforward and artless herself, she
never suspected he was only acting. She wanted him to speak again, but
he was determined to leave it to her to make that effort, and he partly
drew back and turned his chair slightly away, as if he had not courage
again to address her. She renewed the conversation by enquiring whether
he had long been resident in the town—the soft tone of her voice
immediately drew him back to his former position, and he began to tell
her that he had come to Croydon about fifteen years before, that like
herself he had lived in his youth in the country, and the only towns he
had previously been acquainted with were Oxford and London.

"Like yourself too," continued he, "I came here frank and
open-hearted—ready to place the best construction on anything I saw or
heard, and believing that the neighbourhood would do as much for me.
Experience has taught me a very different lesson; but perhaps nothing
but experience will do. With the consciousness of the amount it cost me
to buy my knowledge with suffering, I sometimes idly think of saving
others by my cautions from a similar expense of feeling, but it is
vain—and I do not think I shall make the attempt again."

"And so," said Emma, after a short pause, "you think me ungrateful and
self-willed, because I do not like to hear whole-sale depreciation of
your fellow-townspeople."

"I certainly will be wiser another time, and keep my opinion to myself,"
replied he still in a proud and injured tone.

"Well, I do not like to seem ungracious, and if you really wanted to
give me advice—your superior age and experience certainly entitle you to
form an opinion, and to be listened to with deference. So if you speak
for my good, I will attend—but do not be too bitter, or I shall rebel
again."

"I only wished to caution you against the spirit of prying curiosity and
foolish censoriousness, which seems indigenous amongst the inhabitants
of a small town."

"And you thought me likely to fall into a similar error, did you?"
enquired she simply.

"You, my dear girl, no indeed; but I thought you likely to be the victim
to this spirit, unless you took care and were cautioned against it."

"If I do nothing wrong," said Emma, "nothing blameworthy, how can there
be any danger that I shall incur censure? I hope I shall not provoke
enmity in any way."

"That will be a vain and illusive hope," replied he earnestly; "there is
too much about you to provoke ill-will, for your conduct to be regarded
with a friendly eye. Youth and beauty have innumerable enemies in a
place like this; your superior education, your acquaintance, I may say
intimacy, with those very much above your present associates in rank,
your frank and confiding disposition, all expose you to enmity and envy
of the most malignant kind."

"You will make me quite unhappy, Mr. Morgan, if you talk in that way. I
cannot believe that those I see around me are so very wicked; and why
should any one try to injure a portionless orphan like myself."

"Because they are not all possessed of the generous feelings and high
principles which form such a charm in that helpless and portionless
orphan—and which, when joined to her personal beauty, endow her more
richly than the wealthiest of all our townsmen's daughters."

"I cannot help hoping that your warnings are not more sincere than your
compliments, and then I shall have the less to fear, Mr. Morgan,"
replied Emma, smiling.

"I wish you would give me credit for sincerity, Miss Watson; it is
disheartening to find myself constantly doubted. I shall give you up in
despair. Look beautiful and merry—prove yourself lively and amusing—wear
becoming bonnets—pretty gowns—and well-made shoes, and you will soon not
have a female friend in the town."

"This _must_ be your prejudice—or you are quizzing me. I cannot believe
that bonnets and shoes have anything to do with female friends."

"You will persist in judging every one by yourself, and you cannot set
up a more erroneous standard. Do you suppose that _your_ wardrobe will
be less commented on than your neighbours. Does Miss Tomson make any one
a new bonnet without its being known and abused by all the owner's most
intimate friends."

"But you must be wrong," said Emma; "it is impossible that all can be
watched over in that way; we do not know a great many people who live
here; even my sister does not; and why should I suppose that I am so
conspicuous a personage?"

"The inhabitants of the town," said Mr. Morgan, "are divided into many
different sets, it is true; they move in different circles, and there is
no mixture; but the individuals of each class have their eyes constantly
fixed on those above as well as those equal with themselves; the former,
that they may imitate their actions; the latter, that they may detect
the first symptom of mounting to a higher circle. They have likewise to
detect and repress the first encroachment from the ranks beneath them,
so that you see each individual has her attention fully occupied in this
perpetual watching."

"You must be exaggerating, Mr. Morgan; I trust you are, at least."

"Do you want a proof of the jealousy and exclusive spirit which reigns
amongst them? look into the church. There, where men and women ought, if
ever, to meet as equals, what do you see?—the aristocratic classes—those
who have their carriages and horses to bring them to their Sunday
devotions, who have their comfortable and elegant dwellings out of the
town, have likewise their comfortable pews for lounging through their
prayers—their cushions, their carpets, their footstools, that they may
not be too much fatigued by worship—their curtains, too, lest the vulgar
gaze should distress their modesty, or intrude on their privacy. Then
come the townspeople—the higher classes, those in professions, or,
perhaps, in business, on a large scale, like George Millar, or the
Greenes. These have their cushions and carpets, but are forced to forego
the privacy of curtains, for which they make up by the superior
brilliancy of their pew linings, and the elegance of the fringe drapery,
which hangs down in front of the galleries. Inferior classes are forced
to sit on benches without cushions, whilst the poorest of all may enjoy
what comfort they can on the hard open seats in the stone aisle."

Emma looked thoughtful, but did not answer.

"You must admit the truth of my description," continued he; "there is
sufficient stuff expended on the galleries of that church to have
clothed half the children in the parish school."

"I am sorry that you should have the power of saying such things, Mr.
Morgan, or that I cannot contradict them. Have you ever made an effort
to procure a reform?"

"Reform, no—do you suppose I should even hint at such plain truths to a
native of the town? do you imagine I impart my opinions on the subject
indiscriminately? no, indeed—my popularity, such as it is, would be soon
blown away were I to venture to contradict all their dearest prejudices.
It is a far better plan to tell Miss Jenkins that she looks like an
angel in the sky, when sitting in her blue pew, or to hint to old Mrs.
Adams, that the crimson moreen gives quite a juvenile glow to her
complexion."

"In short," said Emma, gravely, "to encourage people's weaknesses in
order to gain their good will."

"Precisely so—it is the only way to live at peace with all the world; at
least, the world of Croydon; why should I risk their repose and mine, by
voluntarily encountering them on their hobbies. Follow my advice, my
dear Miss Watson, and make the best of those you meet with here."

They were interrupted by the conclusion of the dance; and Mr. Morgan
thought it best to move away. He left Emma thoughtful and dispirited;
and as he watched her from a distance, he was quite satisfied with the
general expression of her countenance.

Her next neighbour was Mr. Alfred Freemantle, who threw himself into the
chair Mr. Morgan had vacated, and began a series of enquiries as to who
Mr. Tom Musgrove might be, and whether it was really true that her
sister Margaret was on the point of marriage with him? Emma soon grew
tired of his "bald, disjointed chat," and moved away; she was met by
Mrs. Turner.

"My dear child," cried she, catching hold of both her arms, "I have been
wanting to speak to you this age, but I would not interrupt you whilst
you were talking to that pleasant man, Mr Morgan—yes, what a nice man he
is, ain't he, dear? Now I did not mean to make you blush; but take care,
don't flirt with him too much, because it may mean nothing, you know,
there's no saying. But I wanted to tell you how excessively I am
delighted with your sister, and how glad I am that she is to marry
George. Poor girl, I dare say she is glad of it too; young women like to
be married; but then I don't know where you could find a nicer young
woman than Elizabeth—or one that would suit my son better. Now, I don't
mean that as any reflection upon you, my dear, on the contrary, so never
mind what I say."

"I assure you, madam, what you say of my sister gives me sincere
pleasure, and I could not, I hope, be so unreasonable as to expect you
to regard us in the same light. It is a great happiness when the friends
on each side are equally satisfied with any projected marriage."

"Very true, my dear, I agree with what you say; yes, Elizabeth is a
charming girl, and much better suited to my son-in-law than you would be
perhaps—so we ought to be satisfied on all sides, as you say."

"I am certain she will make a most excellent wife," replied Emma warmly.

"And who do you mean to marry, my dear? Suppose you were to tell me now,
I would promise not to tell any one."

"I have not made up my mind yet," said Emma laughing a little; "but I
will let you know as soon as I can."

"Don't try for Mr. Morgan, my dear, he will only disappoint you—do not
trust him too far; you had better not."

"Mr. Morgan, my dear madam," repeated Emma almost laughing outright,
"why he is quite an old man! old enough to be my father I am sure. No,
no, I will lay no snares for Mr. Morgan; I am sure if I did the ladies
of Croydon would never forgive me."

"I dare say not—but indeed I do not think he deserves you, my dear; I
know things of him which I will not tell you; but don't let him make you
in love with him."

Emma only smiled at this warning, and the breaking up of the party at
the moment prevented her hearing more on the subject from Mrs. Turner.

Tom Musgrove did not stay longer than he had originally proposed, but
the next time he came everything was to be ready for the wedding, and
Margaret was in such high spirits at the prospect, as plainly showed
that she had quite forgotten the unpleasant difficulties which had
previously interfered with this happy consummation.



                              CHAPTER II.


Emma had often wondered that she had heard no more from Lady Fanny
Allston. She knew she had been ill, but did not apprehend that her
illness was of so serious a nature as necessarily to cause this long
delay. But she was at length surprised one day by receiving from her
ladyship's housekeeper an abrupt and rather uncivil note, completely
breaking off the negotiation. There was something in the tone of the
announcement which hurt her exceedingly, and she was in a very
uncomfortable frame of mind when she walked out that afternoon with
Janetta, for she had lately resumed this custom. She took her little
charge into some meadows to look for primroses and violets on the sunny
banks, and whilst the child was busy plucking all she could find, Emma
herself sat down on the stump of a tree to try and discover the meaning
of this communication. She had nothing, however, to guide her
conjectures; there was no clue in the note, and she was forced to remain
satisfied with the conclusion that her ladyship was capricious and had
changed her mind.

Whilst occupied in considering this subject, she was startled by
footsteps, and she looked up with a sort of fearful expectation that she
should see Mr. Morgan; it was not however the doctor who presented
himself, but Mr. Bridge, the clergyman, whom she had formerly met at the
Millars'. He took off his hat with a very respectful bow, and addressed
her with an air of politeness and courtesy which pleased her
exceedingly. After a slight remark on the bright day and the beauty of
the scenery, he passed on a few steps, and Emma supposed he was going to
leave her; suddenly however he seemed to change his mind, and surprised
her by returning to her side. He enquired if she was intending to sit
there long, as he feared it must be damp and unsafe.

"I do not perceive any damp, sir," replied she; "and it is so pleasant I
am unwilling to think it can be dangerous."

"That is not a rule," he replied smiling a little, and then gravely
shaking his head; "many things extremely agreeable are invisibly
surrounded with risks and dangers. It is a common-place remark I
acknowledge, but one which is as constantly forgotten, as it is
frequently enforced. Young people like yourself are particularly apt to
slight it—but if you would bear with an old man—"

He paused and regarded her with a look of interest, which she noticed,
and finding he hesitated, she ventured to say with warmth and
earnestness,

"Pray go on, sir; if you think me in need of caution, I will listen with
the attention and reverence which is every way your due."

"I have been interested for you, my dear young lady, not only by your
own sweet and ingenuous countenance, your misfortunes and your
unprotected situation, but by the representations of my young friend
Annie Millar, and I feel that whilst you reside under my pastoral care,
I should not be doing my duty were I not to exert myself to save you
from inconveniences which you may perhaps be very innocently entailing
on yourself."

Emma coloured and felt quite astonished at this address, the purport of
which she could not guess, but after a moment's hesitation, she begged
Mr. Bridge to proceed without ceremony; if he had any censure to bestow
on her, she would listen and feel obliged.

"It is not censure, it is only a caution I wish to give you—I mean with
regard to your intimacy with Mr. Morgan: you probably do not know his
character, nor is it necessary that you should learn minute particulars;
I am sure it will be enough for you to hear that he is not a safe
companion for a young woman of your age and appearance."

"I think you must be under some misapprehension," replied Emma
surprised; "there is nothing between us which can warrant the
appellation of intimacy. He visits my sister-in-law, and as her visitor
only I have known him."

"I had hoped," replied Mr. Bridge gravely, "to have met with more
candour from you; I am under a very great mistake, if you have not on
several occasions met him when walking only with that little girl, and
allowed him to walk with you for a long time. Is it not so?"

"That is perfectly true—but the meetings were quite accidental," said
Emma.

"So far as you were concerned, I can believe it; but the world will only
know that you were seen walking _tête-à-tête_ with a man of known bad
principles and immoral conduct; and more than that, he has been found
with you in the drawing-room alone, and you have passed many hours in
his company when visiting in other houses."

"I was not aware," said Emma, perfectly astonished at the charge; "that
my actions could have thus been the subject of comment and inspection;
but what you say, though perfectly true in itself, is capable of a very
different interpretation—will you listen to my defence?"

"Certainly, my dear child," replied he, pleased at the frank and
respectful manner with which she addressed him.

"I met Mr. Morgan at Mr. Millar's, and there I saw him received into the
society of respectable women—he visited at my sister-in-law's house, and
was, evidently, in her confidence; he proposed to her to procure me a
situation as governess to Lady Fanny Allston's little girl, and my
brother perfectly approved of the negotiation. It was the interest he
took in this plan, which produced the appearance of intimacy which you
reprobate; it was to discuss this subject, that he joined me in my
walks; but, as I did not like the appearance of clandestine intercourse,
I mentioned the occurrence to my brother and sister-in-law; and to avoid
him, I refused, for some time, to walk out without some other companion
than my niece. Latterly, I have seen less of him; and it is a fortnight
or more since we last met out walking. Had I known him to be a man of
bad principles, as you say he is, I would never have allowed him to
interfere in my affairs—but how could I suspect that, when I found Mrs.
Watson treated him with perfect confidence?—and he was evidently courted
and caressed by nearly all the women of my acquaintance in Croydon."

"Those who know him best, have most reason to say it is unsafe for you
to associate with him; they know of what he is capable, and are most
shocked, of course, at your breach of conventional etiquette. I am sorry
to say that you are right in your assertion that he is courted and
caressed by women in general. In spite of his character, his manners
make him popular, and many weak-minded women encourage him in conduct
which flatters their vanity, by demonstrating admiration for their
mental and personal charms. But those who act thus, are severe judges of
others. But tell me, are you really going to Lady Fanny Allston's on his
recommendation?"

"No—her ladyship has suddenly—and not very civilly—broken off the
negotiation."

"I am glad of it, my dear; it would have been very undesirable that you
should go there, throwing yourself completely in the way of that man; it
must have been his object. Poor girl; any thing would be better than
that."

Emma was silent and thoughtful.

"If you have any resolution and strength of mind," continued he, "I
advise you by every means, to shun the neighbourhood of this dangerous
man. The struggle may be painful, but depend upon it, it will be less so
by far, than the consequences of indulging in your predilection for
him."

"I do not think that the danger you apprehend for me, really exists,"
replied Emma, looking up suddenly.

He shook his head.

"The young are always confident," said he, "but, if you build your hopes
on any degree of affection, which Morgan may have manifested, believe me
you are building on a quicksand, and you will as surely find yourself
deceived as his other victims!"

"You quite misunderstand me," replied Emma, very earnestly; "I would not
dare to boast myself more infallible than other young women, but I do
not think I shall be put to the proof. I never had an idea, for a
moment, that Mr. Morgan entertained towards me any other than such
friendly feelings as you do yourself. It seemed to me very kind in him
to interest himself for an orphan—but it was a kindness which his age
appeared to warrant. For, though not quite so old as yourself, sir, he
is old enough to be my father; and I fancied it was with something of a
paternal feeling that he regarded me. As to my own sentiments towards
him, I certainly felt grateful at first—but latterly, there has been, I
own, once or twice, a something in his manner which made me suspicious
of his principles, and induced me to shun private intercourse with him.
Do I speak in a way to convince you of candour, or do you mistrust my
confession, and doubt my word?"

"I think I will venture to trust you—but I must still repeat my
warning—take care of yourself, and do not allow him to hurt your
reputation. You have enemies in Croydon, my dear."

"I, sir! how is that possible?—and yet, Mr. Morgan hinted the same to
me!"

"There, for once, he spoke truth, whatever may have been his motive. But
you are watched—whether from simple curiosity, malice or envy, your
movements have been traced, and are spitefully commented on. It was in
that way, that I heard of your walks with him; and meeting you here, I
could not resist warning you. I rather wonder we have seen nothing of
him, for I saw him following me as I took this path; perhaps he is
waiting till I leave you."

"Would it be too much trouble for you to see me safe home?" said Emma
anxiously, "I should be so very much obliged if you would."

Mr. Bridge readily assented; and calling Janetta, they turned towards
the town.

At one of the stiles they met the individual in question; he had,
apparently, been watching them; but though, perhaps, disappointed at the
result of their conference, he came forward with a bow and a smile, the
most insinuating, to hand Emma over it. Mr. Bridge observed gaily, that
he feared he was grown too old for gallantry, and he must not wonder if
such agreeable offices were taken out of his hands by men younger and
more alert. The hand which Mr. Morgan held, he seemed unwilling to
relinquish, but drew it under his arm with an appearance of considering
it his right to support and guide her. At another time she might hardly
have noticed this, but with Mr. Bridge's warnings ringing in her ears,
she could not permit it to continue. Resolutely she drew away her hand
and turned towards the stile to enquire whether the elder gentleman
required any assistance. Mr. Morgan fixed his piercing eyes on her with
an enquiring look, as if to demand why his attentions were thus
repulsed; but he could not catch her eye, and he was forced to content
himself with walking quietly by her side.

"I want particularly to speak to you, Miss Watson," said he presently in
a low tone, as if wishing to avoid her companion's notice.

"I am quite at liberty to listen to you," replied Emma turning towards
him.

"It is on your own affairs," said he as if hesitating, and glancing
towards Mr. Bridge; "I do not know how far it might be pleasant for you
to have a third person made conversant with them."

"If it relates to the business with Lady Fanny," answered Emma aloud, "I
have just been talking the matter over with Mr. Bridge, and he can
therefore quite enter into the subject now."

"It does relate to that affair, and I am sorry—exceedingly sorry—that I
should be the means of occasioning you any disappointment, but I fear
your hopes—I might say _our_ hopes in that quarter are all overthrown."

"I am aware of that, Mr. Morgan," said Emma calmly; "I received a note
to that effect this morning, and your intelligence therefore is no shock
to me; I feel much obliged for the zeal you have shown in my favour, but
on the whole I am as well satisfied that things should be as they are."

"Satisfied!" cried he looking at her. "You cannot really mean that! the
loss of such a prospect may be nothing to you, but the reason—that is
the evil."

"I had no reason assigned me," replied Emma, "and only concluded that
her ladyship had changed her mind, which of course she had full right to
do."

Mr. Morgan looked at her with an air as if he would penetrate her brain.

"I am so sorry," said he presently, "so very sorry that I have been the
means of leading you into this very unpleasant situation. But for me you
would never have met this repulse: I am vexed indeed!"

"Do not take it so much to heart," replied Emma more gaily than she
felt, "for after all it is only what any young woman in my situation
might expect—a few repulses will serve to teach me humility."

"Aye, if you needed the lesson; but the reason is so very—"

He stopped abruptly.

"What is the reason?" asked Emma. "I told you I knew of none."

"If you really do not, you had better not force me to say it; though you
cannot for a moment imagine that I believe there is a word of truth in
Lady Fanny's assertion—she must have been so completely misinformed."

"I really should be obliged to you to be explicit," replied Emma
earnestly; "you admit that you know the reasons—I must insist on knowing
them likewise."

"I am unwilling to pain you, my dear Miss Emma."

"Then you should not have alluded to them at all; you cannot wonder if I
now consider myself entitled to learn what these mysterious reasons
are."

He drew out his pocket-book and took thence a note, which he placed in
her hand, saying,

"If it offends or affronts you, do not blame _me_ for it."

Emma opened and read a short note from Lady Fanny to Mr. Morgan, stating
that having heard various very discreditable reports concerning the
young person he had named to her, she must beg to decline all further
intercourse with her. Emma's cheeks glowed as she read the lines in
question; but she said not a word. Quietly she re-folded the note and
returned it to Mr. Morgan. He was eagerly watching her, and as he took
it from her hand, he detained her fingers one moment, and stooping
whispered,

"You cannot think how grieved I am thus to pain you."

"It is quite as well that I should know it," she replied very calmly;
and then a silence of some minutes ensued. They had reached the garden
gate before any one spoke again: she turned to Mr. Bridge before
entering, and whilst holding out her hand to him, said in a low voice,
"I am _very_ much obliged to you; may I have a little further
conversation with you another day?"

"Certainly, whenever you wish; when can I see you?"

"I should like to see you alone," she replied.

"Then I will manage it—depend on me to-morrow."

He then warmly shook hands, patted Janetta's shoulder and walked off,
concluding that Mr. Morgan would do so too. But here he was mistaken,
that gentleman having no intention of retiring so quickly. He had opened
the gate for Emma and stood leaning against it, till she turned and
prepared to pass, but then he laid his hand on her arm, and whilst
closing the gate upon them both, attempted to draw her a little on one
side where a thick screen of filberts concealed them from the house.

"Come here, my dear girl," said he in a tone of familiarity which
affronted Emma; "I thought that old humbug was never going to leave us:
it's too bad to be beset in that way."

"Have you anything to say to me, Mr. Morgan?" replied Emma in a freezing
tone; "because I must beg, if you have no particular reason, that you
will not detain me here."

"I beg your pardon—I quite forgot," returned he in a very different
tone; "I am taking a liberty which nothing but my interest in you can
excuse." He then withdrew his hand from her arm, but still stood in her
path. "The fact is, my indignation at the slanderous tongues of our
neighbours made me quite forget everything else; do you know the meaning
of that note I showed you—the nature of the reports and their
originator?"

"I know simply what I read there," returned Emma, "and unless the
subject is one of immediate importance, I must decline to discuss _now_
and _here_ the cause of Lady Fanny's determination."

"Well, perhaps you are right, but I hardly expected that my warnings to
you the other night would so soon be realised; they have not scrupled to
make mischief of our meeting when out walking, and the report has
reached Lady Fanny's ears."

"If that is the case, Mr. Morgan," replied Emma, her face flushing with
indignation, and her voice almost uncontrollably trembling from emotion,
"if you _know_ that to be the case, I wonder that kindness, courtesy,
nay, the common feelings of a gentleman, do not prompt you to avoid
giving countenance to such reports, by forcing yourself on my privacy,
and intruding even here on my home. I command you to let me pass this
instant, and I desire that I may not again be disturbed by a similar
encounter."

He did not dare dispute her command for a moment, as she stood with her
slight and graceful figure drawn up, and her speaking face turned on him
in indignation; he drew aside, and with a very low bow allowed her to
pass, and follow Janetta, who had trotted up towards the house. He
looked after her in an attitude of despair, but it was lost on Emma, who
never turned her head, or cast one relenting glance behind, but walked
straight into the house. In fact she felt very angry, and her anger
increased the more she thought of what had passed: it seemed to her as
if he sought to place her in equivocal situations, and rather wished
that she might compromise her reputation. Compared with the kindness of
Mr. Bridge, his professed friendship and zeal appeared hollow and
unsatisfactory; and now that she found she had another friend, she
looked her difficulties more firmly in the face, and determined not to
endeavour to escape from one set of evils by risking another. Still,
when she thought of the words of Mr. Bridge, so sadly corroborated by
Mr. Morgan himself, she could not help a sigh and a shudder.

She wished to ask his advice as to what she had better do, but at the
same time she tried to form an opinion for herself, and questioned her
own mind as to what was her duty on this occasion. To avoid all
intercourse with Mr. Morgan, and let the slanders die a natural death
from want of food to sustain them, appeared to her the safest course,
and she hoped Mr. Bridge would agree with her. She would gladly have
left the place had it been possible, but just at present there seemed no
chance of an escape. When the time of her promised visit to Osborne
Castle arrived, what a happiness it would be! She lay awake many hours
that night thinking over all the difficulties in her path, and planning
how she could surmount them. One idea weighed most strongly in her mind;
it was, would Mr. Howard be at all likely to hear any report concerning
her, and would he believe it if he did. She wished she could imagine he
would hear of her at all; only from Miss Osborne had she received any
news of his proceedings, and she feared that their intercourse was
brought to an end for ever. How she might have viewed Mr. Morgan and his
attentions but for her previous acquaintance with Mr. Howard, she could
not tell, but she mentally compared the two men now, not a little to the
disadvantage of the former; and she felt persuaded that she could never
care for another, unless she were to meet with one who possessed all the
good qualities of Mr. Howard, and was better acquainted with his own
mind. For, totally in the dark as to the reason why Mr. Howard had
suddenly withdrawn his attentions, and recollecting well the many little
signs which had escaped him of a more than ordinary interest, she only
concluded that he had, on further acquaintance, found her different from
what he wished, and that he had changed his mind and views accordingly.
She little knew that at this time he was suffering from a constant,
unceasing regret, and dwelling on their past intercourse as the most
precious and delightful period of his life.

It was with a heavy head, and a heavier heart, that she went through her
daily routine the next morning, hearing Janetta her alphabet, setting
her sewing, and reading to her; she had great difficulty in getting
through with it, and could hardly fix her thoughts for five minutes on
the business on which she was employed. In the course of the morning,
Janetta was sent for to the drawing-room, and returned in about ten
minutes radiant with joy. Emma, who had lain down on the bed for a few
minutes, and was just closing her weary eyes in a doze, was suddenly
roused by the news that Mr. Bridge had come to ask Janetta to go to see
his garden, and that he was now waiting for them to accompany him home.

Mindful of his promise, he had called on Mrs. Watson, and after
observing that he had met her little girl gathering flowers, he begged
she might come and see some of the beautiful violets and anemonies in
his garden. Mrs. Watson, delighted at the civility to herself, which she
discovered in any attention to her child, assented most readily, and
Emma had now to rouse herself as well as she could to accompany her
young charge.

She felt so totally unequal to any exertion, that even her sense of the
kindness manifested by Mr. Bridge, and the interest he shewed in her,
was hardly sufficient to produce the energy requisite for the occasion.
Her languid movements, and the heavy eyelids immediately caught the
attention of the kind old man; but sensible how little sympathy her
sufferings would probably excite in the mind of her selfish
sister-in-law, he made no comment until they were not only out of the
house, but safely hidden amidst the picturesque shrubberies which
enclosed the parsonage. Then kindly taking her hand and looking
half-smiling, half-sadly in her face, he said:

"I am afraid, poor girl, you have been fretting about what you learnt
yesterday, and that you feel it more deeply than you expected to do."

"I have been thinking a great deal about it, I allow," replied Emma,
"and more about what Mr. Morgan said yesterday after you left me. But
surely you cannot be surprised at my dejection, when you consider the
various difficulties which present themselves in my path."

"I cannot help a small suspicion," replied he, with a sort of cunning
little smile, but which he speedily checked, "that you feel some regret
about Mr. Morgan himself."

"No, you do me injustice; but on such a subject, professions are
perfectly useless, and I shall not attempt to make them. To break off my
intercourse with him will cost me nothing; but what does really depress
and annoy me, is the terrible idea than any slanderous reports should
have been circulated concerning that intercourse. He told me the story
had reached Lady Fanny Allston, and that it was for _that_ reason she
had so abruptly concluded all negotiation with me."

"Very likely; her ladyship is the greatest gossip in existence, and has
a regular supply of the town news and scandal, extracted from the
butcher and baker, by her own maid, for her own private amusement."

"But if the story has travelled so far, how much farther may it not
spread—I shall lose my character altogether, and with it all chance of
earning an independent livelihood, and what will become of me?"

Her lip quivered, tears burst from her eyes, and her whole frame was
visibly agitated, to such a degree, that Mr. Bridge feared a fit of
hysterics would ensue. Emma, however, made a determined effort to
conquer her emotion, and after two or three minutes, succeeded so far as
to resume an air of calmness, though it was some time before she could
speak again.

"My dear girl," said the clergyman, compassionately, "you must not give
way to despondency—remember from whence your trials come, and you will
become calmer and stronger in the contemplation. You do not seem to me
at all to blame in what has passed, and whilst your conscience is clear,
you need never despair that your path will be made clear likewise."

"It is not only the present difficulty which weighs on my mind at this
moment," replied Emma, trying to speak calmly; "but there are times when
all I have lost comes back to my memory, and seems quite to overpower
me. My earliest friends lost to me, and with them the happy home where I
had enjoyed every indulgence, and every pleasure that affection could
procure. Then just as I began to accustom myself to my new home, and
learnt to value the affection and society of my only parent, that
likewise is torn from me, and whilst I am deprived of parent and
fortune, and become dependent on my own exertions, I find myself robbed,
I know not how, even of my good name, and my prospects blighted in the
most mysterious manner. It seems in vain to struggle against such a
complication of evils; what can I expect but to sink into contempt and
disgrace?"

"I admit the greatness of the losses you have sustained," said he; "I
cannot deny that it may be hard to bear; but you have still some
blessings left for which you may be thankful. You possess a healthy
constitution, a sound intellect, and a conscience unoppressed by a sense
of guilt. You might have lost your heart, as well as your fortune, and
that you tell me is not the case."

Emma looked down, and tried to appear quite careless and unconcerned;
but she could not feel quite convinced that she did enjoy the degree of
heart's ease, which Mr. Bridge seemed to imagine. An image of Mr. Howard
flitted across her mind, and she felt that whilst enumerating her
peculiar afflictions, she had omitted one which pressed almost as deeply
as any. She blushed deeply, and could not raise her eyes; he watched her
countenance, and then added, presently—

"What do you mean to do now—have you formed any plan?"

"None at all," replied she; "I feel I cannot—my head is all in
confusion, and I can hardly think connectedly."

She pressed her hand on her forehead as she spoke; he saw she was
looking extremely ill, and feared her mind was over excited.

"My first wish," she continued, "the first object of my life would be to
get away from Croydon, to see no more of those who slander me, or him
who causes the slander to circulate. But this I cannot do; whilst I have
no other refuge, and whilst Margaret's marriage is approaching, I
suppose I must not go. But if I could but leave them all, and have a
little peace and quiet—it is sometimes more than I can bear; the
perpetual worry, and the incessant anxiety to please without success—and
those thoughts that will come back in spite of all that I can
do—thoughts of regret for past happiness, and hopeless pining for what I
may never see again."

"And you are quite sincere in wishing to leave Croydon, and go where you
will see no more of Mr. Morgan? is it no momentary pique that influences
you, no hope of being followed, no expectation of producing some great
effect by your disappearance."

"I wish I could convince you, Mr. Bridge, that whatever the world of
Croydon may impute to me, whatever it may choose to say for me, Mr.
Morgan was never an object of any peculiar interest in my eyes, and
since they have associated our names to my discredit, he is become
positively disagreeable. To shun him altogether is, just now, my first
wish."

"Then, perhaps, I may help you there; I will, at least, try—your
desolate situation interests me deeply—poor girl—you look terribly worn
and flushed—go home, and lie down to rest; try and compose your mind,
and hope for better things. But above all, my child, endeavour to subdue
a repining spirit, and remember that there is One above, who is the
Father of the fatherless, and who has promised never to forsake those
who call upon Him faithfully!"



                              CHAPTER III.


Emma took Janetta home, and weary and worn out, she laid herself down
upon her own bed, and there dropped into a heavy slumber. In consequence
of her non-appearance at the dinner table, Elizabeth went in search of
her, and rousing her up, persuaded her to attempt coming down stairs,
though Emma, at first, felt so totally unequal to the exertion, that she
declared she could not stir.

"Jane is so very cross to-day," remonstrated Elizabeth; "I am sure I do
not know what is the matter with her, but she seems so very angry about
something or other, that if you can contrive to come down you will save
a great deal of after trouble. Is your head really so very bad; you do
look rather ill certainly, but you need not eat, only just try to sit at
table."

Slowly and languidly Emma rose from her bed; her head ached so intensely
that she could scarcely raise her eyes; an iron band appeared to be
compressing her forehead, and seemed every moment to increase in
pressure. She tried to arrange her hair, and her dress, disordered by
lying on the bed, but felt incapable of the exertion; leaning on
Elizabeth's arm, she descended to the dining-parlour, and took her seat
at the table. Robert offered to help her to some meat, but Emma declined
eating. Jane never condescended to lift her eyes until the table was
cleared, and then she sarcastically observed—

"I am extremely sorry, Miss Emma Watson, that there is nothing on my
table good enough for you to eat to-day; shall I send over to the
pastry-cook's, and see if he has any little delicacies to tempt your
fastidious appetite? I am not so unreasonable as to expect a young lady
like you to dine on roast mutton and plain pudding."

"I am not very well," replied Emma, "and have no appetite to-day; but it
is my own misfortune, not the fault of your dinner, I am sure."

"Upon my word you honor my table with a very pretty costume," eyeing
Emma fixedly, "may I ask how long it has been your fashion to have your
hair awry in that way, and your gown tumbled—do you come out of your
bed, or have you been indulging in an interesting game of romps?"

Robert looked at Emma, and even he was struck with the appearance of
suffering; and coupling with it the fact that she had eaten no dinner,
and moreover, feeling rather cross with his wife, he began to defend
her, desiring Jane not to worry his sister, as it was evident she was
very far from well. Mrs. Watson fired up at this. She wondered what
people could mean speaking to ladies that way—she was sure they must
quite forget who they were addressing—as to what she said to Emma, she
wondered what she should be forbidden to say next! Really it was too
good, if she might not find fault with a girl like Emma in her own
house, and at her own table too! She supposed the next thing she should
hear, would be that Emma sat there to find fault with her. Her manners,
her dress, her general behaviour would be called into question; if Emma
gave her approbation no doubt, she should be right—she only hoped she
should not be obliged to adopt the elegant negligence of Miss Emma
Watson's present style—it was not to her taste she was afraid she must
confess.

"Emma has really a very bad headache," interposed Elizabeth, "and would
be much better in bed."

"Then pray, let her to go to bed," cried Jane, tossing her head; "who
wants her to sit up? not _I_, I am sure; she may go to bed if she likes;
but, if she thinks I am going to call in a doctor for her, she is very
much mistaken; I will indulge no such whims and fancies."

Emma gladly availed herself of the permission to retire thus graciously
accorded, and Elizabeth accompanied her up-stairs and assisted her to
undress; neither would she leave her until summoned down to tea; even
then, the temptation of Mr. Millar coming in, could not detain her from
Emma's room; she told him how ill her sister was, and she returned to
sit by her bedside, and attempt, by cool applications, to allay the
burning, throbbing pain in her head, which Emma complained almost drove
her mad. But she showed no symptoms of amendment, and towards morning
she was in a decided fever. Elizabeth, who had sat up with her all
night, now pressed her to consent to see Mr. Morgan—the name made her
shudder, and she resolutely refused to do so. She declared she was not
_very_ ill—nothing more than her sister's skill could alleviate; but
that to see Mr. Morgan would infallibly make her worse. Elizabeth
thought this rather odd, but she let her have her own way, and said no
more about the doctor. Mrs. Watson began to be frightened, when she
found that Emma was really very ill; she too then proposed her seeing
the doctor; but with more moderation, though with equal firmness Emma
rejected her proposal, as she had done that of Elizabeth.

She only wished to see Mr. Bridge—but she had not energy or courage to
request an interview with him; she lay in a kind of half-dreamy state,
during the greater part of that day and the next; then Elizabeth thought
her worse, and without asking her any more on the subject she went to
Robert—and with tears in her eyes, entreated that some advice might be
sent for—as otherwise, she felt sure Emma would die. This startled
Robert—it would have been so exceedingly unpleasant—it would have
interfered sadly with Margaret's marriage—and in several other ways
would have greatly inconvenienced himself. Accordingly, he decided at
once, that Mr. Morgan should be called in, and so he was. Emma was in
too profound a state of stupor to notice him, or to be aware of what was
passing beside her bed. She did wake a little at the sound of voices,
but she could not guess whose they were; they seemed to her even a great
way off—though, in reality, close to her; he might hold her hand now,
she could not withdraw it; nay, when he put back the dark hair from her
brow, and laid his hand on her temples to count the throbbing of the
pulse there—she made no resistance now—she was unconscious of his touch.
He was not alarmed about her, though he saw she was really ill—too ill
for him to flatter his vanity with the idea that it was affected for the
sake of seeing him; but he felt sure she would recover, and greatly
consoled Elizabeth by his lively hopes on this subject. Nevertheless, he
came to see her twice that evening, and early again the next morning. On
neither visit did he find her sufficiently conscious to recognise
him—but she gradually began to amend—and on waking from a prolonged
slumber on the afternoon of the third day, she was sufficiently restored
to the use of her faculties, to enquire of Elizabeth, whether any one
had been attending her during the intervening time. Her sister, without
circumlocution, told her how often Mr. Morgan had seen her, and added,
that he was to come again that evening. Emma appeared excessively
discomposed, and asked her if she could not prevent his coming;
persisting that she did not want to see any doctor, and that, if she
were only left alone, she should soon be well.

Miss Watson, who considered this merely as a fancy belonging to her
state of disease, tried to avoid giving her a direct answer, and when
she found this would not satisfy her, she endeavoured to persuade Emma
of the unreasonable nature of her request, and ended by saying she would
see what could be done for her. Of course Mr. Morgan came at the time
appointed, end she was obliged to bear it, though the very sight of him
threw her into such a state of agitation that his feeling her pulse was
perfectly useless and only served to mislead him. He had, however, too
much penetration not to discover quickly that his presence caused the
feverish symptoms which at first alarmed him; he would gladly have
persuaded himself that they indicated partiality, but not even his
vanity could so far mislead him. The averted eye, the constrained voice,
the cold composed look which wore the expression of her real feelings,
told him a very different tale. He felt that he had lost ground in her
good opinion, though he could not exactly tell why or how, and still
less did he know how to recover it. His visit was short, and his
conversation confined entirely to professional subjects, and he took his
leave of her with a bow which was intended to express a profound mixture
of admiration and respect towards her, mingled with regret,
self-reproach, humility and penitence on his part. If any bow could have
conveyed so much meaning, it would certainly have been his, and it did
undoubtedly express the utmost that a bow could do. Emma drew a long
breath when he was gone, and whispered,

"I wish he would never come again."

Elizabeth tried seriously to convince her that she was exceedingly
unjust, and pressed her to name any fault she could find with Mr.
Morgan, of her own knowledge, not speaking merely from hear-say. Emma's
nerves were not in a state to bear argument, and instead of answering
she began to cry, and went off in a fit of hysterics which Elizabeth had
great difficulty in soothing away.

The next morning Emma requested Elizabeth to procure her a visit from
Mr. Bridge; she could not rest longer without an interview, and she now
felt strong enough to make her wishes known. She would not allow any
reference to be made to Jane, but sent a request, in her own name, that
he would call on her, and when this request was complied with, as it
speedily was, she sent Elizabeth out of the room that she might have an
unreserved conversation with her old friend.

Her first question to him was whether he had as yet done anything
towards procuring her removal from Croydon. He believed that she must
recover her health before anything could be done with that view. But she
so earnestly assured him that she should regain strength with twice the
rapidity if he would only let her know what he proposed to do, that he
told her to set her mind at ease, as he had already arranged a plan for
her comfort. He had a sister, a single lady, residing about fourteen
miles from Croydon, and if she liked to go and pass a few weeks with
her, she would be sure of retirement and tranquillity with every comfort
that could be desired.

Emma was delighted with the idea; she was certain she should like Miss
Bridge, and that nothing could be more agreeable than residing in the
country quite retired and with only one pleasant companion. There she
should continue, she trusted, until Miss Osborne renewed her
solicitations for her society, and even after that visit was paid she
might return there. She pictured to herself how she would engage in a
thousand useful and agreeable occupations, and how she would love the
charming old lady on whom she would attend with unremitting zeal. She
declared that she felt herself increasing every moment in strength by
the contemplation of such a residence, and she trusted that she should
soon be out of sight and sound of Mr. Morgan and all the inquisitorial
residents of Croydon—how soon should she be able to go?

This Mr. Bridge told her depended entirely on the state of her health;
as soon as she could be moved with safety he would take her in his own
carriage half of the way, where his sister would meet her and convey her
the other half.

"Oh, let it be to-morrow!" cried she; "I am sure I shall be well
enough—my strength is greater than you think."

"Well well, we will ask the doctor," replied he.

"Do not ask Mr. Morgan anything about it," said Emma flushing again
deeply. "I do not want to have anything to do with him that I can help.
I believe it was one thing that made me ill, because they would have him
to visit me."

"Come, be reasonable," said he smiling; "if you talk in that way I shall
think you light-headed. Now I must leave you; I will see you again
to-morrow morning, and if I find you well enough, will send word to my
sister at once and settle your plans."

He took leave, and was quitting the room when he met Elizabeth
returning, and Emma anxious that her sister should immediately
participate in her pleasant prospects, begged him if he could spare a
few minutes more to stop and explain their plans. Miss Watson of course
was very much pleased at hearing what he had to tell, and immediately
saw all the advantages to Emma which such a removal would procure,
except the _one_ principal one, which was the secret source of her
sister's eagerness to put it in execution. But she had never heard a
syllable of the reports which had been so industriously circulated
relative to Emma and Mr. Morgan, and was very far from imagining he
could in any way, either as an object of love or of hatred, influence
her feelings or proceedings. She admitted that it was in every way
desirable that Emma should have a peaceful and comfortable home, and the
only thing she stipulated for was, that she should return to Croydon as
soon as she herself could offer her an equally comfortable abode in her
own house. This point Emma did not feel disposed to dispute, though she
secretly entered a protest against returning to Croydon for a residence
if she could in any way avoid it.

She proved herself right in her anticipations that the relief to her
mind would be of essential service to her body; she was so very much
better the next morning as to be able to leave her bed-room, and sit up
some time in Janetta's nursery, and here she was, with her little niece
standing beside her, and no one else in the room, when Mr. Morgan was
suddenly ushered in.

She received him with a calm self-possession which astonished herself,
and, at the same time, a degree of frigid composure which seemed to
imply that the past, both of good and evil, was swept from her mind,
that she had to begin again in her acquaintance with him, and meant only
to recognise him in future as the doctor, and not the friend. It was in
vain that he sat beside her, and in his most winning tones tried to
establish confidence between them; she was perfectly calm and composed,
but impenetrably grave, yielding to neither tenderness nor gaiety, and
he was just rising to go when she made her first suggestive observation,
by telling him that she was so much better she should be able to take a
drive to-morrow. He assented, of course, if the weather was favorable,
and added, that as her sister had no carriage he hoped he might be
allowed to take her out in his. With sincere pleasure at being able to
decline it, Emma thanked him, assuring him it was quite unnecessary, as
Mr. Bridge had promised her his. He looked disappointed; he could not
bear that she should have any friends but himself: what would he have
felt, had he known the real object of the drive in question.

His departure, which Emma had thought most unnecessarily delayed, left
her at liberty to think about Mr. Bridge's promised visit; she had long
to wait, he came delighted to see her better, and quite willing to
acknowledge that she might be removed the next day. The necessary
arrangements he undertook to make; he could send his sister word that
she might expect them, and he determined to drive over the whole way
himself, and spend one night at her house. He likewise agreed to go and
inform her own brother and his wife of what was about to take place, and
thereby save Emma all excitement, if the information should happen to be
ill received.

Accordingly, in persuance of this plan, he paid Mrs. Watson a visit
before leaving the house, and in answer to his gentle tap at the door,
received an invitation to enter, which brought him into an extremely
untidy and heated parlour. Jane was sitting over the fire with her feet
on the fender, her gown turned up over her knees, and her petticoat
emitting a strong smell of scorching, which almost overpowered him. She
was reading a work of some kind, which she hid behind her when she saw
her visitor, whilst she tried to arrange her hair and cap in a rather
less slatternly way. Margaret was busy trimming a hat with white satin
ribbons, and judging from the shreds of white materials of divers kinds
lying beside her, had been deeply engrossed in the dress-making or
millinery line. After sitting a few minutes, Mr. Bridge enquired if he
could see Mr. Watson, and though his wife was quite certain it was
impossible, it so happened that Robert entered at that very time.

"I am so glad to see you," said Mr. Bridge on shaking hands with him, "I
wanted to get your leave to carry off your youngest sister."

"What, Emma?" said Robert, "why she's ill I understand."

"She is better to-day," replied he, "but she wants change of air and
scene, and I want to get it for her."

"Why, what new fancy of hers is this?" exclaimed Mrs. Watson, "that
girl's head is always full of some strange vagary or another; it's only
the other day she would not walk out, and now she's wanting to go away,
and she keeping her bed and pretending to be ill."

"Where do you want to take her to?" enquired Robert, unheeding his
wife's speech.

"Why, my sister wishes for a companion, and I think they would suit each
other very well; and it really appears to me that she feels the
confinement and application necessary in her present mode of life too
much for her."

"My dear Mr. Bridge," cried Mrs. Watson in a fawning tone, "don't you,
please, believe that she is a prisoner, or acting under compulsion; I am
sure you would have too much regard for me to go and set such a story
about—only think what my feelings would be were such a story circulated
about my dear husband's sister."

"I did not mean to say anything to hurt your feelings, Mrs. Watson,"
replied the clergyman coolly, "but you cannot deny that your
sister-in-law has been ill, and that at present she is incapable of
continuing her labors as governess to your little girl: I do not
exaggerate in that statement."

"Oh dear no—but then she never had any great labors to go through;
nothing I am sure but what any one might accomplish."

"I am of opinion she has exerted herself too much in every way; and as
my sister's house will be very quiet, and they are persuaded they shall
suit each other, I really think the best thing she can do will be to go
there."

"I don't see that at all," replied Jane rather snappishly, "I cannot
spare her; I want her to take charge of Janetta; what am I to do without
her?"

"I understood her services in that way were very trifling," interposed
Mr. Bridge.

"Just her teaching may be," said she retracting a little, "but then she
is accustomed to take care of her all day long, and I cannot spare her
from that."

"Not unless you find a substitute," said he.

"But I cannot do that, I do not like to leave her entirely to servants,
and unless I mind the child myself what can I do; and I suppose no one
would expect _me_ to become a slave to my little girl, and shut myself
up in a nursery."

"Then why exact it of her?" suggested Mr. Bridge.

"Because whilst she is living at my husband's expense, I think it only
fair that I should profit from her cares in that way; and I consider it
always a charity to give young people something to do."

"That may be very true whilst she is here perhaps; but it seems to me a
little unreasonable, begging your pardon for saying so, to keep her
against her will, and then make her work to cover the expense of
staying."

"I am sure I don't know why you should find fault: _I_ have not _time_
to teach my child myself, if I had the health for such an exertion."

"You never seem to have either time or inclination to do anything,
Jane:" said the husband, "look at this room—was there ever such an
untidy pigsty for a lady to live in; why cannot you take a little
trouble and make it look decent."

"You had better arrange it after your own fashion," said she scornfully,
"if you do not like mine."

"As to this plan of yours, Mr. Bridge," continued Robert, "I think it a
capital one; and the sooner you can take her away the better—when do you
mean to go?"

Mrs. Watson was silenced altogether, and Mr. Bridge proceeded to explain
the plan of their proceedings as proposed by himself. Robert highly
approved of it all, and gave his full consent and approbation to Mr.
Bridge with the more zest, because it appeared to annoy his wife. After
this it was of course vain for her to make objections; he was completely
master of his own house, and Jane knew, from sad experience, that she
might produce as much effect by talking to the tables and chairs as to
him, when in one of his stubborn fits.

All she could do, therefore, was to be as cross as possible for the rest
of the day to those around her, in consequence of which she was left to
a _tête-à-tête_ with Margaret, as Elizabeth was upstairs making
preparations for Emma's departure, and Robert went out to spend the
evening with some bachelor friends.



                              CHAPTER IV.


Punctually the next day, Mr. Bridge drove to the door, and at the same
moment Mr. Morgan entered the house. Emma was in the parlour quite ready
for her journey, and her eye sparkled with pleasure as she told him that
she should not trouble him to call on her again, for she was leaving
Croydon for a long time. He looked aghast.—

"Going away," was his exclamation, as he cast an enquiring eye at the
trunk which Mr. Bridge's man was preparing to place on the carriage.
"This is quite unexpected—may I ask where you are going?"

"It is Mr. Bridge who is taking me away," replied Emma, "and really I
can hardly answer as to _where_ we are going. I am wishing to try a
change of air, as I do not find Croydon agree with me."

"This is Mr. Bridge's doing then," said he, his face turning pale with
an emotion which she did not understand. He felt convinced that his
plans had been seen through and counteracted, and entertained, in
consequence, anything but a feeling of gratitude towards the agent of
his disappointment. At this moment the clergyman entered, and claimed
Emma's company, and after an affectionate farewell from Miss Watson, and
a formal bow from the doctor, she was hurried away. The other two ladies
were out walking, as Jane was determined not to countenance Emma's
departure by her presence on the occasion. Emma felt so very much
relieved as she lost sight of Croydon, and entered on a country quite
new to her, that she fancied she was deriving fresh health and strength
from every breath she inhaled. She was, however too weak to bear much
conversation, and was content to lie back in peace and silence in a
corner of the carriage, quietly reposing on the cushions with which she
had been carefully propped, and enjoying the luxury of seeing the
varying landscape pass before her eyes, without making any exertion. Mr.
Bridge was reading; and in this way the fourteen miles were pleasantly
and quickly passed, and in about two hours from leaving Croydon, they
stopped at the door of Miss Bridge's residence.

It was a small, old-fashioned house, with a thick screen of shrubs
surrounding it, and a few picturesque old Scotch firs standing on the
little grass plat which divided the front from the road. The walls were
covered with creeping shrubs, and it was evident that the owner loved
flowers, for early as it was in the year, the little porch was crowded
with showy plants, and odoriferous with the scent of the hyacinth,
narcissus and other sweet bulbs. The old lady came out to receive them,
and the warmth of her welcome, with the kindness of her manner, quite
won Emma's heart at once. She saw that her guest was fatigued, and would
not allow her to exert herself in any way; but leading her upstairs,
made her rest on the bed, and left her promising to return in a short
time. The air of comfort which now surrounded Emma, was truly grateful
to her feelings; the airy and well-furnished bed-room, the snowy
curtains and drapery round the bed, the comfortable furniture, all
seemed to bespeak an attention to her wants, to which she had long been
a stranger; and as she lay there thinking over all that was past, and
wondering what was to come next, a deep feeling of gratitude stole over
her heart for finding herself at last in so peaceful and apparently
comfortable a home.

Faithful to her promise, Miss Bridge returned speedily, bringing with
her some refreshment, of which she insisted on Emma's partaking; and
then desiring her to remain quiet for a couple of hours at least, she
returned to her brother, and spent the interval in learning every
particular that he could detail relative to her interesting young
visitor.

When Emma woke from a refreshing slumber of several hours duration, the
first object which met her eyes was the countenance of Miss Bridge
bending over her. There was such a look of benevolent interest in that
good-tempered face, as would have sufficed to redeem a very plain set of
features from the charge of insipidity. But Miss Bridge was very far
from plain, and it was evident she must have been eminently handsome.
She was extremely thin, and her high features, and dark complexion made
her look, perhaps, rather older than she really was, but her eyes which
were dark hazel were still bright and lively. Her dress was that of an
old woman, the colours grave, and the materials rich, and though not
exactly in the reigning fashion of the day, yet sufficiently like it to
prevent any appearance of singularity, whilst it was perfectly becoming
her age and station. Emma felt sure that she should like her
exceedingly, and quite longed to be strong enough to converse with her.
She was found so much better as to be permitted to leave her room, and
lie for a time on the sofa in the drawing-room, though Miss Bridge still
proscribed conversation, and recommended quiet and rest.

Everything that she saw gave her an idea of the comfort of her new home;
the well-filled book-shelves especially delighted her; she had enjoyed
so little time for reading lately that the sight of such a collection of
books was a most welcome prospect, and she anticipated with satisfaction
the time when she should be able to exert herself again, and commence
the acquisition of the Italian language; as she was extremely anxious to
increase her information and accomplishments to the utmost.

The next day the old clergyman took his leave, and telling Emma not to
fret about her friends at Croydon, and hoping when he came over next
month, he should find her with rosy cheeks and smiles to welcome him, he
went off quite satisfied that he had secured a comfortable home for his
young friend, and a desirable companion for his old sister.

Nothing could be more peaceful and pleasant to a contented mind than the
course of life in which Emma now engaged. She speedily recovered her
strength, and was able by early rising to enjoy several hours alone in
the morning, which she devoted to study; by this means she was always at
liberty to give her whole attention to Miss Bridge so soon as they met
in the drawing-room. Their fore-noons were employed in reading and
needlework, unless when Miss Bridge was writing letters or settling her
household matters. Walking out, or working in the garden occupied the
afternoon, and in both these occupations, as soon as Emma was strong
enough, she took great delight. The garden was cultivated with uncommon
care; Miss Bridge having quite a passion for floriculture, and Emma
thought nothing could exceed the beauty of her tulips, anemones and
hyacinths, as they gradually unfolded their blossoms. She became
extremely interested in the pursuit, and Miss Bridge more than once had
to interfere to prevent her over tiring herself by her zealous labours.

The country round their residence was extremely pretty; tracts of old
forest land with the huge old trees, survivors of many centuries, formed
an agreeable contrast to the agricultural districts interspersed in
places; and the steep sides of some of the chalky hills were clothed
with hanging beech woods equally picturesque with the green forest
glades beneath. To wander over this scenery, botanising amongst the
lanes and hedgerows, or visiting the various cottages in the
neighbourhood, formed a delightful variety to their labours in the
garden. Emma found that next to the clergyman, Miss Bridge was looked up
to as the guardian and friend of the poor.

Every wounded limb, or distressing domestic affliction was detailed to
her. Her advice was sought equally when the pig died, the baby was born,
or the husband was sick. Her medicine-chest was in frequent requisition,
but her kitchen and dairy still more so. For one dose of rhubarb which
she dispensed, she gave away at least two dinners, and those well
acquainted with the poor may judge whether by so doing she was not
likely to prevent as much illness as she cured; for by far the greater
part of the diseases amongst the labouring classes arise from scanty
food and too thin clothing. Of course she was the idol, the oracle of
all the villagers, and the more so because there was no squire nor
squire's family in the parish to diminish her importance or dim the
lustre of her position. In fact she was the sister of the last squire,
and since his death, as his eldest son resided on another property, the
manor-house had stood empty and deserted. It quite grieved Emma to see
it, for the house with its gable-ends and old-fashioned porch was very
picturesque; but they derived one advantage from the desolate condition
in which it was left, as they had the uncontrolled range of the gardens
and pleasure-grounds, which were very extensive. The little church stood
within these grounds, and by its situation somewhat reminded her of
Osborne Castle. But how different was the Rector. He was an old, formal
bachelor, living with an unmarried sister, extremely nervous and shy,
and more remarkable for his total disregard to punctuality than any
other point. This was peculiarly evident on the Sunday, when the whole
congregation were always assembled at least a quarter of an hour before
his appearance amongst them. If the day was fine, they did not enter the
church but remained strolling up and down the pasture in which it stood,
until the minister appeared and led the way into the sacred building.
The congregation, which was almost entirely composed of the rural
population, presented a very different aspect from that at Croydon;
there were few smart bonnets, and the gayest articles of apparel in the
church were the scarlet cloaks of the women. The dark and old-fashioned
building itself had no ornaments but the hatchments belonging to the
Bridge family, and one or two ugly and cumbrous monuments upon the
walls, which seemed intended to record that certain individuals had been
born and died, though what they did when living was now totally
forgotten.

When the service was concluded, the clergyman quitted the pulpit and
walked out before all his congregation, who stood up respectfully to let
him pass, and then Miss Bridge and Emma, who had their seat in the
squire's pew, followed before any one else presumed to stir from their
places: there was then a friendly greeting between the Rector and his
principal parishioners, after which they took their quiet way homewards,
to partake of their early dinner, and return to the afternoon service.

Such was the tenor of Emma's life, whilst she remained with Miss
Bridge—the only incident that varied the scene, was a drive over to
Croydon one day, in order to attend Margaret's wedding. Emma had
recovered her strength so rapidly, that she was perfectly equal to the
exertion, and Margaret had sent a pressing invitation not only to her,
but to Miss Bridge likewise. It was, therefore, settled that they should
go and spend the night at the vicarage, as Robert Watson's house was
quite full—with the addition of some cousins of his wife, who were
paying a visit. In consequence of this arrangement, she did not see her
future brother-in-law that day; but Elizabeth spent the afternoon with
them. She saw, with sincere pleasure, how much Emma was improved in
looks—she was plumper and fresher—more blooming and bewitching than
ever; and so thought Mr. Morgan too—for he likewise, called to see
her—and was quite startled with the alteration in her appearance.

"I need not ask you _how_ you are," said he, fixing on her eyes which
spoke his admiration as plainly as if he had put it into words; "you are
looking _so_ well."

Emma was forced to turn away, for the expression of his face was too
openly admiring to be pleasant.

Elizabeth had a long chat with her in private: there was so much to
learn about her new way of life, and so much to tell in return, that it
seemed as if four and twenty hours instead of two, might have been
talked away with ease. There was much to discuss about Margaret's
prospects; Elizabeth was very little satisfied with Tom Musgrove, and
only wondered that her sister appeared so well pleased as she did. He
was careless and cold—almost to insolence—and had, evidently, tried to
annoy her in every way he could; flirting with every girl who came in
his way, and only shewing that he was not careless to her feelings, by
his repeated attempts to wound them. To all this she seemed perfectly
indifferent—whether from vanity, she really did _not_ see, or from
wilful blindness she _would_ not perceive his meaning, Elizabeth could
not tell; but she always continued to preserve a most satisfied air; and
when slighted by Tom, sought peace and contentment in the contemplation
of her wedding presents and bridal finery; constantly talking as if she
enjoyed the unlimited affection of the most amiable and agreeable man in
the world.

"And who do you think appeared amongst us last week?" continued
Elizabeth, "actually Lord Osborne! Ah! you color and look pleased—and
well you may—for I have no doubt Croydon would never have seen his
countenance, if he had not thought you still living here!"

"Lord Osborne!" said Emma astonished, "what brought his lordship here—do
you know?"

"The ostensible reason, was to bring a present to Margaret from his
sister—a very pretty necklace as a wedding present; but the real reason,
I have not the smallest doubt was, to see you—and had he not supposed
you were still here, the parcel might have come by the coach, for any
trouble he would have given himself about it."

"It was very good-natured of Miss Osborne, to remember Margaret in that
way," said Emma, "how pleased she must have been."

"Yes, I think she was—it seemed even to put Tom in a better humour with
her and every thing—it gave her a sort of consequence."

"What did Lord Osborne say?" enquired Emma, hoping to hear something
relative to Mr. Howard.

"Oh! we had a long talk together, and he enquired particularly about
you, and where and how you were; and he said he hoped very soon to see
you. He talked about expecting you to visit his sister; in short, he
seemed to have a great deal to say for himself—and really for _him_, was
quite agreeable. To be sure, I do not think him quite so pleasant as
George Millar, but every body need not have my taste of course."

"Well, I should like to have seen him—did he say nothing about our
friends, Mrs. Willis and her brother—how are they?"

"He said, what I was sorry to hear, that Mr. Howard appeared ill and out
of spirits. I wonder what can be the matter with him—do you think he can
be in love?"

"I am not in his confidence," said Emma, coloring deeply.

"You will see him, of course," said Elizabeth, "if you go to Osborne
Castle—be sure and let me know what you think of him, then; do ascertain
if he is in love."

"You had better make observations for yourself, Elizabeth," replied her
sister, "how can I judge of a sentiment with which I am unacquainted;
wait till you visit Margaret, and you will be able to form your own
opinions."

"I do not think I shall ever visit Margaret," replied Elizabeth; "so if
I do not see Mr. Howard under any other circumstances, our chance of
meeting is but small."

The wedding-day was as bright and sunshiny as any bride could desire.
Emma's thoughts wandered from Margaret and her companions to the bridal
party in London, who she imagined would be engaged in the same ceremony
about the same hour. She knew Mr. Howard was to officiate for her
friend, and she tried to picture the scene to herself; then she imagined
another group, where Mr. Howard himself should perform the part of
bridegroom; and wondered what her own feelings would be if she were the
witness of such a spectacle.

She was ashamed of herself when she recalled her mind from this vision,
and she tried to think of something more appropriate to the occasion.
She joined in the prayers for her sister's happiness, but her heart
trembled as she thought of her prospects; however, it was no use
foreboding evil—she tried to hope for the best.

Margaret was not satisfied with her two sisters as bridesmaids, but both
she and Tom had insisted on having four more from amongst her intimate
friends. One of these was the younger Miss Morgan, and as a compliment
to her, her brother was invited to be of the party to church. He stood
by Emma; but she was unconscious of it, until, when the ceremony was
concluded, and there was a general congratulation, and kissing going on,
she felt her hand clasped by some one, and on her turning round, he
whispered in her ear,—"When shall you stand in your sister's place?"

Before she had time to answer, or even to understand exactly what he had
said, her new-made brother came up and claimed the right of kissing
her—the double right in fact, both as bridegroom and brother—and when
she had submitted to the infliction, she again heard it whispered into
her ear:

"_That_ is the only part which I envy Mr. Musgrove."

Emma moved away without looking round again, and took her station by the
side of her friend, Miss Bridge, where she felt convinced that Mr.
Morgan would not dare to intrude on her. There was something in the
change of manner which he had lately assumed to her, most particularly
offensive and grating to her feelings.

Another thing she could not avoid remarking was, that some of the young
ladies affected to shun her, shrinking away when she approached, and
abruptly changing the conversation, as if some mystery were going on
between them. This was more particularly evident during the party which
succeeded the wedding; when she found herself rather a conspicuous
person two or three times, being left alone by those she approached—and
on more than one occasion, seeing a group suddenly disperse on her
drawing near; she did not comprehend the reason of this, but she felt it
particularly disagreeable; and it induced her as soon as she noticed it,
to keep close to Miss Bridge, in order to avoid the feeling of solitude
in a crowd which was so distressing to her.

The meeting after the wedding was as dull as such affairs usually are,
and right glad was Emma when the time for retiring came, and she was
able to return to the peaceful vicarage. The next day she again left
Croydon, and once more found repose and tranquillity beneath Miss
Bridge's hospitable roof.



                               CHAPTER V.


Much as Emma's thoughts had been dwelling on her acquaintance in London,
she little guessed the scene that had really been passing, or the
prominent figure which Mr. Howard had made on the occasion.

When the ceremony was performed, the breakfast over, and the new married
couple had left the house, Lady Osborne retired to her dressing-room,
and thither she sent for Mr. Howard. Without the slightest suspicion as
to the real object of her wishes, he obeyed the summons, and found her
ladyship alone.

She requested him to be seated, and then looked exceedingly embarrassed,
and not a little silly; but after some attempts at conversation, which
ended in total failures, she suddenly observed:

"The marriage of my daughter makes a great difference to me, Mr.
Howard."

"Of course it must," replied he, rather wondering what would come next.

"I fear I shall find myself very uncomfortable if I continue in the same
style of life I have done before; without Miss Osborne I shall be quite
lost."

Mr. Howard could not help thinking that he should have supposed few
mothers would have felt the change so little. They had never been
companions or appeared of any consequence to each other. However he felt
it his duty to make some cheering observation, and therefore ventured to
suggest that her ladyship should not give way to such desponding
thoughts: she might, perhaps, find it less painful than she anticipated.

"You are very kind to try to cheer me in my melancholy situation, but,
Mr. Howard, I have always found you so, and I am deeply indebted to you
for the many hours of comfort you have at different times procured for
me. You have always been my friend."

He did not at all know what to say to this speech, and was therefore
silent.

"Do you consider," continued she, "that gratitude is a good foundation
for happiness in the married state?"

"It is, no doubt, a good foundation for affection," replied he, "but
unless the superstructure is raised, I do not think the foundation will
be of much use. It is not sufficient of itself."

"You distress me by your opinion, I had hoped that to secure gratitude
was the certain way to produce love."

"I apprehend that your ladyship will find it much more easy to deserve
gratitude than to _secure_ it; it is an intractable virtue, and favors
which are supposed to have this return as their object, are apt to fail
entirely in their purpose."

"I am very sorry you say so, Mr. Howard; I wish I could secure love from
the objects of my affection. I fear the case is exactly the reverse."

The gentleman was silent, and a pause ensued between them, which the
lady broke.

"What do you think of my daughter's marriage?"

"I think," replied he, "it has every promise of securing them mutual
happiness—I hope this as sincerely as I wish it. Sir William is an
excellent young man."

"The marriage is not so high a one as what _my_ daughter might have
aspired to—she has given up all dreams of ambition—do you not see that?"

"Of course Miss Osborne might have married the equal or the superior to
her brother in rank," said Mr. Howard, "but she has acted far more
wisely, in my opinion, in preferring worth and affection, though not
accompanying so splendid an alliance as possibly her friends have
expected for her. Sir William has wealth to satisfy a less reasonable
woman than Lady Gordon, and if his rank is sufficiently elevated to
content her, she can have no more to desire."

"Do not imagine, Mr. Howard, from what I said that I was regretting the
difference in rank; on the contrary, I believe most fully that as she
was attached to Sir William, Miss Osborne could do nothing better than
marry him. Far be it from me to wish any one to sacrifice affection to
ambition. Had there been even more difference in their rank, had the
descent been decidedly greater—had he been of really plebeian origin, I
should not have objected when her affections were fixed."

"I cannot imagine that there was any possibility of such an event; Miss
Osborne would never have fixed her affections on an unsuitable object,
as any one decidedly beneath her would have been."

"Do you then consider it unsuitable, where love directs, to step out of
one's own sphere to follow its dictates?"

"I am decidedly averse to unequal marriages—even when the husband is the
superior, if the inequality is very great I am inclined to think it does
not tend to promote happiness: but when their positions are reversed,
and the man, instead of elevating his wife, drags her down to a level
beneath that where she had previously moved, it can hardly fail to
produce some degree of domestic discomfort."

"Alas, I am grieved that your opinion should be so contrary to my
favorite theories; I can imagine nothing more delightful than for a
woman to sacrifice station and rank, to forego an elevated position, and
to lay down her wealth at the feet of some man distinguished only by his
wit and worth; to have the proud happiness of securing thus his eternal
gratitude."

"I think a man must be very selfish and self-confident, who could
venture to ask such a sacrifice from any woman. I could not."

"But I am supposing that the sacrifice is voluntary, proposed, planned,
and arranged entirely by herself—women have been capable of this—what
should you say to it?"

"I cannot tell what I should say, for I cannot imagine myself in such a
situation. Your ladyship takes pleasure in arranging little romances,
but such circumstances are unlikely to occur in real life."

"And why? what do you suppose is the reason why, in this prosaic world,
we are governed only by titles—empty sounds, not to be compared to the
sterling merits of virtue and learning? Mr. Howard, I prefer a man of
sense, learning, and modesty to all the coxcombs who ever wore a coronet
or paraded a title."

"Your ladyship is quite right," replied he, beginning to get a little
uncomfortable at the looks of his companion, and rather anxious to put a
stop to the conference.

"And if that man were too modest to be sensible of the preference, if he
could not venture, on his own account, to break through the barriers
which difference of station had placed between us, should he be shocked
if, despising etiquette, and throwing aside the restraints of pride and
reserve, I were to venture to express those feelings in all their native
warmth and openness?"

He was silent, and Lady Osborne continued for some moments in profound
thought likewise, looking down at the carpet and playing with her rings:
at length she raised her head, and said,

"I think you understand my meaning, Mr. Howard. Of the nature of my
feelings I am sure you must have been long aware. Do you not see to what
this conversation tends?"

He appeared excessively embarrassed, and could not, for some minutes,
arrange his ideas sufficiently to know what to say. At length he
stammered out—

"Your ladyship does me too much honour, if I rightly understand your
meaning—but perhaps—I should be sorry to misinterpret it—and really you
must excuse me—perhaps I had better withdraw."

"No, Mr. Howard, do not go with a half explanation which can only lead
to mistakes. Tell me what you really suppose I meant; why should you
hesitate to express—"

"Seriously," replied he, trying to smile,

"I for a moment imagined that your ladyship meant to apply to me what
you had just been saying, and I feared you were going to tell me of some
friend who would make the sacrifices you so eloquently described.
Sacrifices which I felt would be far beyond my deserts."

"And supposing I did say so—supposing there were a woman of rank and
wealth, and influence, who would devote them all to you—what would you
say?"

"I would say, that though excessively obliged to her, my love was not to
be the purchase of either wealth or influence."

"I know you are entitled to hold worldly advantages as cheap as any one;
but remember, my dear friend, all the worth of such a sacrifice—think of
the warmth of an affection which could trample on ceremony and brave
opinion. And think on the consequences which might accrue to you from
this. Even you may well pause, before preferring mediocrity to opulence,
and obscurity to rank and eminence.

"These advantages would not greatly weigh with me were they
attainable—but you forget my profession forbids ambition, and removes
the means of advancement."

—"No, you forget the gradations which exist in that career—do you treat
as nothing the certainty of promotion—of rising to be a dignitary of the
church—a dean—a bishop, perhaps—becoming at once a member of the Upper
House? Has ambition no charms—no hold upon your mind?"

"My ambition would never prompt me to wish to rise through my wife—I
could not submit to that."

"Hard-hearted, cruel man!—and has love, ardent love, no charms for
you?—it is true I cannot offer you the first bloom of youth, but have I
no traces of former beauty—no charm which can influence you or soften
your heart—has not the uncontrollable though melancholy love which
actuates me—has that no power over your affections?"

She paused, and Mr. Howard hesitated a moment how to answer, then firmly
but respectfully replied,

"If I understand your ladyship aright, and I think I cannot now
misunderstand, you pay me the highest compliment, but one which is quite
undeserved by me. Highly as I feel honoured, however, I cannot change my
feelings, or alter the sentiments which I have already expressed. My
mind was made known to you, before yours was to me, and to vary now from
what I then said might well cause you to doubt my sincerity, and could
give no satisfaction to your ladyship."

He stopped abruptly; he wanted to say something indicative of gratitude
and respect; but the disgust which he felt at her proceedings, prevented
the words coming naturally. She, the mother of a married daughter and a
grown up son, to be making proposals to a man so much her junior in age,
and in every way unsuited for her—really, he could not command the
expressions which, perhaps, politeness and a sense of the compliment
paid him required. He rose and appeared about to leave her, but she rose
likewise, and said with a look which betrayed indignation struggling
with other feelings:

"No, do not leave me thus—reflect before you thus madly throw away the
advantages I offer you—consider the enmity you provoke—calculate the
depth of my wrath and the extent of my power. Refuse me, and there is no
effort to injure you which I will not practise to revenge myself—you
shall bitterly rue this day, if you affront me thus!"

"I cannot vary from my answer; your ladyship may excite my gratitude by
your kindness but neither my love nor my fears are to be raised by
promises or menaces. On this subject I must be, apparently, ungrateful;
but when the temporary delusion which now influences you has passed
away, you will, doubtless, rejoice that I am firm to-day. I must leave
you."

"Leave me, then; and let me never see that insidious face again,
ungrateful monster; to throw my benefits from you—to reject my advances.
Is my condescension to be thus rewarded? But I debase myself by talking
to you—leave me—begone!—and take only my enmity with you as your
portion."

The lady seemed struggling with vehement emotions, which almost choked
her; and knowing she was occasionally attacked with dangerous fits, Mr.
Howard hesitated about leaving her alone. By a gesture of her hand,
however, she repulsed his offer to approach her; he therefore, slowly
withdrew, and his mind was relieved of anxiety for her by seeing her
maid enter the room before he had descended the stairs. He then hurried
away, and tried, by walking very quickly through the most retired paths
in Kensington Gardens, to soothe his feelings and tranquillize his mind.

Had there been no Emma Watson in the world, or had she been, as he
feared she would soon be, married to Lord Osborne, he must still have
refused the proposal which had just been made to him. It never could
have presented itself as a temptation to his mind. But under present
circumstances, with a heart full of her memory, all the more precious,
the more dwelt on, because he feared she would never be more to him, it
was more than impossible, it was entirely repulsive. If he must love her
in vain, as he told himself he should, that was no reason he should
marry another; and if she were to become Lady Osborne as he feared, her
mother-in-law would be the last person he would be tempted to accept.
Step-father to _her_ husband—oh, impossible! rather would he remove a
thousand miles than voluntarily bring himself into contact with that
charming girl in that relationship. If he could not have her, he would
remain single for her and for his sister's sake, and his nephew should
hold the place of son to him. These were his resolutions, and a further
determination to avoid all intercourse at present with the dowager was
the only other idea which could find any resting place in his troubled
brain. He returned the next day to his Vicarage, and there, with his
sister, his garden and his parochial duties, he sought alike to forget
the pleasures and the pains of the past.



                              CHAPTER VI.


A month of tranquillity and peace of mind, passed in the society of Miss
Bridge, was sufficient to restore Emma Watson to all her former health
and more than her former beauty. When Lady Gordon wrote to remind her of
the promised visit, she was almost sorry to go. Yet her heart would
flutter a little at the notion of again visiting Osborne Castle—of being
again in the vicinity of Mr. Howard, of seeing, hearing, meeting him
again. It was very foolish to care so much about it—extremely so when he
had so completely shown his own indifference, and yet she could not help
feeling a good deal at the idea of meeting.

She called it curiosity to see how he was looking, when she admitted
that thoughts of him had anything to do with it; but more often she
persisted that it was affection for Lady Gordon, or a wish to see her
old neighbourhood, or to visit Osborne Castle in the summer. In short,
she found a hundred surprisingly good reasons why she should wish to go
to Osborne Castle, any one of which would have been sufficient had it
only been true, but as they were mostly imaginary, she never felt quite
deceived about them in her own mind. This was provoking, as she would
have liked, had she been able, to convince herself that she no longer
took any interest in Mr. Howard. She had, however, a right to remember
his sister with regard, and she readily owned to herself that she should
be extremely glad to renew her acquaintance with Mrs. Willis. She hoped
to see Margaret again, and judge of the comparative happiness of her
married life. Yet she looked back with regret to the four past weeks and
reckoned them as some of the happiest she had ever known. Elizabeth had
spent part of the time with her, and she had enjoyed herself so very
much.

The more she had known of Miss Bridge, the better she had liked her, and
the parting was accompanied with mutual regrets and hopes of meeting
again.

It was June when she returned to Osborne Castle—June with its deep blue
skies—its sunny days—its delicious twilight; June with its garlands of
roses scenting the air, and its odoriferous hay-fields. The weather was
such as any lover of nature must revel in—delicious summer weather—fit
for strolling in the shade or sitting under trees, making believe to
read, whilst you were really watching the birds flitting among the
bushes, or the bees humming in the flowers—weather for enjoying life in
perfect listlessness and idleness—when scarcely any occupation could be
followed up beyond arranging a _bouquet_ or reading a novel. So thought
and so declared the young bride when her husband pressed her to engage
in any serious pursuit; she enjoyed the pleasure of teasing him by her
refusals perhaps rather more than she ought to have done, but she never
teased him very far now; she knew what he would bear, and ventured not
to go beyond it.

"I am glad Emma Watson is coming today," said she, as she threw herself
on a seat in the flower-garden; "you will have something else to look at
then besides me, and I shall quite enjoy the change."

"Are you sure of that, Rosa?" said he doubtfully.

"Why you have not the impertinence to suppose that I value your
incessant attentions," said she; "can you not imagine how tired I am of
being the sole object of your love. Emma Watson shall listen to the
grave books you so much love, shall talk of history or painting with
you, shall sit as your model, and leave me in my beloved indolence."

"May I enquire if you suppose you are teasing or pleasing me by this
arrangement, Rosa—is it to satisfy me or yourself?"

"Oh, don't ask troublesome questions; I hate investigations as to
meanings and motives—all I want is to be left alone, and not asked to
ride or walk when I had rather lie on a sofa in quiet."

"Shall I leave you now then, my dear little wife?" enquired he
smilingly, and offering to go as he spoke. "I have a letter to write
now, and you can stay here in solitude."

He returned to the Castle, she remained musing where he left her, and
thus it happened that when Emma was announced, she found the young
baronet alone in their morning sitting-room. He laid down his pen and
advanced to meet her with great cordiality, desiring a message to be
sent to summon his lady.

After expressing the pleasure it gave him to see her again, he observed:

"Who would have thought, Miss Watson, when we last met, that I should be
receiving you in this castle; did you prognosticate such an event?"

"Not precisely," replied Emma, "so far as concerned myself; but as
relating to Miss Osborne—I mean Lady Gordon—any one must have foreseen
it."

"I assure you, when such things are foreseen, Miss Watson, it most
frequently happens that they never come to pass. I have repeatedly seen
instances of this kind." He spoke with an arch smile, and a faint idea
passed through her mind that she was in his thoughts at the moment; an
idea which might, perhaps, have embarrassed her more had it not been
swallowed up—annihilated entirely by a more powerful sensation, as the
door opened and Lady Gordon entered with Mr. Howard.

It was fortunate that the enquiries of the former—her expressions of
pleasure, and her caresses, were an excuse for Emma's not immediately
turning to the gentleman—had they been obliged to speak at once, it is
probable their dialogue would have been peculiar—interesting but
unconnected—as the man said of Johnson's dictionary. As it was, they
both had time to collect their thoughts—and when they did turn, were
able to go through their interview with tolerable calmness; but Emma had
the advantage—as ladies frequently have where circumstances require a
ready tact and presence of mind. Indeed, they did not start on fair
ground—since she had only one set of sensations to contend with and
conceal—he had more—for, besides the emotion which the sight of her
occasioned him, he had the double evil of being convinced it was
contrary to the requisitions of honour, to feel any extraordinary
pleasure in her company. Had not Lord Osborne made him his confidant
relative to his attachment, or had Howard boldly owned to his lordship
at the time, that he entertained similar views, all would have been
right, and he might openly have expressed the interest which he now was
compelled carefully to smother. His address was cold and formal—the very
contrast to his feelings—and extremely ill done likewise; Emma, chilled
by the reception so different to what she had ventured to expect, began
to fear her own manners had been too openly indicative of pleasure at
the sight of him; and determined to correct this error she almost
immediately followed Lady Gordon, who had sauntered towards the
conservatory.

"Come here," said the young hostess, linking her arm in Emma's, "let us
leave the gentlemen to discuss the parish politics together. Mr. Howard
came on business, and Sir William dearly loves meddling with it. Now,
you must tell me all the news of Croydon. Have you no scandal to enliven
me?—with whom has the lawyer quarrelled? or to whom has the apothecary
been making love."

Emma colored and laughed a little. Lady Gordon smilingly watched her.

"To you, I suppose, by your blushes, Miss Watson; well, that gives me a
higher idea of _his_ taste, than I have been accustomed to form of
country-town doctors. How many lovers have you to boast of? Beginning
with Lord Osborne, and ending with this nameless son of Esculapius?—tell
me all.

"Indeed, I have no such honors to boast," replied Emma, "no one has
sought me, and probably no one ever will:" this was followed by a little
sigh.

"Nay, do not be so desponding—a little chill is nothing," cried Lady
Gordon, "but I am not going to pry into your secrets. This conservatory
has given us enough of trouble in that way already. By the way, you
will, of course, like to go over and call on your sister, Mrs.
Musgrove—when will it suit you?"

"To-morrow, if you please," replied Emma, gratefully; Lady Gordon
promised that the means of conveyance should be at her service, and they
proceeded to discuss other topics.

She insisted on detaining Mr. Howard to spend the afternoon and to dine
with them—pleading, as a reason, the absence of his sister, who was away
on a visit; and when this point was carried and settled, she led them
out into the flower garden again, and loitered away the rest of the
intervening time, amidst the perfume of summer flowers, and the
flickering lights and shadows of the alcoves, and their gay creeping
plants. It was the day and place for love making; who could resist the
fascinating influence of sweet scents, sunshine, murmuring fountains and
soft summer airs? Not Mr. Howard, certainly! Gradually his frozen manner
melted away—his purposes of reserve were forgotten, and he became once
more the Mr. Howard of Emma's first acquaintance, pleasant and
gay—sensible and agreeable.

Lady Gordon left them several times together, whilst she occupied
herself with her flowers or her tame pheasants; and each successive time
of her absence, there was less check and constraint in his manner; and
when, at last, she totally disappeared, and they were left without other
witnesses in that delightful spot, than the silent trees, or the
trickling waters, his reserve had disappeared altogether, and she could
converse with him as in former times.

"Have you enjoyed your visit at Croydon, Miss Watson," enquired he,
presently.

She looked surprised at the question.

"Enjoyed it," she repeated—then, after a momentary hesitation added, "I
wonder you can apply such a term to circumstances connected with so much
that is—that must be most painful."

He was exceedingly vexed with himself for the question, and attempted to
make some excuse for the inadvertence.

"It is unnecessary." she replied, with a something almost of bitterness
in her tone, "I had no right to expect that the memory of our misfortune
would remain, when we ourselves were removed from sight. _I_ ought
rather to apologise for answering your question so uncivilly."

"No, no, indeed," cried he eagerly, "I cannot admit that—but indeed,
Miss Watson, you do me injustice, and the same to all your former
friends in that last speech. We cannot cease to regret the
misfortune—the Providential dispensation, which in removing your
excellent father from among us, robbed us likewise of you and your
sisters."

"My dear father," said Emma involuntarily, her eyes filling with
tears—she turned away her head.

"It was of course a terrible wound to you," said he softly, and stepping
up quite close to her, "but not one which you need despair of time's
healing; _your_ good sense, _your_ principles must assist you to view
the occurrence in its true light. It must not sadden your whole life, or
rob you of all pleasure."

"True—but there are other sorrows connected with it—" she stopped
abruptly, then went on again, "however I have no right to complain. I
have still _some_ friends left—my loss of fortune has not entailed the
loss of _all_ those whom I reckoned amongst my friends; though an event
of that kind is a good touch-stone for new and untried friendships."

"Can you imagine," cried he eagerly, "that such a circumstance can make
the shadow of a difference to any one worth knowing. It is, I own, too,
too common—but surely _you_ have not met with such instances."

She shook her head and looked half reproachfully at him: in her own
heart, she had felt inclined to charge him with this feeling.

"I should have thought," continued he warmly, "you would have said—at
least you would have found it like the words of the old song, that—

     "Friends in all the old you meet,
      And brothers in the young."

"I believe it is not usual," replied she trying to speak playfully, "to
attach much value to an old song—we may consider that as a poetical
fiction."

He looked very earnestly at her and said:

"You fancy friends have deserted you, owing to a change in your
prospects—do not—allow me to advise you—do not give way to such
feelings—they will not make you happy."

"They do not make me _un_happy, I assure you," said she with spirit;
"the value I place on such fluctuating friendships is low indeed."

"In one single instance, perhaps, it may be so—but you had better not
dwell on such ideas; they will create eventually a habit of mind which
must tend to produce secret irritation and uneasiness. The allowing
yourself to think it—much more expressing that thought _can_ do you no
good, and each repetition deepens the impression!"

He spoke so gently, with such a low, earnest tone, she could not resist
or for a moment longer indulge her half-formed suspicions relative to
him and his sister. Whether he had guessed her feelings she could not
tell; his eyes were fixed on her with too much of interest to allow her
to attempt reading the whole of their meaning. She never liked him so
well as when thus, and with justice, reproving her.

"I dare say you are right," said she meekly, "I will try to repress such
feelings—indeed I am ashamed I ever gave them utterance—and here too,
where I have been so very kindly welcomed!"

"And I am to imagine then," continued he, "that Croydon offers few
attractions to you—a country town is not usually agreeable except to
those who love gossip, of which I do not suspect you; but you must have
found some compensations."

"It was a great pleasure to look forward to Elizabeth being so
comfortably settled," replied Emma, "I like my future brother very much,
and am pleased with his family. I have no doubt of _her_ happiness—and
the style of life will not be irksome to her—but I love the country, and
country pursuits, and was right glad to exchange the noisy streets of
Croydon for the delightful groves of Burton—its meadows and
green-lanes."

"You have not then been the whole time at Croydon?"

She explained—he had certainly been in a state of complete darkness as
to her movements lately; and she really felt a momentary mortification
that he should have been contented to remain in such profound ignorance.
Yet she also rejoiced that he had never heard anything relative to the
course of events which had occasioned her so much pain at Croydon, and
driven her from the place. He knew nothing of Mr. Morgan.

How much longer they would have been content to loiter in that pleasant
flower-garden cannot now be known, but they were only induced to leave
it by the sound of the gong, which summoned them to the Castle to
prepare for dinner. The hour which they had thus enjoyed had been one of
the pleasantest to Emma which she could recollect, and the witchery of
it to Howard himself would have been quite unrivalled, had his
conscience been easy on reflection, with regard to Lord Osborne's plans
and hopes. He tormented himself with the idea that it was unjust to his
friend to take advantage of his absence; yet a flattering hope dwelt in
his heart, that _she_ had shown no reluctance to the interview; nay, if
his wishes did not deceive and mislead him, there was a glance in her
averted eye, and a rich mantling of colour over her cheek once or twice,
which spoke anything but aversion.

And if so—if he really had been so fortunate as to inspire her with a
partiality so delightful, was he not privileged—more than
privileged—bound in honour to her to prove himself deserving of such
feelings, and capable of appreciating them. This conviction gave him a
degree of confidence and animation quite different from the manners he
had exhibited when they had previously met at Osborne Castle, and Emma
found him as pleasant as in the earlier stage of their acquaintance.

"Are you still partial to early walks, Miss Watson," enquired Sir
William in the course of the evening, "or is it only in frosty winter
mornings that you indulge in such a recreation."

"Ah, I had a very pleasant ramble that morning," said Emma, "at least
till the rain came and spoilt it all."

"A very mortifying way of concluding," said Sir William, laughing, "for
I came with the rain. I wish you had not put in that reservation."

"I am not so ungrateful as to include you and the rain in the same
condemnation," replied she, "you were of great assistance in my
distresses."

"But if you wish to indulge in the same amusement now, you will have
abundance of time, as Lady Gordon is by no means so precipitate in her
habits of rising and performing her morning toilette, as to compel her
guests to abridge their walks before breakfast. Perhaps as a compliment
to you, and by making very great speed she may contrive to complete her
labours in that way by ten or eleven o'clock."

"Well, I do not pretend to deny it," said Lady Gordon, "I am excessively
indolent, and dearly love the pleasure of doing nothing. But Sir William
is always anxious to make me out much worse than I am."

"But you have not answered my question as to your intentions for
to-morrow, Miss Watson, and I have a great wish to know whether you are
proposing an excursion; because I think it would be much more agreeable
if we can contrive to walk together, and if I know at what time you
intend to start, I will take care to be in the way."

"Is he serious, Lady Gordon?" enquired Emma.

"It is a most uncommon event if he is so, I assure you," replied the
young wife, "and, indeed, I would not take upon myself to assert such a
thing of him at any time—"

"Do not believe all the scandal my lady there will say of me," returned
Sir William, "but just say at once that you will walk to-morrow morning,
and that you will be particularly happy if I and Mr. Howard will join
you."

Emma blushed deeply, and hardly knew what to answer, but Lady Gordon
saved her the trouble of replying, by exclaiming at the presumption and
self-conceit of her husband, declaring that he had completely reversed
the proper order of things, and that he deserved a decided negative from
Emma, for having expected her to profess such extraordinary satisfaction
at his company.

Emma made believe to consider the proposal entirely as a joke, but
somehow, without knowing exactly how, it was settled that the proposed
excursion should take place, and that Mr. Howard was to meet them at a
particular spot, from whence they were to ascend the hill behind the
Castle to enjoy the prospect bathed in a morning's sunshine. Lady Gordon
privately gave her husband many injunctions not to interfere with the
lovers, and whilst keeping near enough to take away all appearance of
impropriety, to be sure and give them plenty of time for quiet
intercourse. In return for her consideration, he only laughed at her,
and accused her of a great inclination to intrigue, assuring her she had
much better leave such affairs to take their chance.

The walk, however, took place as was planned, and was exceedingly
enjoyed by all three, though Mr. Howard did not take that occasion of
declaring his passion: indeed he would have had some difficulty in
finding an opportunity, as Sir William did not follow Lady Gordon's
suggestions of leaving them together.

Mindful of her promise, Lady Gordon sent her guest over the next morning
to pay her first visit to Mrs. Tom Musgrove. It was with rather a
feeling of doubt and hesitation that Emma ventured to her sister's
house; anxious as she was to see her and judge for herself, and curious
to observe the manners which Tom Musgrove adopted as a married man, she
could not help some internal misgivings as to the result of her
investigations.

She had never seen the house before, and though she had been previously
warned of the fact that it had no beauty to recommend it, she was not
exactly prepared for the bare, unsheltered situation, and the extreme
unsightliness of the building itself. Tom had always spent too much
money on his horses and their habitation, to have any to spare for
beautifying his house during the days of his bachelorship and he was far
too angry at the constraint put upon him in his marriage, to feel any
inclination to exert himself for the reception of his bride. She had
therefore no additions for her accommodation, no gay flower-garden, not
even any new furniture to boast of, and her glory must consist alone in
the fact of her new name, and her security from living and dying an old
maid.

Most people would have thought that security dearly purchased, but if
such were Margaret's thoughts, she had not as yet given utterance to
them.

Emma found her lying on a sofa, and in spite of her very gay dress, and
an extremely becoming cap, evidently out of spirits and cross, yet
wanting to excite her sister's envy of her situation.

"Well, Emma," said she, sharply, "I am glad you have come over to see
me, though I must say I think your friend, Lady Gordon, since she is
such a great friend of yours, might have paid me the compliment of
calling with you."

"She thought it would be pleasanter if we met first without her," said
Emma, cheerfully, "but she desired me to express the pleasure it would
give her to see you and Mr. Musgrove at Osborne Castle any day you would
name!"

Somewhat mollified by this unexpected attention, Margaret smiled
slightly, then again relapsing into her usual pettish air, she observed,

"I think you might say something about the house and drawing-room—what
do you think of it?"

Emma was exceedingly puzzled what to answer, as it was difficult for her
to combine sincerity with anything agreeable; but after looking round
for a minute she was able to observe that the room was of a pretty
shape, and had a pleasant aspect.

"It wants new furnishing sadly," continued Margaret, pleased with her
sister's praise; "but Tom is so stingy of money, I am sure I do not know
when I am to do it. Would not pale blue damask satin curtains look
lovely here—with a gold fringe or something of the sort?"

"Rather expensive, I should suppose," replied Emma; "and perhaps
something plainer would be more in character with the rest of the house
and furniture."

"I don't see that at all," retorted Margaret; "do you suppose I do not
know how to furnish a house—of course I should have everything to
correspond. I have a little common sense, I believe, whatever some
people may choose to think of it. At home indeed I was always considered
as nothing, but as a married woman I am of some importance, I believe!"

"It was not your taste that I doubted," replied Emma, and then stopped,
afraid lest she should only make bad worse by anything she might venture
to say.

"I should like to know what you _did_ doubt then," said Margaret
scornfully. "Perhaps you thought we could not afford it; but there I
assure you you are quite mistaken—Tom's is a very ample income, and he
can as well afford me luxuries as Sir William Gordon himself."

"I am very glad to hear it," replied Emma composedly.

Margaret thought a little, and then enquired how Elizabeth was going on.

Emma's account was very satisfactory, or at least would have been so to
any one really concerned in Miss Watson's welfare; but Margaret would
probably have felt better pleased had there been some drawback or
disadvantage to relate concerning her; being not altogether so well
satisfied with her own lot, as to make her quite equal to bearing the
prosperity of her sister.

"And so she is really going to marry that man, in spite of his brewery;
well, I wish she had more pride—proper pride; I must say I think a
clergyman's daughter might have looked higher—and she should consider
_my_ feelings a little. I should have been ashamed to marry any one not
a gentleman by birth and situation!"

"We have not all the same feelings," replied Emma willing to propitiate;
"and I do not wonder at her liking Mr. Millar, he is so excellent a
man."

"You think so, I dare say," said Margaret scornfully; "but a girl like
you has seen far too little of the world to be any judge of what men are
or ought to be. There is nothing so deceptive as their manners in
company—_I_, who must be allowed to have more power of judging, and
indeed in every respect to be your superior, never saw anything
remarkable in Mr. Millar: a certain coarseness and grossness—a something
which irresistibly reminded one of a cask of double X, was much his most
distinguishing characteristic."

"I never observed it, and indeed Margaret I think you do him injustice,"
said Emma with spirit; "I am sure he has nothing coarse about him,
either in mind or person."

"I think it is very unbecoming in you to set up your opinion in
opposition to me. I have had far more experience, and my position as a
matron places me in a much more competent situation for judging of men
and manners."

Emma did not again attempt to contradict her, and Margaret, pleased with
her supposed victory, enquired with some good nature and more vanity, if
her sister would like to see her jewel-box. Emma, aware that she wished
to exhibit it, good-naturedly expressed pleasure at the proposal, and
was in consequence immediately desired to ring the bell to summon her
maid to fetch it.

With much self-complacency, and a considerable wish to make her sister
envious, all the new trinkets were exhibited by the happy possessor, and
amongst many which owed all their value to being perfectly modern and
just in fashion, were some few ornaments which would have been valued
anywhere for their intrinsic worth, although antique in their setting,
and differing decidedly from the style of ornament then in vogue.

"Those belonged to Tom's mother," observed Margaret, rather
contemptuously pushing aside the trinkets in question; "I believe the
stones are rather good, and if they were only new set, I should like
them very well, but they are monstrous old things now, set as they have
been."

Before Emma had time to reply or to express any opinion at all on the
subject of the trinkets, the door was violently thrown open, and with a
sound which indicated that he was luxuriating in very easy slippers, Tom
Musgrove entered the room.

"I say Margery, girl," he began in a loud voice, but stopped on seeing
his sister-in-law. "Hey, Emma Watson! why I did not know you were here!
By Jove! I am glad to see you."

He advanced towards her, and not satisfied with taking the hand which
she extended to him, he saluted her on the cheek with considerable
warmth, and detaining her hand, he stared her in the face with a look of
admiration which was quite offensive to her.

"Upon my word, Emma, you are looking more lovely than ever, blooming and
fresh. I need not ask _how_ you are—those bright eyes and roses speak
volumes. I am glad to see you, indeed I am."

"Thank you," said Emma, turning away her head and struggling to release
the hand which he retained with a most decided grasp; "I am glad to see
you and Margaret looking so well."

"Oh! Margery there—yes, I dare say, she is well enough—but, as for me, I
am sure it must be something miraculous, if I am any thing remarkable in
that way"—he glanced at his wife and shrugged his shoulders with an air
that excited disgust, not pity, in Emma.

"And so you are come to enliven us, Emma,—that's monstrous good of you,
'pon my honor. I hope you are going to stay here some time."

"You are very kind," replied she, "but I am staying with Lady Gordon,
and only came over here for a short visit to Margaret."

"So there, you see," cried Mrs. Musgrove, "_my_ relations are as much
noticed at the castle as you are; so you need not plume yourself so much
on that head, Tom!"

"I do not wonder that Sir William likes to have a pretty girl to stay
with him," replied Tom, again staring at Emma, who coloured highly with
indignation at his impertinence. "Ah! ha! how you blush," added he,
coming close to her and attempting to pinch her cheek, which she,
however, avoided. "Why, how monstrous coy you are," exclaimed he, "what!
are you afraid of me?—fie, fie—you are my sister, and should have no
naughty ideas in your head."

"I will trouble you, Tom, to leave my sister alone; I do not approve of
your taking personal liberties with her; be so good as to treat her with
the respect which is due to a relative of mine," exclaimed Margaret,
half rising from her sofa to speak with greater energy.

"Ha! ha! so you are jealous Margery," said Tom, throwing himself on a
seat beside Emma, and rolling about with laughter, "that's a good joke
'pon my soul—a capital joke, indeed—to be sure, considering all
things—it's natural enough; but really, I cannot help laughing at
it—indeed, I cannot, though I beg your pardon, Emma, for doing so."

Emma looked most immoveably grave, and would not give him the smallest
encouragement in his hilarity, whilst Margaret muttered quite audibly:

"What a fool you do make of yourself, to be sure."

"So you are exhibiting your necklace box again," observed he,
sarcastically, as he caught a glimpse of the case beside her. "Upon my
honor, I do not believe there is another woman so vain of her trinkets
between this and Berwick—you are always shewing them to every body."

"Well, and what if I am? I suppose I may if I like—it does nobody any
harm that ever I heard of," retorted Margaret, quite angry. "I see no
more wonder in a woman's shewing her jewels, than in a man exhibiting
his horses, dogs, and guns. I have known instances of that peculiarity
in some of my acquaintances, quite as well deserving of ridicule, as my
sister's wishing to see my ornaments could be."

"I dare say, the horses and the dogs were much better worth looking at
than your trumpery;" replied he, "why, the only things in your
assortment worth any thing, are the topaz set which belonged to my
mother; all the rest is mere rubbish."

"What those frightful old things! upon my honor, Tom, I am ashamed of
wearing such monstrous, heavy, old-fashioned articles—but having once
belonged to your mother, of course they must be wonderfully precious."

Emma here interposed to deliver Lady Gordon's message, and to request
them to name a day for accepting it. A debate ensued as to the most
convenient day on which to fix, which presently branched off into a
violent dispute as to whether the invitation in question was intended as
a compliment to Tom or his wife; each maintaining the opinion, that the
honour of the invitation was all due to themselves.

At length, however, Emma contrived to persuade them to settle the point
in question; and two days from that time, was fixed on for the dinner
visit, and soon after this point was arranged, Emma took her leave.

Much as she was grieved by what she had witnessed, she could not be
surprised at it, when she considered the circumstances under which the
union had been formed. Tom was reckless and unkind; Margaret peevish and
fretful, without energy of character to make the best of her situation,
or strength of mind to bear with patience the evils in which she had
involved herself. No doubt, if Tom had loved her, she would have been
fond of him, and any sensation beyond her own selfish feelings, would
have done her good; but forced into the marriage against his will, love,
or any thing resembling it, was not to be expected from him; in
consequence, her own partiality could not survive his indifference; and
there was a mutual spirit of ill-will cultivated between them, which
boded ill for their future peace.

Emma reflected on all this as she drove home, from her very
unsatisfactory visit, and was only roused from these unpleasant
considerations, by finding the carriage stopped suddenly soon after
entering the park. On looking up, she perceived Sir William and Lady
Gordon, who enquired if she would like a stroll before dinner, instead
of returning at once to the castle. She assented with pleasure, and
quitting the carriage, they took a pleasant path through a plantation,
the thick shade of which made walking agreeable even in the afternoon of
a June day.

"Suppose we go and invade Mr. Howard," said Lady Gordon, "this path
leads down to the vicarage—let us see what sort of a housekeeper he
makes, without his sister to manage for him!"

"Always running after Mr. Howard, Rosa," said Sir William. "Upon my
word, I shall be jealous soon: yesterday flirting in the
flower-garden—to-day visiting at the vicarage; if things go on in this
way, I will take you away from Osborne Castle very soon."

"Yes, _you_ have reason to be jealous, have you not? when men leave off
pleasing their wives themselves, they always dislike that any one else
should do it for them"—replied Lady Gordon smiling saucily. "You know
you are always thwarting me yourself, and naturally wish to keep me from
more agreeable society, lest I should draw disadvantageous comparisons."

"But the comparisons are not fairly drawn under such circumstances,"
suggested Emma, "for Mr. Howard's way of treating Lady Gordon can be no
rule for his probable way of tyrannising over some future Mrs. Howard."

"Of course not," replied Sir William, "but I observe, Miss Watson, you
take it for granted that he _will_ tyrannise over a wife when he has
one; is that your opinion of men in general, or only of Mr. Howard in
particular?"

"Of men in general, no doubt," interposed Lady Gordon: "Miss Watson has
lived too long in the world not already to have discovered the obvious
truth, that all men are tyrants when they have the opportunity, the only
difference being, that some are hypocrites likewise, and conceal their
disposition until their victim is in their power, whilst others, like
yourself William, make no secret of it at all."

"I am glad you acquit me of hypocrisy at least, Rosa; it has always been
my wish to be distinguished for sincerity and openness, I never indulged
in intrigues or meddled in manœuvres, or sought for stratagems to carry
out my wishes."

He accompanied this speech with a peculiar smile which made his lady
colour slightly, as she well knew to what he alluded; she did not reply,
and they walked on some time in silence.

At length Emma observed that it was a remarkably pretty walk which they
were pursuing. Lady Gordon told her that they were indebted for the idea
and plan of it to Mr. Howard; he had superintended the execution of some
other improvements which Lady Osborne had effected, but this one had
originated entirely with him. It was the pleasantest road from the
vicarage to the village, and was so well made and drained as to be
almost always dry although so much sheltered. The idea that he had
planned it, did not at all diminish the interest with which Emma
regarded the road they were discussing; and her eyes sought the glimpses
of distant landscape seen between the trees, with pleasure materially
heightened by the recollection that it was to his taste she was indebted
for the gratification.

This sort of secret satisfaction was brought suddenly to a close, by
finding herself quite unexpectedly at a little wicket gate opening upon
his garden. She had not been aware the house was so near; but the
nature, not the source of her pleasure, was changed; it still was
connected with him, and the beauty of his garden quite enchanted her.
When she had previously seen it in the winter, she had felt certain it
must be charming, but now it proved to surpass every expectation she had
formed; and she was internally convinced that a love of gardening, and a
taste for the beauties of nature, were sure signs of an amiable and
domestic disposition in a man, which promised fair for the happiness of
those connected with him.

They found him hard at work constructing some new trellis work for the
luxuriant creepers which adorned his entrance; his coat off, and his
arms partly bare for the greater convenience of his labours.

"We have taken you by storm, to-day," said Lady Gordon, smilingly
holding out her hand to him, "I like to see your zeal for your house."

"Really," said he, holding up his hand, "these fingers of mine are not
at all fit to touch a lady's glove; when we assume the occupation of
carpenters, we ought to expect to be treated accordingly."

"And when we intrude on you at such irregular hours, we ought to be
thankful for any welcome we can get," replied Lady Gordon.

"Indeed, I take it most kind and friendly of you to come," answered he,
his eyes directed with unequivocal satisfaction towards Emma. "My garden
is better worth seeing _now_, than when you were last here," added he,
approaching her.

"It is lovely," replied Emma, honestly speaking her mind, "what
beautiful roses. I do not think I ever saw such a display of blossoms."

"I am glad _you_ admire it," said he, in a low voice, "though, after the
conservatories and flower gardens of the castle, I am afraid it must
look rather poor."

"I would not make unjust comparisons," replied Emma, "but I think you
need not dread it if I were inclined to do so. It is not grandeur or
extent which always carries the greatest charm."

"And would you apply that sentiment to _more_ than a garden?" asked he,
very earnestly, fixing on her eyes which unmistakeably declared his
anxiety to hear her answer.

He was not, however, destined to be so speedily gratified as he had
hoped; for, quite unconscious that he was interrupting any peculiarly
interesting conversation, Sir William turned round to enquire the name
of some new shrub that struck his eye at the moment.

Recollecting himself after replying to the baronet's question, he
invited them to enter the house to rest; but this Lady Gordon declined,
declaring that she preferred a swelling bank of turf, under a tree, to
any sofa that ever was constructed. The ladies therefore sat down here,
and begging to be excused for one minute, Mr. Howard disappeared, going,
as Sir William guessed, to wash his hands and put on a coat, that he
might look smart and fit for company. Lady Gordon laughed at the idea of
a clergyman making himself smart, or of Mr. Howard treating her as
company; but Sir William was proved to be partly right, since it was
evident on his return that he had been employing part of his absence in
the way that had been suggested; but to dress himself had not been his
sole object, for he re-appeared with a basket of magnificent
strawberries in his hand, which on a warm afternoon in summer had a
peculiarly inviting appearance.

Lady Gordon accepted them eagerly, declaring that she knew his
strawberries were always far better than any the Castle gardens ever
produced. As to Emma, she was certain she never tasted any so excellent
in her life, nor was she ever before pressed to eat with so winning a
smile or so persuasive a tone of voice.

"I wonder you take so much pains to beautify this place, when you are
almost certain of being soon removed from it," said Lady Gordon.

"The occupation is in itself a pleasure," replied he, "which more than
repays me for the exertion, and after your brother's liberality in
making the house and garden as comfortable as possible, it would be very
bad if I could not do my share in keeping it so, even if I am not to
remain as possessor; but I by no means anticipate a change with the
certainty which you seem to do."

"I have no doubt in the least that the moment Carsdeane is vacant, my
brother will offer you the living, and as the rector is very old and
infirm it seems hardly possible that it can be long first."

Mr. Howard was silent for a few minutes, and when he spoke, it was on
another subject; but not with the gaiety with which he had before
conversed; in fact, he was secretly meditating on the extreme
desirableness of quitting his present vicarage, if ever Lady Osborne
came to reside again in the neighbourhood. Nothing could be much more
unpleasant than a meeting between them, and he longed to learn from her
daughter whether there was any chance of such a catastrophe; but as yet
he had not found courage to enquire, fearing her penetration might have
led her to guess the past events, or her mother's indiscretion might
have made her acquainted with them.

"Mr. Howard," said Lady Gordon soon afterwards, "you are under an
engagement to Miss Watson, to give her another lecture on the paintings
in the Castle gallery."

"I remember hoping for that pleasure," said he; "but I could hardly have
flattered myself that Miss Watson would remember it for such a length of
time."

"Indeed I do though," replied Emma; "I have a very good memory for
promises which are likely to afford me pleasure, and if I did not fear
encroaching too much on your time and patience, should certainly claim
that one."

"And I assure you I have no wish to shrink from my promise; but any time
you will name I will be at your service," said he with a look of lively
pleasure, "excepting to-morrow, when I am particularly engaged."

"There is no desperate hurry, I dare say," interposed Sir William; "you
can postpone your engagement without material inconvenience, I should
think, for a day or two, after waiting nearly six months."

"Oh yes, Miss Watson is come to pay us a long visit," added Lady Gordon;
"so you may easily settle on the day and hour at some future meeting."

"Any time will do for me," said Emma quietly.

"And are you really going out for the whole day to-morrow?" enquired
Lady Gordon.

He assented.

"Then we will come down and rifle his strawberry-beds—shall we not Miss
Watson?" continued she.

"I protest that will be most unfair," exclaimed he; "since I give you
willingly all I have, and only request, in return, the pleasure of your
society."

"That is so pretty a speech I can do no less than say in reply, that we
shall be most happy whenever Mr. Howard will indulge us with the honour
of his company: come whenever you can—the day after to-morrow Mr. and
Mrs. Musgrove dine with us, will you meet them?"

He accepted with pleasure, though perhaps he would have preferred their
absence to their company.

After loitering away a couple of hours on his lawn, Lady Gordon rose to
take her leave, and even then she pressed him so earnestly to accompany
them up the hill, to assist Miss Watson, who she was certain was
fatigued by her long walk, that he could not have refused had it been an
unpleasant task she was imposing on him, instead of the thing which he
liked best in the world, and was really wishing to do.

The encouragement which he received from Lady Osborne herself was so
obvious, that had his suit depended only on her, he would have felt
neither fear nor hesitation as to the result; but as the wishes and
tastes of another person were to be consulted, and there seemed far more
doubt as to the direction which those took, he still debated whether or
not he should venture to put his influence to the proof, and rest all
his hopes on a single effort.

He accompanied them home, but Emma denied that she was tired, and would
not accept the assistance of his arm, because she misinterpreted the
hesitation with which it was offered, fancying it was done unwillingly,
and solely in compliance with her friend's directions. This discouraged
him; he did not recover from the disappointment, and in consequence
would not enter the Castle, but persisted in returning to spend a
solitary evening at the vicarage. There Emma's smile and Emma's voice
perpetually recurred to his fancy, and he occupied himself, whilst
finishing the work which they had interrupted, in recalling every word
which she had said, and the exact look which had accompanied each
speech.



                              CHAPTER VII.


The next morning at breakfast, one letter amongst many which Lady Gordon
received, appeared to excite considerable surprise, and some other
sensation nearly allied to discontent. She read it over, and then threw
it down before her husband, with an exclamation:

"Only see there!"

"Why, what is it that clouds your brow so, Rosa?" replied he, looking at
the letter without touching it, or interrupting himself in the process
of dissecting a cold fowl.

"Just look at that letter;" said she, "have you no curiosity?" she
added, seeing he did not take it up.

"Oh yes, a great deal of curiosity—but no time to spare, and I know that
if I wait a little, you will tell me all without the trouble of looking
at it."

"Provoking man," said Lady Gordon, "I declare I will not tell you a
word, as a punishment for such incorrigible laziness and impertinence."

"I see by the address it is from your brother, my love," replied the
husband, glancing again at the letter, "what does he say to provoke you,
and put you so out of temper?"

"I will not tell you a word. I assure you."

"Is he going to be married?"

"Look in the letter and you will have no occasion to ask me."

"Miss Watson, suppose you were to take it, and oblige me by reading it
out; you have done your breakfast, and I am still busy with mine."

"No, indeed, I quite agree with Lady Gordon in thinking it very indolent
not to read it for yourself, and shall certainly not countenance it at
all."

"I see you are in a conspiracy against me, and that is very unfair when
there are two ladies to one man," replied he laughing.

"I am just going to make you even as to numbers at least," returned
Emma, "for I am about to leave the room."

She did so, and Sir William immediately taking up the letter, read it
through quietly and returned it to his wife.

"Well," said she, "what do you think of that?"

"First, that it is rather extraordinary your brother's proposal of a
visit should cause you such annoyance; and secondly, that you should
think it necessary to make this visit a secret."

"You are always more struck with my feelings than anything else: I
believe if the Castle were to tumble on us, you would be only occupied
in observing how I bore it."

"That is only because you are the most interesting object in the world
to me: surely you would not quarrel with me for that, Rosa?"

She looked evidently gratified, yet still pretended to pout a little,
then enquired:

"But why would you not look at the letter when I asked you?"

"Because _I_ always feel myself _de trop_ when _I_ form the third, where
the other two have letters for mutual inspection: if you wish me to read
your letters, and do not choose to make Miss Watson acquainted with
their contents, pray wait another time till she is out of the room. You
see you have driven her away now."

"I certainly wished to talk to you about this, I am so annoyed at
Osborne's coming now!"

"And I cannot imagine why!"

"Because I believe it to be only for the sake of Emma Watson, that he
has so suddenly resolved to come down here."

"And you I suppose, Rosa, wish it to be for your own sake instead?"

"Nonsense; how can you suppose anything of the sort?"

"Then what am I to understand is the cause of your discontent, Rosa?"
enquired her husband, looking rather surprised.

"I do not wish him to care for Emma in that sort of way at all. She is a
very nice girl, and I should like to have her for a friend always, but I
do not desire her for a sister; she is not Osborne's equal, and I should
regret the connection."

"So should I, I confess, not for your brother's sake, but hers. He could
hardly do a better thing for himself; she is his superior in everything
but worldly position, and were there the least chance of his persuading
her to accept him, I should think him a very lucky fellow. But I do not
think there is; and therefore you need not be alarmed for him, nor I for
her."

"And why should you be concerned for her at such a prospect—it would be
a very good marriage for her," said Lady Gordon.

"I do not think unequal connexions desirable at all—and were she _your_
brother's wife, she would be too far removed from the man who is to be
her eldest sister's husband. If I understand rightly, the other is to
marry a wealthy brewer at Croydon—a very good match for her, but not a
desirable connection for Osborne; Emma would either grow ashamed of her
own family and their station, or she would be pained by being obliged to
neglect them in some degree. But she will never accept Osborne!"

"I cannot wish the temptation thrown in her way—I should be by no means
sure of the result," said Lady Gordon.

"You cannot prevent it however," replied Sir William, "if Osborne has
any such thoughts in his head—he is his own master, and cannot be kept
away from her. The mischief is of your own doing too—for you had her
here in the winter—and, if I recollect rightly, encouraged the
acquaintance."

"That was entirely for Mr. Howard's sake," said she, "It never occurred
to me that Osborne would notice her."

"I cannot see why you should have intermeddled between them at all," was
his reply. "Mr. Howard would have gone on very well alone."

Lady Gordon did not choose to mention her principal motive, so she only
replied—

"Well, it is too late for such reflections now to be of any use, so tell
me what I had better do, and I will try and obey you."

"Do nothing at all then, love; depend upon it, any opposition will only
make your brother more decidedly bent on his own way, which you have no
means of preventing him from following. Let him come, and trust to the
evident partiality of your friend, Howard, as the safeguard of your
brother."

Lady Gordon had speedily the opportunity of exercising the forbearance
which her husband advised; as, punctual to his promise, her brother
arrived that afternoon. The two young ladies were sitting together when
he walked into the room; and she bore, with as much composure as she
could, the evident warmth and eagerness with which he paid his
compliments to Emma. He seated himself by her side, and after looking
intently at her for a minute in the way for which he had been formerly
remarkable, exclaimed with great energy:

"Upon my honour, Miss Watson, for all it's so very long since we met,
you are looking uncommonly well and blooming!"

Emma felt excessively tempted to ask him whether he had expected she
would have pined at his absence, or grown old in the last six months.
She did not, however, because she thought he would not understand her,
as he had never appeared at all ready to comprehend a jest.

"Croydon must have agreed famously with you," he continued, "I was there
once, and had a great inclination to ride over and pay you a visit at
Burton; but not knowing the people you were with I felt awkward, and did
not like to do it; it is such a horrid thing going entirely amongst
strangers."

"I am much honoured by your lordship thinking of me at all; but I should
say you were quite right in not coming there; we should have been
overpowered by the sudden apparition of a man of your rank."

"I dare say _you_ created a great sensation in Croydon, did you not?"

"Not that I am aware of, my lord; I never wished to be conspicuous, and
I trust, I did not do any thing whilst there, to excite observation
amongst my acquaintance."

"You must have done one thing, which you could not help, at any time,"
replied he, in a very low voice, as if ashamed of himself. "You must
have looked pretty; they must all have noticed that."

Emma met Lady Gordon's eyes fixed on her at this moment with an
expression which it was impossible to misunderstand; it spoke so plainly
of anxiety and mistrust. It did no good, however, for it only made her
uncomfortable, and was totally unnoticed by him. He never was an adept
at understanding looks—and, at this moment, all his senses were
engrossed by his attention to Emma.

Not knowing precisely what to say next, he began to admire her work, a
constant resource with young men who are anxious to talk, and rather
barren of subjects; but this did not endure very long, and when he could
find nothing more to say on this topic, he suddenly started a brilliant
idea by enquiring if the ladies did not intend to go out. Emma appealed
to Lady Gordon, who declared at first, she was too lazy to stir; but her
brother pressed his proposition so very warmly, alternately suggesting
riding, driving, or walking, that at last she yielded the point, and
consented to allow him to drive them out.

Then followed a long discussion as to the vehicle to be chosen, which
terminated in favour of an Irish car—a very favorite mode of conveyance
of Lady Gordon's, and one which was by no means disagreeable to him, as
he would be quite able to talk to Emma as much as he felt inclined.

The drive which they proposed to take was a very pretty one—through a
country partaking of the nature of a forest—and Emma was at first,
highly delighted with it. But an accident, which occurred when near the
conclusion of their expedition, materially diminished the pleasure of
the whole party. In stepping from the seat, in order to ascend a small
eminence which commanded a beautiful view, Emma placed her foot on a
rolling pebble, which giving way under her, twisted her ankle so
severely as to incapacitate her entirely from walking, and occasion her
very considerable pain. The concern of her friends on the occasion, was
proportionate to their regard for her, and quite in character with their
different dispositions. Lady Gordon expressed her sorrow in words—her
brother confined his chiefly to looks. They returned home immediately;
and Emma was, with the assistance of Sir William, who joined them at the
castle porch, conveyed into the mansion and carried up-stairs. It was
very painful at first, and she told her friend she could not join their
party in the evening; but Lady Gordon expressed so much regret at this,
that Emma consented to make an effort, as there was no necessity for
ascending or descending stairs, their usual sitting room being on the
same floor with her apartments.

Accordingly she spent the evening on a couch near to which Lord Osborne
stationed himself, in order to enjoy a good view of her face. It was
evident that his love for her had not made him more lively, or more
talkative, and to judge from his manners that evening, he had not made
much progress in politeness. He allowed all the little offices of
civility to be performed by Sir William, never offering to hand her a
cup of coffee, nor seeing when it was empty, and requiring removal;
never noticing when her reel of silk dropped on the ground, or
discovering if her embroidery frame was raised at the proper angle. His
total neglect of all this, together with the little conversation he ever
attempted to carry on, and the general reserve of his manner, entirely
prevented Emma from entertaining the idea, that he was her serious
admirer. Had she really supposed it, her manners might have been
different, but as it was, she felt as much at ease with him, as with his
brother-in-law, and treated him with equal frankness.

She never had thought him particularly agreeable, and it did not enter
her head that he would wish to make himself so, for otherwise, he would
probably have behaved very differently; at least so she concluded, when
she contrasted his manner with that of some others of her acquaintance.

The sprain of her ankle occasioned her great pain all the evening, as
Sir William guessed from the paleness of her cheeks, and the shade round
her mouth at times; but she did all she could to conceal it, and chatted
with him and Lady Gordon as long as they remained together.

But she never felt more relieved than when at his suggestion, the
proposal for retiring was made early, in order to relieve her, for she
had borne as much as she could in silence, and really felt once or twice
on the point of fainting.

Lady Gordon took the most judicious step she could, for she summoned to
her assistance the old house-keeper, who being peculiarly great in
doctoring sprains, and all such accidental maladies, soon produced some
remedy for the pain Emma was suffering. But it was evident it would be
some days before she would be able to walk at all, and she very much
regretted this deprivation, during the beautiful weather they were then
enjoying.

In the forenoon of the following day, as she was reclining on a couch
near the open window, engaged in drawing a group of flowers for Lady
Gordon's portfolio, Mr. Howard entered the room. As her hostess happened
to have left the room a few minutes before, he found Emma, to his great
astonishment, _tête-à-tête_ with Lord Osborne. He had no idea that the
young nobleman was then in the country, and not the least expectation of
meeting at that moment with one whom he could not avoid considering as a
dangerous rival. His quick eye did not fail to perceive too, that some
of the flowers in the vase before Emma were of precisely the same kind
as the sprig in Lord Osborne's coat, and he came to the not unnatural
conclusion, that they had been given to him by herself. He felt quite
disconcerted at the circumstance, and he always had an uncomfortable
sense of self-reproach, when he remembered that he had left his lordship
in ignorance of his own wishes, at the time that he received his
confidence. He now hesitated whether to enter the room or not, but Lord
Osborne advanced to meet him with considerable pleasure, and effectually
prevented his withdrawal. He was compelled to shake hands, when at the
moment he felt so very unamiably disposed towards his former pupil, that
he was far more inclined to turn his back upon him.

"Very glad indeed to see you, Mr. Howard," said the other, "I dare say
you are a little surprised to see _me_ here; but I could not help
coming. You see we have got _her_ back again, aren't you glad?" glancing
at the sofa where Emma was lying.

She too held out her hand to him, and her cheeks crimsoned at seeing him
again; but as she never suspected his jealousy, not supposing there was
any occasion for it, she felt rather hurt at the coldness of his
address, and the hurried way in which he greeted her.

Lord Osborne eyed them both, and though not in general gifted with much
penetration, his love seemed, at least on this occasion, to have made
him sharp-sighted, as the idea suddenly entered his mind that there was
danger to his suit in the visits of his former tutor. He sat down in
silence, determined to observe them closely, and not to disturb his
powers of judging, he resolved to keep a profound silence.

The consequence of these various feelings was a peculiarly awkward
silence, and Emma, angry with the lover she cared for, on account of his
variable manners which perpetually perplexed and disappointed her, was
almost determined not to open her lips to him.

At length he spoke.

"I called intending to enquire if you were disposed to fulfil the
engagement we talked of the other day Miss Watson, about the
picture-gallery; but perhaps I need not ask _now_—you probably are not
disposed for the exertion."

"It is indeed quite out of my power this morning," replied Emma; "and I
wish I could name a time when it would be possible to have the
pleasure."

"It is only dependent on yourself—but if you have more agreeable
engagements, of course it is natural you should defer this one. Whenever
you wish it, will you let we know?"

"Do you suppose it to be a more agreeable engagement lying prisoner
here?" replied Emma smiling; "our tastes must differ more than I had
fancied they would if you do so."

"You did not use to be indolent, I know," replied he; "but no doubt it
is far more like modern fashionable manners to pass the day on a sofa
than in active pursuits."

"Now do not be satirical, Mr. Howard," said she in a lively tone; "I
never was, and I hope I never shall be converted into a fashionable fine
lady, and my lying on the sofa has nothing to do with indolence or
inclination."

"Indeed!" he replied, with a provoking air of incredulity.

"Yes, indeed and indeed—I assure you it is a downright punishment to me,
only alleviated by the kindness of my friends in trying to amuse me."

Mr. Howard glanced at Lord Osborne, as if he attributed the friendship
and the amusement alike to him.

"No, you are wrong there—I dare say his lordship is afraid I should be
spoilt if I had too much indulgence, so he contents himself with
disarranging my flowers and contradicting my opinions: I really must
trouble you, my lord, for the bud you stole," she added turning to him;
"I cannot do without it."

"And I cannot possibly let you have it," replied he abruptly; "it's
gone, I shall not tell you where."

"Now is not that too provoking!" cried Emma; "with all his
conservatories and gardens at command, to envy me my single sprig which
Sir William took so much trouble in procuring me. I had a particular
value for it on his account, and having sketched it into this group: I
must have it, or the whole will be spoilt."

"Will you promise me the drawing, if I give it back to you?" asked he.

"No indeed—it is for your sister. Mr. Howard, will you not take my part?
I am exposed, without the power of resisting, to his depredations; he
knows I cannot move from this sofa."

"But do tell me what is the matter?" enquired Mr. Howard seriously;
"have you really met with an accident?"

"Only a sprain which incapacitates me from moving," she answered.

"I am exceedingly grieved to hear it," he said with looks of real
concern. "I had been thinking only of want of inclination, not want of
power, when you declined moving."

"You see in that instance then you misunderstood me, perhaps you do so
in others likewise," she replied; an equivocal speech which threw Howard
into a fit of abstraction for several minutes whilst pondering on her
meaning. Recovering himself he began to enquire the particulars of the
accident, which she detailed to him, ending her account with desiring
him to deduce some moral from the history.

"Perhaps you would not like the moral I should draw," he replied with a
smile; "it might not be flattering or agreeable."

"I dare say, it would not be flattering, Mr. Howard; I should not expect
it from you—suppose we all make a moral to the tale, and see if we can
think alike. Come, my lord, let us have yours."

"Give me time to think then," said he—for, in spite of his resolution in
favor of silence, he could not help yielding to her smiles.

"Five minutes by the watch on the chimney-piece, and in good time—here
come Sir William and Lady Gordon to give their opinion of our
sentiments."

"I am quite ready to give mine at once," returned Sir William, who heard
only the last speech, as he entered through the window from the terrace:

"I have no doubt that yours, Miss Watson, are very severe—Osborne's
romantic—and Howard's common place. Will that do?"

"Not at all—you shall be no judge in the matter, since you make up your
mind before you hear the cause," cried Emma, "Lady Gordon shall be
umpire, and if you like to produce a moral, do so."

"What is it all about?" enquired Lady Gordon, "I must understand before
I decide."

"Not the least necessary, my dear Rosa," said her husband, "and quite
out of character; women always decide first—and understanding, if it
comes at all, is quite a secondary consideration with them."

"A pretty speech to make," exclaimed Emma, "when he himself just now
answered without understanding at all."

"I knew you would be severe," replied Sir William to Emma, "but I was, I
assure you, only trying to bring down my conduct to the level of my
companions."

"Shall we not turn him out of the room?" cried his wife, "he is
intolerable to-day!"

"Oh no! take no notice of him," said Emma, with spirit, "I do not mind a
word he says!"

"You—all of you talk so much," exclaimed Lord Osborne, "that it is
impossible for me to settle my thoughts—but I think I have made my moral
now—shall I say it?"

"By all means, my lord," said Emma.

"We are all grave attention," observed Sir William.

"Well, I think ladies should take great care not to make false
steps—because, if they do, they will not be able to stand by themselves
afterwards."

"Bravo, Osborne!" cried his sister, "but rather severe on my friend."

"And you, Mr. Howard," she continued, "will you favour us with your
opinion?"

"Mine is, that Miss Watson should, in future, avoid any great haste in
climbing to eminent situations, lest she be the loser in the attempt."

Emma colored slightly at the earnest glance which accompanied the low,
emphatic tone of his speech, but laughed it off by observing:

"Yes, my nature is so ambitious, I need that counsel."

"And now, Miss Watson," cried Lord Osborne, eagerly; "it's your turn."

"Well, the moral I draw is, when I am in a comfortable position again,
to take care and not lose it in searching for some imaginary
advantage—the moral of 'The substance and the shadow.'"

"And mine," exclaimed Sir William, "you must hear mine—it is, that a
young lady's strength of limb is probably less than her strength of
will; and I have always observed it to be easier for her to twist her
ankle, than to give up her own way."

"And mine," exclaimed Lady Gordon, "My dear Miss Watson, my moral is,
that you should never invite men to comment on your conduct, for they
are sure to draw false conclusions and make ill-natured remarks."

"It is the more hard, as your brother was the origin of my misfortune,"
observed Emma, "but for his persuasion, I should have sat still."

"Just like the precious sex, my dear friend," replied Lady Gordon, "lead
you into a scrape, and then be the first to blame you for being there."

"All married women talk in that way," observed Sir William, "they make a
point of abusing men on all occasions; I never could quite make out the
reason."

"It is the very natural result of experience, my love," said his wife.

"I sometimes think it is to prevent other women marrying," continued he,
"lest their offices, as chaperones, should be uncalled for; and
sometimes, I think it is merely to contradict themselves—which all women
are so fond of doing—for having paid a man the compliment of marrying
him, it becomes necessary to thwart him afterwards, lest he be too
proud."

"Miss Watson, have you air enough here," said Lord Osborne, coming up to
her sofa; "do let me push you out on the terrace—it would be so pleasant
now the sun is off."

Lady Gordon seconded the proposal, and called on Mr. Howard to assist
her brother. He did so; and then, distressed to find that the young lord
of the castle took his station closer than ever to her side, he tore
himself away from the whole party and went to shut himself up at home
till the evening.

Emma felt quite provoked at the pertinacity with which Lord Osborne kept
at her elbow; she had hoped that he would have found it tedious to
remain all day tranquil—but his patience was more enduring than she had
given him credit for. He even seemed to improve in spirits and began
talking more than before.

"Nice fellow, that Howard—is not he?" was his first observation, when
the gentleman in question quitted them.

"Yes, very," replied Emma, not knowing precisely what else to say, and
wondering what would come next.

"He has a prodigious deal to say for himself, which makes him a
favorite," continued the animated peer, "I wish I could talk so, don't
you?"

"I do not think he talked much to-day," replied Emma, "if he did, I did
not hear it at least."

"Perhaps you do not care to have men such very great talkers—do you? I
never heard your opinion about that."

"I really believe I have none, my lord," answered Emma, "I never made up
mind as to how much a man or woman should talk to make themselves
agreeable—some men I know, talk too much."

"Meaning me, Miss Watson?" cried Sir William.

"The too much, must depend on the quality likewise—if they happen to be
very silly or very dull, a few sentences are enough to tire one," added
Emma, "whereas a lively, clever man, may talk for an hour without being
wearisome."

"That is a comforting speech," exclaimed Sir William, "Osborne, we will
take out our watches next time we begin a conversation with Miss Watson.
Lively, clever men—the description just suits us—_we_ may talk precisely
sixty minutes."

Lord Osborne looked grave, as he suspected his brother-in-law was
laughing at him, and Emma was silent, being unwilling to annoy him.—It
had been settled that the Musgroves were to come over early in the
afternoon, that they might spend some time with their sister; and in
spite of his usual predilection for late hours and unpunctuality, Tom
was rendered too proud and happy by the invitation to feel at all
disposed to delay the honor. Soon after luncheon they arrived; Margaret
adorned in all her wedding finery, delighted at such an opportunity of
showing it off. Her new bonnet and pelisse were decidedly more
fashionable, according to the Lady's Magazine, than anything Lady Gordon
herself could produce; and she was not a little surprised, as well as
half-affronted, at the simplicity of dress which her hostess had
adopted.

On discovering the circumstance that Emma was confined to the sofa, she
would not rest till she had heard the whole history of the accident, and
then she uttered this sisterly observation:

"Good gracious! how excessively awkward and careless of you, Emma; how
could you be so stupid? well I am glad it is not me, as of all things I
hate a sprain—to go waddling about like an old goose—it's too absurd
really."

"I don't see anything absurd in it," said Lord Osborne sturdily, "it's
very unfortunate and very vexatious to us, and I dare say very painful
to her, but there's nothing absurd in it."

"I did not mean absurd precisely," retracted Margaret, who would never
dream of contradicting a peer of the realm, "I only meant it was very
ridiculous."

Lord Osborne did not condescend to answer any more, but rose and walked
whistling away.

Meantime, Tom was trying to be excessively gallant and agreeable to Lady
Gordon, who, never particularly prepossessed in his favor, seemed now
unusually cold and ungracious. In fact she could not quite forgive the
danger she had been in of being called into court, and naturally looking
on him as the cause, she felt a considerable degree of repugnance
towards him.

His obsequiousness and flatteries did him no service; she would not be
accessible to any compliments of his, and to the most elaborate praises,
returned him the coldest answers.

"Where is your charming friend Miss Carr now?" enquired he at length, "I
should rejoice to meet her again, though my position is altered since I
last had that felicity. I hope she has not forgotten me!"

"I cannot possibly answer for that, but I have no idea that your change
of position will at all affect her; but she will soon remember you if
she does not at first."

"She was a delightful girl," observed he again, "so truly lady-like and
lively; a combination one does not often meet with."

"She has high spirits," replied Lady Gordon.

"High spirits are charming things—so captivating."

"I think them very apt to be tiresome," observed she.

"High spirits united to good sense and abilities, form a very charming
character," observed Sir William, "but unbalanced by these, they are apt
to be overpowering. However, I should acquit Miss Carr of them
altogether; she tried to be lively with all her might, but it was rather
heavy work."

"I heard she was in this neighbourhood," returned Tom, "is that true?"

"I believe so," said Lady Gordon, "and I rather expect her here soon."

"Who is that you are talking of, Tom?" cried his wife in a sharp voice,
"who is this charming woman?"

"Nobody you know," replied he carelessly.

"My friend Miss Carr," said Lady Gordon, shocked at the rudeness of the
gentleman's reply, "perhaps you remember seeing her with me formerly."

"Oh dear yes, I remember her very well. Tom used to admire her very
much, he often talked about her beautiful complexion," was Margaret's
answer, "_Fanny Carr_ he used to speak of a great deal, he thought she
admired him!"

Tom bit his lips, and looked anything but gratified at his wife's
observation, who exceedingly enjoyed his vexation, and triumphed in
having so amply revenged herself for his rude reply.

"It is very provoking of you to be laid up lame there," she continued
presently to Emma, "I should like to see the grounds of the Castle; I am
always so unfortunate on such occasions: nobody meets with so many
disappointments as me."

"No doubt Emma did it to provoke you," observed Tom with a sneer.

"I shall be very happy to show you over the grounds myself," interrupted
Lady Gordon, convinced that anything would be better than the
altercation going on between the husband and wife, which must be equally
disagreeable to Emma as herself.

Margaret accepted the proposition very joyfully, and the two ladies left
the room together, as Sir William saw no necessity for accompanying
them.

"I suppose you enjoy yourself famously here, Emma," observed Tom, coming
close up to her sofa.

"Yes, when I have not a sprained ankle," replied she.

"And even when you have, your spirits are so good, you seem to enjoy
yourself still," observed Lord Osborne, who had returned from the
terrace when Margaret left the room.

"But it makes her of consequence, and all young ladies like that,"
answered her brother-in-law. "I am sure Margaret is always affecting to
be ill for no other purpose, and reproaching me because I do not believe
it."

"I do not think your wife at all like her sister," observed Lord
Osborne, coolly.

"I wish to heaven she were in any respect," cried Tom, "but I had no
such good luck. However, I suppose I must bear my yoke."

Nobody answered, and after a little while Mr. Musgrove continued,

"One comfort of being married is, that I can flirt now without danger
with any girl I choose, there is no risk now of being compelled to marry
any more."

"You consider that a privilege of married men," said Sir William,
enquiringly.

"Certainly, for on my honour, they need some compensation; I recommend
you to marry, my lord, as indeed the privilege is a great comfort!"

"When I marry I shall leave off flirting," said Lord Osborne, decidedly,
"out of compliment to my wife."

"Tantamount to an assertion you will never marry, Osborne," said Sir
William, "for I never knew you flirt yet."

"How does your stable go on, my lord?" enquired Tom, "I should like to
see it."

"You are welcome to go and see it if you please, so long as you don't
drag me there; I am not inclined for an excursion to the stables at
present."

Tom whistled and walked away, Lord Osborne drew nearer to Emma, and
said,

"I hope you don't like him—do you?"

"He is my brother-in-law," replied Emma, "you forget that."

"I think _he_ does," retorted Lord Osborne, "but one is not obliged to
like one's brother-in-law, I suppose."

"I hope you mean nothing personal or disrespectful by that observation,"
exclaimed Sir William.

"No, on my honour, I forgot about you, Gordon," said he, "but I should
think it quite enough if the husband likes his wife without its being at
all necessary that the mother and sisters, and brother-in-law, should
all like her too."

"Not necessary, certainly, but altogether desirable, and certainly
conducive to domestic felicity."

"If my sister does not like my wife she must keep at a distance from
her," said Lord Osborne, positively, "and then her feelings will be of
no consequence—Don't you agree with me, Miss Watson?"

"Not exactly, my lord; I should not in practice, certainly—I do not
think I would marry into a family where I was altogether unwelcome!"

"I am sorry for it," said Lord Osborne, very softly, and then looking
remarkably conscious and awkward, he walked away.

"His theories sound more unprincipled than his practice would be, I
suspect," observed Sir William, looking after him, and glancing at Emma,
"I doubt whether he would really bear a quarrel with his sister with
such indifference."

"I dare say not," said Emma, without at all suspecting she had any share
in his feelings, or interest in his proceedings. "Young men often assert
far more than they would like to realise, and I do not think worse of
him than of many of his neighbours. I dare say he likes his own way—"

"He is very determined in following out his own opinions, I assure you,"
he replied, "but what I meant was, that though from impulse he _might_
act in opposition to the wishes of his family, he would certainly repent
it, as every body does sooner or later."

"Very likely, so for his sake I hope he will not try!" replied Emma,
very unconcernedly.

"Shall I go on reading to you, Miss Watson," enquired Sir William, "or
is there anything you want."

Emma replied that she should prefer reading to herself, and Sir William,
having supplied her with the volumes she desired, left her in solitude.

Thus she remained until she was interrupted by the entrance of Mr.
Howard, who looked something between pleased and frightened at finding
her alone. She told him where the others were gone, so far as she knew
herself, but he seemed perfectly satisfied to take her assertions on
trust, evincing no desire at all to follow them. He said it was very
warm out of doors, that her room was exceedingly comfortable, and that
he hoped she would make no objection to his remaining in her company.

She, as may easily be supposed, had no wish to oppose him, and a long
and amicable conversation followed relative to the books she had been
reading. They agreed in admiring the authors in question, and then in
praising Sir William Gordon, who had recommended them. Mr. Howard
declared him to be, in his opinion, a very superior young man,
calculated to raise the character and improve the mind of his wife; he
had the power, and the will, to guide her right, and it was probable
that their domestic happiness would continue and increase.

Emma earnestly hoped it would; there was a great deal to love and value
in Lady Gordon, and hers was a character which would certainly, with
judicious management, be greatly improved.

"I like her," said Mr. Howard, "for her freedom from pride of birth; and
considering what lessons she received from her mother that shows very
great independence of character."

"Her friendship for me is one proof of that," observed Emma, "she has
been invariably kind to me, and I have no claim to equality with her."

"Not in rank or fortune," replied he, "but allow me to say, in habits,
tastes, and education, you are completely her equal, and she feels it
so; her admiration and regard for you are so perfectly natural, that I
can allow her no credit for that part of her conduct."

"I think I shall give you no credit, Mr. Howard, if you indulge in such
a very complimentary strain," replied Emma smiling; "though I suppose
you think something due to me to make up for your severe reflections on
my ambitious projects."

"Your ambitious projects!" repeated he surprised.

"Yes; no later than this morning you warned me not to climb too high,
lest I should fall irretrievably; you see I remember your lessons,
though you may affect a short memory on the occasion."

"I wish I could consider it as a proof that you are not offended at my
boldness," said he drawing his chair closer to her; "I really wished
afterwards to apologise for my words, I feared you would think me so
impertinent. You were not angry?"

"Not the least in the world—why should I be?" was her answer, gaily
smiling. "Indeed I did not believe you were serious; you may laugh at my
vanity, but I did not feel guilty of ambition."

"And if you were, _I_ had no right, no title, no claim to correct you,"
said he looking very earnestly at her.

"The right of a friend and well-wisher, Mr. Howard," replied she looking
down with a heightened colour—she never could meet his eyes when they
had that peculiar expression in them. "I trust I may consider _you_ in
that light at least."

"You have not a sincerer well-wisher in the world," he replied with
emphasis, and then stopped abruptly.

To break the pause which appeared to her to be awkward, she observed,

"You did not tell me where your sister is, Mr. Howard—or else I have
forgotten: where is it?"

"In North Wales, not far from Denbigh. I am going shortly to fetch her
home."

"I think you are always going somewhere; ever since I knew you, you have
been perpetually offering to go away. Do you ever put it in practice."

"Sometimes—you will find I shall in this instance. I must go to fetch
Clara, the only question is when?"

"And does that depend on Mrs. Willis' wishes, or your caprice."

"A little on both, if you mean by caprice the power of absenting myself
from the duties of my station," replied he.

"I wish I had met Mrs. Willis," said Emma; "pray make haste and fetch
her, for if I leave the country without our meeting now, it is
impossible to say when, if ever, I shall see her again."

"Are you going quite away then?" enquired he with concern. "I thought
your home was at Croydon."

"It is impossible to say where my home may be—not Croydon
certainly—perhaps I may _never_ have another. I must in future be
content to dwell amongst strangers, and dare not talk of home. I am
wishing for a situation as governess."

A slight shade of melancholy replaced the usually gay expression of her
countenance as she said this, but she did not raise her eyes to read the
many conflicting feelings which were depicted in his countenance as he
listened to her low and feeble voice. He could not command words to
express his sentiments, or indeed feel at all sure us to what he ought
to express at the moment; and she added, after a short pause,

"I have one prospect of a home, though an uncertain one at present; my
brother—I mean my youngest brother—urges me to go and live with him the
moment he can obtain a living for us both in his profession. But it must
be quite uncertain when that will be."

He was still silent, hesitating whether or not he should at that moment
offer her one other home more settled and more permanent. He hesitated,
and the opportunity was lost. Footsteps were heard approaching; the
high, shrill voice of Margaret sounded in the conservatory. In a low and
hurried tone he spoke, clasping her hand in his;

"Dearest Miss Watson, I feel for you! If I had only time I would prove
it!"

There _was_ no time for more, but with a gentle pressure which made the
blood thrill from her hands up to her heart, he rose and quitted her
abruptly, escaping just quickly enough through one window to avoid being
seen, as Lady Gordon and Mrs. Musgrove entered at another.

Emma remained in a state of feeling which she would have found it
exceedingly difficult to describe, such was the confusion in her mind at
the moment. Her most prominent idea was, however, disappointment that he
had said so little. She really believed he loved her—at least that he
intended her to suppose it; but why not speak more plainly, or why speak
at all? It would be so very hard to meet him after what had passed, in
the same way as formerly; and yet, how could she avoid it? There seemed
no possibility, however, of his doing anything but explaining himself
the very first opportunity—surely he could not hesitate longer, and all
would then be right.

But with these contradictory notions in her mind, and the agitation to
which they gave rise evident in her face, it was impossible for her
manners to be sufficiently composed, not to attract her friend's notice.
Lady Gordon thought she was in pain, and accused her of having been
attempting to move; which she attributed to the fact of Sir William
having gone out and left her alone; Emma defended both Sir William and
herself as well as she could, forcing herself to speak cheerfully, and
denying all accession of pain or efforts at improper exertion.

Margaret, throwing herself on an easy chair, declared that she was
perfectly exhausted by the heat and the fatigue of their walk, and she
quite wondered how Lady Gordon could bear so much exertion.

"But I really believe that I am more delicate and sooner tired than any
woman in the world. I have never been accustomed to hard work."

Lady Gordon did not trouble herself to assert that neither had she, but
quietly observed that she was sorry Mrs. Musgrove had tired herself.

"Do you see much of your brother, Lady Gordon?" enquired Margaret.

"Yes, when he is with me," she answered.

"I hope he is pleasanter than mine, then," observed Margaret, "or else
it must be a prodigious bore."

"I dare say, they are not alike," said Lady Gordon, who was existing in
a state of incessant surprise at the conversation of Margaret.

"I _do_ so wish my brothers had no profession—it would be so nice if
they had nothing to do—like gentlemen—Tom's being a complete gentleman
is very lucky, I should not have liked to have been a doctor's wife or
an attorney's. Should you, Lady Gordon?"

"Really, it was an event which I never took into contemplation," replied
she, "I know so few doctors, or attorneys either, that I cannot pretend
to judge."

"I wish somebody would marry Emma," continued her amiable sister. "I am
quite afraid she is doomed to be an old maid—one of a family must be
they say; and as Pen is married, and Elizabeth will soon be, it must be
Emma's fate. I am quite sorry for her."

"I am exceedingly obliged to you for your concern, Margaret," replied
Emma, laughing; "but I trust, even if such a catastrophe is to occur, I
shall bear it with philosophy. So pray, do not make yourself unhappy
about my future. I shall not."

"All young ladies talk in that way," observed Tom Musgrove, who entered
the room unperceived, whilst his wife was speaking. "No girl ever owns
wishing to be married, though we know very well that they are all
longing for husbands—and most are ready to take any means to secure
one!"

"I am gratified that you include us _all_ in the same condemnation, Mr.
Musgrove," said Lady Gordon, haughtily, "your very flattering opinion of
us, is equally creditable to your fancy and your feeling of propriety."

"Of course, I did not mean to include _you_," answered Tom, gallantly,
"I _could_ not, for I never thought of you as a woman, but as an angel."

Lady Gordon did not condescend to answer—she was not to be propitiated
by his flattery, and was more likely to be affronted at his presuming to
offer it at all.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


Mr. Howard having, by this time, recovered sufficient composure to
return to the company, re-appeared from the conservatory, where he had
been calming his feelings amidst roses and heliotropes, and soon
afterwards the other two gentlemen joined the party. Mr. Howard,
himself, did not venture near Emma; but, after paying his compliments to
Mrs. Musgrove, retreated to a window and seemed to be occupied with a
newspaper. Though the two ladies subsequently retired to their toilet
preparatory to dinner, there was no further _tête-à-tête_ between him
and Emma, as the other gentlemen continued in the room till dinner time.

Emma, of course, could not join in that meal; and did not, therefore,
hear the comments which Mr. Howard's absence of mind drew on him. Mrs.
Musgrove laughed outright—even Lady Gordon smiled, and Tom Musgrove
openly accused him of being decidedly in love. Sir William came to his
rescue, and parried the attacks of Tom for a time; but after the ladies
withdrew, Tom commenced again, and tormented him unmercifully on the
subject—declaring that he had long seen his attachment to Emma
Watson—and without scruple, held out himself as an example of the risk
of indulging in little harmless flirtations, by which one was
unknowingly drawn into the meshes of hopeless matrimony.

Mr. Howard was quite affronted; and answered indignantly, that whatever
his feelings towards Miss Emma Watson might be, he thought of her with
far too much respect, to allow her name to be used slightingly by any
one, and that he should, least of all, expect from her brother-in-law
insinuations so derogatory to her character.

Sir William again interfered, and requested the subject to be dropped;
he could not allow unfriendly feelings between his guests—and he had no
doubt but that Mr. Musgrove had been misunderstood, if he could be
supposed to speak unhandsomely of so amiable a young woman as Miss
Watson, and one, who was, at the very time, Lady Gordon's visitor.

"I defy any one to prove a word derogatory to Emma Watson," cried Lord
Osborne, his eyes flashing with most unusual animation; "In my house,
and as my sister's guest, her name must and shall be treated with
respect."

"Upon my honor I did not mean any reflection upon her," exclaimed Tom,
quite taken by surprise by the spirit he had raised, "it is the last
thing I dreamt of to offend you, my lord."

"Very well," cried Sir William, "that is sufficient, let the subject
drop."

And so it did for the present, but what passed had made a deep
impression on Lord Osborne, whose fears of Mr. Howard as a rival were
all confirmed by this discussion. He could not rest without some
explanation on this subject, and accordingly drew him into the garden
after dinner, and there whilst pacing up and down the terrace, told him
he had something very particular to say to him.

Howard's heart told him what was coming, and he resolved to summon his
courage and speak openly on this occasion.

"You know, Howard," said the young peer in a tone between remonstrance
and complaint, "I never made any secret to you of my wishes and hopes
with regard to Emma Watson—you have long known that nothing but
circumstances prevented my addressing her and asking her hand."

"I know it, my Lord," replied Howard.

"Well then, I must say I look upon it as neither kind nor honorable of
you to cut me out, or at least try to do so, for until _she_ convinces
me, I will not believe you have quite succeeded. But you should not have
used me so, when I had been quite open with you."

His companion was embarrassed; for the total absence of self-confidence,
which formed a prominent part of his character, made it very hard for
him to publish his love whilst his prospects were uncertain.

"Tell me," continued Lord Osborne with some warmth, "do you not yourself
love Emma Watson? Have you not sought to supplant me?"

"I will not deny that I do love her,—but I trust the acknowledgement
will be safe with you—I own I love her—have loved her long—did love her
well when you told me your own views, my Lord, and in fact have loved
her ever since our first meeting in the assembly rooms."

"And why was I not told of this when I mentioned my plans to you—why
allow me to form false hopes, whilst you were undermining the ground on
which I stood?"

"You are unjust to me, my Lord, you speak as if I had tried to injure
you, or prejudice her against you. Had _I_ not a right to love her—have
I not a right to win her if I can? Though I _am_ but a poor parson and
you are a peer, surely _she_ is the only one to decide whether my
addresses may not be acceptable to her. I have never attempted to thwart
your success, nor have I ever made Emma a declaration of my own
attachment. But I have as good a right to do so as yourself."

"I did not mean to call your rights in question at all, Mr. Howard; what
I quarrel with is, your want of openness in not letting me know that I
had a rival in you. Had you done so, I should have had no cause to
complain."

"I own I was sorry afterwards that I did not speak openly, my lord, on
that occasion, but my uncertainty as to _her_ feelings prevented me!"

"Then you are _now_ convinced of success?" observed Lord Osborne
gloomily.

"By no means; you have forced a confession from me, which under other
circumstances I would not have made; but I am very far indeed from
confidence on the subject. She has never heard me declare my feelings."

"I am glad of it—well then I really think, Howard, the best thing you
can do is to take yourself off for a few days, and leave the field clear
for me. Now do, there's a good fellow, and I shall be eternally obliged
to you."

"You ask a great deal," replied Howard gravely.

"Not so very much, because, you see, if I am accepted it proves that you
would be refused, and just saves you the trouble altogether; and if I am
refused I will let you know, and you can come in directly and follow up
your chase. Do you agree to it?"

"I must have a little time to think of that proposal, my lord," replied
Howard, hesitating and unwilling to assent.

"Till to-morrow morning, I cannot give you longer, let me know what you
settle on to-morrow, and I shall arrange my plans. Do you know my mother
talks of coming down here?"

"I had not heard of it; when does her ladyship think of doing so?"

"Very soon; I think the good old soul has taken it into that precious
head of hers to suspect what I am about, and in her horror of a
misalliance, she is coming down in hopes of stopping me altogether. By
Jove it would be a good joke to get it all settled before her
appearance."

"Do you think Emma Watson will consent to be your wife, if she supposes,
her ladyship, your mother, objects?"

"That's the worst of it—I am afraid she may have some scruples, but I
mean to try my luck at all events. There's another thing too, to be
considered, Fanny Carr is coming here—that eternal talker, Fanny Carr,
and it would save me an immense deal of trouble with her if I could give
myself out as an engaged man. She would not talk half so much."

"You really think that would make a difference," said Mr. Howard, trying
to smile, but not very successfully.

"I have no doubt of it at all, and the blessing of being freed in some
degree from the trouble of answering her is more than I could tell. That
girl would talk the hind leg off a horse in no time."

Howard deliberated. He felt perfectly convinced that Emma never would
marry from ambition or mercenary motives, but he was not quite sure what
degree of influence the young peer might have over her heart. The idea
of meeting Lady Osborne again was excessively disagreeable, and as he
was really under the necessity of going to fetch his sister home, he
thought perhaps he might as well go at once, and allow Lord Osborne a
fair field. Then if the event were consonant to his own wishes he might
return with a safe conscience. But the question arose, what would Emma
herself think of it; in what light would she consider his quitting her
thus suddenly, after the betrayal of feeling which he that very
afternoon had made? Would she not think him the most capricious, the
most changeable of mortals—might she not be justly affronted with him,
indignant at his vacillation—might she not suspect him of trifling with
her feelings—might she not think herself extremely ill-used—could he
bear to forfeit the esteem which she had sometimes shown for him. No,
Lord Osborne asked too much, he thought only of himself, and expected to
rule Howard now, in an affair of consequence like this, in the same way
as he had formerly done, when the question solely regarded what part of
the river they should fish, or which copse they should go through with
their guns. It was impossible, he could not, and he ought not to yield,
and he determined that he would not. These thoughts occupying his mind,
he was exceedingly silent during the whole evening, hardly venturing to
trust his voice beyond a monosyllable, and never raising his eyes except
by stealth to that part of the room where Emma sat.

The evening passed very much as might be expected amongst such a
party—Margaret talked a great deal, and her husband took every
opportunity of contradicting her assertions, and turning her opinions
into ridicule. Lady Gordon gave up all attempts at keeping the peace as
perfectly hopeless, and Sir William sat by Emma and entertained her with
his conversation, whilst his brother-in-law was quite as silent as his
rival. At length, to the great relief of the whole party, the Musgroves'
carriage was announced, and they took their leave, and Emma, ashamed,
agitated, fatigued, and worried, left the party immediately afterwards,
for the silence and peace of her own apartments.

She was ashamed and mortified that the Gordons should have seen the want
of concord, and the absence of courtesy between her sister and her
husband—it was much worse than she had expected. Tom seemed to think no
civility even was due, and Margaret set no bounds to her peevishness;
but all this anxiety was merged in her considerations as to Mr. Howard's
conduct and feelings. She could not comprehend him, and she understood
herself only too well.

His last words to her might in themselves mean nothing, but there was a
tone and a look which accompanied them which gave them a deep, and, to
her, most important meaning. Her hand still seemed to feel the thrilling
pressure of his fingers, and she could hardly believe that after this he
could longer leave her in doubt as to his wishes.

Whether it was the agitation of mind which these reflections occasioned,
or solely owing to the pain which for two days she had been suffering,
she could hardly tell, but the next morning she found herself so
feverish and unwell as to be quite unable to leave her room. She felt
this the more because she thus, as she fancied, lost the interview with
Mr. Howard which she had been promising herself, and until she found all
chance of it gone, she had not known how very much she was depending on
it.

In the meantime a scene which she little dreamt of was enacted at the
vicarage. Early in the morning, Lord Osborne, impatient for the decision
which he fully expected would be in his favour, hurried to secure an
interview with Mr. Howard. Great was his surprise when he met with a
firm refusal from this gentleman to accede to his proposal. He would not
absent himself from Emma at this time; he would not forego the chances
of success in his suit; no voluntary act on his part should cause her to
doubt his sincerity, or suppose him indifferent to her. Lord Osborne was
thwarted in a way which he little expected, and he had so seldom met
with opposition before, that he knew not how to brook it on this
occasion. He was quite silent, but with gloomy look, and long strides,
he paced up and down the little drawing-room, uncertain what to do or
say next, or how to express his indignation.

Circumstances, however, befriended him in an unexpected way; whilst he
was giving way to his irritation by heavy steps and bent brows, and his
host was heartily wishing the unpleasant interview terminated, the post
arrived, and a letter was brought to Mr. Howard which speedily engrossed
all his attention. It was from his sister, and written in great
distress—her little boy was dangerously ill, and she urged her brother
to come to her, as from a variety of circumstances she stood in need of
his protection and advice. She was in lodgings, and the mistress of the
house, a hard-hearted and parsimonious woman, took advantage of the
difficulties in which she was placed, and not only imposed on her in
every possible way, but refused her the assistance of which she stood in
need in the present extremity.

Deeply grieved at this detail of the sufferings undergone by the sister
on whom he doted, he felt not a moment's hesitation as to his
determination. To fly to comfort and defend her must be his first wish,
and let the consequences be what they might, all must give way before
such an appeal.

With emotion scarcely to be repressed, he turned to Lord Osborne and
said,

"Providence, my lord, has decided against me, and your request must now
be acceded to as an imperative duty on my part. My sister requires my
presence, and if I can arrange my affairs to-day I shall leave by the
night mail for Wales."

Lord Osborne's irrepressible pleasure was a certain proof how deeply he
had taken this affair to heart, and how little he cared for the feelings
of others, except as they thwarted or fell in with his own. He greatly
commended Howard for determining to go immediately, and would have been
quite as ready to commend Mrs. Willis for wanting him. He was zealous in
obviating any possible difficulty about the performance of the Sunday
duty, and only demurred to the absolute necessity which Howard alleged
of going up to the Castle to see and take leave of the ladies.

But here his arguments were met with entire unconcern; Mr. Howard was
determined himself to explain the reason of his conduct, and not trust
that office to another. Perhaps he flattered himself that his friend
Lady Gordon would considerately allow him an interview with Emma
untroubled by witnesses, when he might have an opportunity of setting
his own wishes in a clearer light than he had hitherto had courage to
do. But if he nourished such ideas, they were of course doomed to an
entire disappointment, for on arriving at the well known sitting-room,
he learnt, with infinite concern, that Emma was completely invalided.

"Quite unwell, and unfit for any exertion," Lady Gordon pronounced her
to be, and with so much fever about her that if the evening did not find
her better, medical advice must certainly be sent for. Sorrowfully,
therefore, he was compelled to take his leave, only cheered by the
assurance that Lady Gordon sympathised much in his anxieties, and that
Emma would certainly do the same whenever she could be allowed to learn
them.

The certainty that she would learn the real reason that hurried him away
was his greatest consolation, and in that case she must forgive, and
would probably pity him. He went—and Lord Osborne, relieved from the
immediate dread of such a rival, instantaneously resolved to defer his
own declaration until some indefinite and distant period, there being
not the least occasion to hurry, since any day previous to Howard's
return would be early enough for him.

Emma's indisposition lasted several days, and was probably rather
increased than otherwise by the information which her attendant gave
her, that Mr. Howard was gone to Wales, for no one knew how long. She
had no one to whom she could communicate her feelings, and the
disappointment was all the more deeply felt from being dwelt on in
secret. Lady Gordon possibly guessed her sensations, but was too
considerate to show it if she did, except perhaps by an increased
kindness of manner. She saw no one else of course except the apothecary,
who was by no means an entertaining man, and would bear no comparison
with her former acquaintance, Mr. Morgan. It was quite true what Lord
Osborne had mentioned, that his mother had talked of coming down to the
Castle; she, however, changed her mind and remained at Richmond instead;
but Miss Carr arrived on a visit, during the time of Emma's retirement
in her own room, and she once more commenced a series of attacks upon
the young peer's affections, which though extremely detrimental to his
peace of mind, did not at all produce the effect which she intended.
Miss Carr began strongly to suspect that some unseen obstacle must
neutralize her efforts, and form a bar to her progress. She could not
believe he would be so impenetrable to her charms if there were no other
affection to shield his heart. She asked questions, considered, watched,
and came to the conclusion that Emma Watson, whose presence she had
learnt with surprise, was the individual who cast a malignant spell
around her intended victim, which enabled him to elude her best devices.

She never for a moment imagined that Emma herself could be insensible or
regardless of his admiration; what was a prize of such value to Miss
Carr, must be a still greater object to Miss Watson, and doubtless she
was internally triumphing in her superior attraction and success. No
doubt, indeed, but this sprained ankle was a part of her plan; all
devised to make herself of importance, and excite his sympathy.
Something must be done to counteract such deep-laid schemes, and that
immediately too, or all exertion would be too late; but yet it must be
cautiously entered on, or she might only hurt her own cause.

Fortunately for her plans, she was possessed of a very unexpected means
of assailing Emma. She had been staying at Lady Fanny Allston's, her
ladyship being her cousin, at the time when the negotiation was carried
on for the situation of governess, and had learnt the exact reason why
it had been so abruptly terminated. The scandal which had thrown a shade
over Emma's name at Croydon, would, on reaching her ears have been
passed as a thing deserving neither attention nor memory, but for the
incipient jealousy which even then she felt against her rival.

This had fixed it in her memory; and now she was determined to bring it
forward in such a way as to make it tell with best advantage in her own
favor. She made no comment when she heard that Emma was in the house;
and bore, without remark and apparent philosophy, the regrets of the
whole party at her absence—only secretly resolving to watch Lord Osborne
well on her re-appearance, and ascertain the state of his feelings from
his looks and actions.

The return of Emma Watson to their usual party was hailed with great
satisfaction by the family. She looked a shade paler than usual, but
otherwise, well and animated—for she had, on her convalescence, learnt
from her friend the exact reason of Mr. Howard's absence; and satisfied
that it was inevitable, and no desertion of her from choice or caprice,
she felt only uneasy for Mrs. Willis, not on her own account.

Sir William and his wife spoke their pleasure aloud; Lord Osborne only
looked his in public, but he seated himself next her at breakfast, and
was extremely attentive in supplying her plate with what he thought
best.

Miss Carr being late, missed the rencounter—and by the same means,
forfeited the seat at breakfast, which she had always, hitherto,
appropriated to herself. This vexed her; and when, on entering the room,
she saw Emma, she did not speak, but went coolly round the table and
seated herself precisely opposite.

"Fanny," said Lady Gordon, "I believe you are acquainted with my
_friend_, Miss Watson—you met her here before."

Fanny bowed haughtily, which was the only answer she would, at first,
condescend to return; but after a moment's consideration, she said with
something like a sneer:

"Though it is some time since we met, Miss Watson, you will be surprised
to learn I have heard a great deal about you in the last three months."

Emma did look rather surprised, more, perhaps, at the tone in which this
was said, than by the fact; she did not know what she had done to give
rise to such a look of scorn or contempt. The next words enlightened
her.

"Lady Fanny Allston is my relative—perhaps you did not know that, and I
was there last April."

Emma felt a little confused at the many recollections which were
connected with that name—visions of Mr. Morgan and country-town
gossip—unpleasant sensations and unkind relations, flitted across her
mind—but she looked up after a moment, and conscious that she had been
clear of blame in that transaction, and not quite believing all Mr.
Morgan had said on the subject, she replied:

"Then, there was much probability at one time, of our meeting. I suppose
you know what passed between her ladyship and me?"

"Indeed I do," replied Miss Carr, fixing her large, blue eyes on her
with a malicious look; "and all about a certain Mr. Morgan too—what a
pleasant man he can be. I do not wonder at his misleading girls in that
way. Ah! you need not blush so—upon my word, I think _you_ were almost
excusable in your situation. I dare say, I might have been tempted to do
the same."

Lord Osborne's eyes were turned from his plate of broiled ham to Emma's
face, with an earnest expression, which Miss Carr did not fail to
notice. There was awakened jealousy, and surprise, and something of
displeasure in his countenance as he looked at her—but who was the
object of the displeasure, she was not quite certain; she almost thought
it was herself.

Lady Gordon looked up likewise.

"Why, my dear Fanny," said she, "I fancy you have got hold of some
country-town gossip; I wonder you are not ashamed to repeat it."

"I certainly should disdain country-town gossip," repeated she, "what I
was alluding to, was an event which nearly concerned Lady Fanny, and
which no doubt, Miss Watson perfectly comprehends."

"I beg your pardon," said Emma, "but indeed, I do no such thing. If you
allude to the fact of my employing Mr. Morgan as a means of
communicating with your relative, I have no idea any one could blame me
for such a proceeding, it seems so natural and straightforward."

"I was not thinking of your employing Mr. Morgan as a _negotiator_,"
replied Miss Carr with emphasis, "it was very _friendly_ of him, no
doubt, to interest himself in your concerns; single men are often
_friendly_ to young ladies."

"And so are married men too, I trust," cried Sir William, "at least I
am; and, therefore, I recommend you young ladies, both of you, to
postpone your unintelligible discussion on unknown topics, until such
time as having no witnesses, you may be able to converse in plain
English, without figure of speech, or oratorical hieroglyphics."

Emma looked gratefully at Sir William for his interference; he was
always ready to stand her friend. Lord Osborne continued to look
thoughtfully and uneasily at her, between the intervals of replenishing
his mouth, or whilst stirring his coffee, but Emma felt not the
slightest concern about his feeling jealousy or any other emotion; he
was extremely welcome to fancy that she was desperately in love with Mr.
Morgan or any other man in Croydon—especially, as in that case, he would
probably make some relaxation in his devotion to her.

As her ankle was not yet sufficiently strong for walking, Lady Gordon
proposed her taking a drive after luncheon in the pony phaeton, and
until that time, prescribed perfect rest on the sofa. This Emma
acquiesced in the more readily, as the post had brought her some
peculiarly pleasant letters. One was from Elizabeth, detailing many
interesting particulars relative to the preparations for her marriage,
and some amusing anecdotes from the Croydon circle, the other was still
more calculated to please and excite her. It was from Sam, and contained
the agreeable information that a very good situation had presented
itself. It was to Penelope that he was indebted for the offer. Since her
marriage, she had been anxious to persuade her husband to give up his
practice, or at least to take a partner in his business, and now she had
the satisfaction of making an offer to Sam on such very advantageous
terms, that he could not hesitate a moment about accepting them. He was
to remove to Chichester next month, and though at first he was to live
in his brother-in-law's house, if the scheme answered, he was
subsequently to have a house of his own, and then he looked forward with
delight to the idea that Emma could come and reside with him. The
prospect of this gave her courage and strength to support all the
disagreeable innuendoes which Miss Carr might throw out, and even to
bear with Lord Osborne's presence and Mr. Howard's absence. Settled at
Chichester, it was not likely that the former of these gentlemen would
follow her for the purpose of looking at her, or that the latter, if he
wished to see her again, would have any difficulty in tracing her steps.
How happy she should be in her brother's little _ménage_, even if she
were never to see anything more of those whom she had known whilst at
Winston or Osborne Castle. She could fancy it all to herself, and in her
joyous answer, she drew a lively picture of the pleasure she intended
they should have together.

Tired of the anxieties attending an attachment which had not progressed
very happily, she felt as if it would be delightful to settle for life
with her brother, and forswear all other and deeper affection. If she
could only make sure that he would never marry, it would be all perfect;
so she wrote to him, and her letter made Sam smile with pleasure when he
read it, and proved the best restorative after a toilsome day in the
heat of the summer, during a particularly unhealthy season.

"William, as I am going to drive with Emma, you must really ride out
with Fanny Carr," said Lady Gordon to her husband, before luncheon that
morning. "She will expect something of the sort."

"Why can you not take her with you, my love?" enquired he.

"She is so very cross to-day, I do not know what is the matter with
her," replied the lady, "and really I cannot undertake her, or we shall
certainly quarrel."

"And so she is to be put off upon me, is she Rosa? I am much obliged
truly."

"Oh yes, because you are so good tempered, you will be certain to bear
with her petulance, so do not refuse me," said the young wife with a
look of entreaty, which her husband could not resist.

"Very well, I am resigned, pray let Miss Carr know the felicity that
awaits her; but I hope you will ask your brother to accompany us."

"I am sure neither Fanny nor I should make any objection to that; but I
do not think you will easily persuade him; he is shyer of her than ever,
and seems quite to detest her."

"I do not wonder at it, any man would dislike a girl who made such a
desperate attack on him; I am sure I should for one; I always liked you
because you were so capricious and cross; sometimes unkind, and always
careless towards me."

"You loved me purely out of contradiction I have no doubt, and to hear
your account, we must both have been particularly amiable characters;
but so long as you ride to-day with Fanny Carr, I shall be satisfied."

"And shall I obtain from her all the particulars about which she was
indulging in such edifying hints at breakfast—shall I enquire into the
particulars relative to Lady Fanny and Mr. Morgan?"

"I dare say they would not repay the trouble," replied Lady Gordon,
"Fanny rather likes to say ill-natured things; I do not attach much
credit to her stories in general."

"Upon my word, Rosa, considering she is your very particular friend, I
think you speak very freely of her; I wonder whether you discuss my
character with equal candour and openness."

"Yours—of course, why should you doubt it—but I think if there is
anything to explain, Emma will probably explain it herself—she is so
particularly open and straight-forward."

"She is so, indeed; one of the most amiable young women I know; don't be
jealous, Rosa, but I like her very much."

Lady Gordon did not seem much troubled by jealousy, and so the affair
was settled.

Miss Carr was very well pleased when she learnt what arrangement had
been made, and only required to make her perfectly happy to be secure of
Lord Osborne's company, as she had a most charming new riding hat, with
a lovely plume, which she was certain would make her look bewitching,
and place her beyond competition with Emma. Instead, however, of
offering to accompany her, his lordship began quarrelling with his
sister about the arrangement she had projected. Why was not Miss Watson
to ride?—he was certain it would be much better for her than being
cooped up in a pony phaeton, where she would have no room for her feet.
In the saddle, as it was the right ankle which had been sprained, she
would have so much freedom, and he was certain she would enjoy it
extremely. Emma, however, protested against this arrangement; another
day she would be glad to try a ride, but not this morning; she was too
weak, quite unequal to such an exertion. Lord Osborne submitted, but
said not a word of himself accompanying Miss Carr; who, therefore,
considered it a settled thing. Accordingly, her new hat was arranged in
the most becoming style—her long ringlets drawn out to float on her
shoulders, and her dainty figure set off to the utmost by her tight
fitting riding habit. But all in vain; Sir William was the only cavalier
who appeared to wait on her, and he being a married man, was no good at
all. She was very sulky, and Sir William had no other pleasure in his
ride, than such as he could derive for himself from air and exercise on
a beautiful day.

Emma and Lady Gordon fared much better; the fresh air, after confinement
to one room, was delicious to the former; and, as her pleasure kept her
nearly silent, her companion was not troubled to make herself agreeable
either. They drove along, engrossed each by her own thoughts; Emma's
wandering down along each sunny glade or green alley in the forest,
revelling in the glorious pictures which presented themselves of ancient
trees, and groups of deer, sunshine and flickering shadows, deep pools
sleeping under precipitous banks tufted with fern and ivy, and crowned
with feathery copse wood.

The scenery of Comus seemed exemplified, and she almost expected to see
some mysterious forms gliding under the shadows of the forest trees.
Lady Gordon's feelings were much more mundane, and more immediately
connected with the interests of life. She was reflecting on the visibly
growing attachment of her brother, and wondering what would be the
result of it. At length she spoke.

"What shall I give you for your thoughts, Miss Watson? I am anxious, I
own, to know the subject of them."

"I am thinking," said she, "what a lovely wood this would be to rehearse
Comus in; on such an afternoon as this—would it not be effective?"

"What a good idea!" cried Lady Gordon, all animation at the proposal; "I
should like it of all things! Suppose we try?"

"With your present company?" enquired Emma.

"Yes; we should have quite enough—should we not? You shall be the lady,
and Fanny, Sabrina; I, the Spirit—Sir William, Comus, and Osborne—let me
see, we should want one other man. I suppose Mr. Howard would take a
part?"

"Mr. Howard? oh, no! I should think not. I am sure he would not like
it!"

"Well, well; any one could do the brother's part. I think it would be
exquisite. I am quite delighted with the idea."

"Did you ever act, Lady Gordon?" enquired Emma.

"Never at all; but I am sure it must be delightful. I wonder whether Sir
William would make any objection?"

"There would be some difficulties in the way," observed Emma.

"So much the better; difficulties to overcome give one spirits. Here we
would have our theatre,"—stopping the carriage and looking round. "A
marquee or something of the sort, and seats raised in a semi-circle—it
would be quite delightful, such a _fête champêtre_. I am certain we
could manage it; and the novelty of the thing would give it great
_éclat_."

"But, Lady Gordon, if you talk in that way you will frighten me; I am
certain I could not act before an audience—I never tried any thing of
the sort, except in the most quiet way; amongst cousins and intimate
friends, with nobody to look on, but my uncle and aunt, and one or two
old people, whom we were not afraid of. We did it only for own
amusement, without thinking of being looked at or producing an effect;
acting for the entertainment of a circle of people, must be such a very
different thing from acting for one's pleasure."

"Very different, indeed; and I should think much more agreeable; what
would be the good of fine acting, if there was nobody to see it, and
none on whom it could produce any effect."

"But acting in itself, is so very amusing, like dancing—one does not
dance to be looked at, but for one's satisfaction; and it was the same
with me in the only acting I ever attempted. I forgot every thing but my
part."

"I dare say, you acted very well," said Lady Gordon.

"I liked it exceedingly," replied Emma.

"I cannot give up my plan, however;" continued Lady Gordon, "you have
put it into my head, but you will not find it easy to put it out again."

Just, at this moment, a turn of the road they were pursuing, brought
Lord Osborne immediately before them, leisurely sauntering along on his
horse.

He quickened his pace of course, on perceiving the carriage, and was
beside them immediately; with a look of pleasure which was not lost upon
his sister, who was always watching his address to Emma.

"So, I have had the good luck to meet you at last," exclaimed he, "I was
dreadfully afraid I should come upon the other couple, instead of you,
Rosa; and Fanny Carr looked so cross because I would not ride with her.
I do not think I shall face her again for a month. I wish girls would
learn to govern their tempers; they cannot always expect all the men to
be scampering at their heels, just when they want it."

"You used her extremely ill, I must say, in running away from her as you
have done, and riding alone after all. I wonder you are not ashamed of
it," said his sister reproachfully.

"I did not run away from her; I waited till she was gone, and did not
make up my mind until then, whether I would ride or walk," was his
reply.

His sister then began, in the warmth of her present feelings, trying to
interest him in the plan they had been talking of when he joined them.
He did not know what Comus was, and as to acting out in a wood, he was
certain it would be much more convenient, agreeable, and altogether
safer to have the play in the house. He had no objection to acting at
all, if he could do it, but he did not think he could—however, he would
try.



                              CHAPTER IX.


Emma was not present when Lady Gordon made known her wishes on the
subject of acting to her husband; but in the dusk of the evening, as she
was sitting in the conservatory, she became aware, by a conversation she
had with Sir William Gordon, that the request had been made. He came to
her, and placing himself on a low stool at her feet, he began by telling
her, in an under tone,

"I wish you had not put that idea into Rosa's head, Miss Watson, about
acting: I don't like it at all."

"I am exceedingly sorry then," replied Emma; "but no doubt Lady Gordon
will readily give it up if you wish it."

"I hate to contradict her," said the husband; "ever since she has taken
to doing as I wish when I ask, I cannot bear to thwart her at all."

"You seem to regret her complaisance, Sir William; would you prefer
having to reproach and quarrel with her?"

"I feel much more inclined to reproach and quarrel with you, Miss
Watson. I begin to think you are a dangerous companion for my wife. Who
would have expected such a wild scheme from you?"

"Really I hardly know what to say to your reproaches, because perhaps
you may think I am trying to throw the blame from myself; but my idea
and Lady Gordon's plans were so totally different, that they hardly seem
as if they had the same origin. It was quite a vague notion on my part,
suggested by the beauty of the forest scenery, and certainly neither
comprehending company nor marquees, publicity nor expense."

"You do not suppose, my dear Miss Watson, that I meant seriously to
blame you!" said Sir William half rising at her tone. "Rosa explained to
me all about it in reality. But now she has set her heart upon the
thing, I do not know what to do. She will never see any difficulties in
the way of her wishes, and her enthusiasm is the most difficult thing in
the world to resist. If she put herself in a passion about it, I should
mind opposing her a great deal less. What do you recommend, Miss
Watson?"

"Don't ask me," said Emma; "I should probably advise something wild and
unheard of—such as either letting her have her own way, or putting a
decided negative on the whole affair at once."

"I believe I must do that. It is so very unreasonable a plan; in this
country picnics and _fête-champêtres_ for ladies and gentlemen are
almost quite certain to end in rain, spoilt bonnets, wet feet, and bad
colds; besides, I do not approve of her acting, or yours, or any lady's,
and shall certainly not countenance it with my assistance. But Rosa did
wish it so very much, I am sure I shall not have the courage to refuse
her."

"You do injustice to your own strength of mind and firmness of purpose,
Sir William," said Emma laughingly; "you can be as positive and decided
as any one, when you please, though you take so much credit to yourself
for your amiable softness."

"And you recommend me to enforce my authority?"

"And you expect me to give an opinion between man and wife—one which
would make you both my enemies; I am not quite so wild as that!"

"Did you see Osborne out riding to-day? I presume he went off with you,
as he would not come with us."

"He overtook us," said Emma, "and rode a little way with us; what a
pretty horse he rides."

"He wants you to mount that—shall you have courage or strength
to-morrow?"

Emma rather demurred.

"It is very gentle, you need not be afraid, I know it well; but you need
not do it if you do not like. Have you been used to horse exercise?"

"A year or two ago I rode a great deal; but I have not made up my mind
about accepting his offer yet, even if he makes it."

"Have you not?" said Sir William quickly; "you had better, for it will
certainly come, and it will be most convenient to know your own mind on
the subject."

"Then I shall take the night to think of of it, and be ready by the
morning; give me your advice, Sir William—which do you recommend, aye or
no?"

"The affirmative, certainly; it will give me great pleasure to see you
added to our party, and to enjoy so much of your society."

"How long have you been studying such extremely complimentary speeches?"
laughed Emma; "but however, I cannot wait here for you to explain to me,
as really it is time to return to the drawing-room."

"Let me assist you," exclaimed Sir William placing her hand under his
arm; "you are hardly yet strong enough to walk quite alone, I am sure."

"I must say, Rosa," said Miss Carr, to her friend the next day, "that I
think you are the most complaisant of wives—much more than I should be."

"I am glad you approve of me, Fanny. What particular good quality has
excited your admiration to-day?"

"The calmness with which you look on and witness the flirtation of your
husband with that pretty Emma Watson. I wonder you like it," said Miss
Carr, balancing her eye-glass on her chain between her two hands as she
spoke.

"You give me more credit than I deserve a great deal, Fanny; I see
nothing of the sort, and, therefore, my complaisance and calmness are
not tried."

"Why surely with half an eye any one may see how much they are
together—you cannot deny it."

"No, or that you are likewise a great deal with him," said Lady Gordon,
calmly.

"Or how much she talks to him," persisted Fanny.

"Not more than you do, I think," retorted her friend.

"Were you aware of the long interview they had last night in the dark in
the conservatory? She was sitting in the corner, and he almost leaning
on her lap."

"I am glad you put in the _almost_, it makes an important difference,
Fanny."

"Do you know what they were talking of, Rosa?"

"No, do you?"

"A great deal of it was complaints of you, he was saying he could not
manage you, and she was giving him advice on the subject. Then they said
a great deal more about another subject, which I shall just tell you.
You are of course aware that she intends to marry your brother."

"No, indeed, I am no such thing."

"Well, she does, I assure you, I heard them coolly canvassing the
subject, he was recommending her to make up her mind as Osborne would
certainly make her an offer, and he said it would be inconvenient to be
in doubt when the proposal was made."

"I am sure you must have very much misunderstood, Fanny, for I cannot
believe Sir William, or Miss Watson either, were discussing any such
subject. Nor can I at all comprehend how you came to learn all that you
detail to me—were they talking before you?"

"No, not exactly—they were in the conservatory, and so was I, but very
likely they did not see me."

"I wonder you remained there then as a listener to their conversation,"
said Lady Gordon, with an air of cool disdain.

"How could I suppose that your husband and your friend had any secrets
to discuss, I am sure such an idea never entered my head; and you take
it so coolly, I really quite admire you, Rosa."

"I do not see anything to agitate myself about, Fanny, unless you could
persuade me to distrust my husband, a thing which I should conclude can
be no more in your wish than it is in your power."

"I would not say anything if I did not know that Emma Watson to be a
dangerous flirt, one who is artful and unscrupulous, and who made
herself so conspicuous at Croydon that she was obliged to leave the
place."

"How can you talk in that way, Fanny, I am positively ashamed of you,"
exclaimed Lady Gordon, quite indignantly.

"I assure you, upon my word, I am saying nothing but the most positive
truth," asseverated Miss Carr, "I dare say she never told you anything
about it, but I heard it all when I was at Lady Allston's, and can tell
you the whole history about it."

"I really have no wish to hear country-town gossip," replied Lady
Gordon.

Whilst she was speaking Lord Osborne entered the room, and hearing her
last words, exclaimed,

"Ah, pray let us have it, Miss Carr: it would be a pity to defraud a
young lady of an opportunity of repeating a bit of scandal."

"I think it only fair to tell you, Rosa," continued Miss Carr, "fair to
you, and equally so to your friend, if it gives her the opportunity of
explaining away the evil surmises set afloat about her."

"Oh, it's about Emma Watson you are gossiping," observed Lord Osborne
turning away; and taking up a newspaper, he threw himself into a chair,
and concealing his face behind the folio pages, he added, "Pray go on,
and do not mind me."

"Well," said Miss Carr, "you know I dare say Miss Emma was left without
a farthing of her own, and quite dependent on her brother, who is a
shabby attorney at Croydon: this did not suit her—the wife was cross and
mean, like most attorneys' wives I suppose, and Emma is what is called
very high-spirited; and as they could not agree it was settled that Emma
should go as governess some where. Lady Fanny was just parting with
hers, and who should be recommended to her but my old acquaintance Emma
Watson; I remembered the name directly; was it not odd?"

"Yes, rather," replied Lady Gordon, "because I know you seldom remember
what does not concern you. I cannot comprehend how all this history
became fixed in your mind, for really it seems of so little interest to
any but Emma's friends. I knew much of it before."

"It amused me so much, to think of the girl whom I remembered flirting
at Osborne Castle, making her appearance in a new character. But who do
you think recommended her; my cousin's doctor, Mr. Morgan!"

Here Lord Osborne's newspaper rustled very much as he changed the
position of his elbows, and Fanny looked round. His face was still
invisible, so she had nothing to do but continue her narrative.

"Now you must know my cousin is in delicate health, nervous and
excitable, and of course, like all such ladies, takes the English
substitute for a _cavalier-servante_, namely a doctor. _Her_ doctor,
this Mr. Morgan, is reckoned a very clever man, and so I think he must
be, for all ladies he attends, old and young, are, from half in love, to
the greatest extreme of the tender passion. I believe his character is
not quite _sans tache et sans reproche_, which decidedly renders him a
more interesting object; and his manners are so exceedingly devoted and
tender, that really I felt inclined to fall ill, that I might be
attended by him. He proposed Emma Watson as governess, recommended her
highly, and carried on the negotiation very successfully, when somehow
or other, my cousin took alarm about the extraordinary interest of his
manner, and having discovered that Emma was reckoned handsome, began to
think it would not do. However, as she is very kind and candid, she
would not condemn her without some enquiry; she has some inferior
acquaintance in the town—I used to wonder why she kept them up—some old
young ladies, great gossips; but I have found out now the use of them:
when she wants a cook, or a nurse, or a governess, or a tiresome piece
of work done, or a charitable collection made in her name, she turns
over all the trouble to these Miss Jenkins or some such name, (one
cannot recollect their plebeian denominations,) and they are only too
proud and happy to fuss about for dear Lady Fanny, who in return invites
them sometimes to tea, and asks her governess to meet them. Well, these
amiable and obliging virgins were quite scandalized that the dear Lady
Fanny should have been so nearly led into a grievous scrape by hiring
the said Emma Watson, who besides sundry other offences, had been guilty
of carrying on a very discreditable acquaintance with this very Mr.
Morgan. Clandestine meetings, and private conversations in dark rooms,
long walks in solitary lanes, and all that sort of thing. Now he is
certainly not a man to be trusted in any other capacity than a
doctor—nobody has a word to say against him in that particular—but
certainly not the man to be safe in a _tête-à-tête_ with a girl he
admired—at least so far as her character was concerned; and Lady Fanny,
quite scandalized, settled the matter at once by an instant rupture of
the negotiation. I dare say," added the narrator laughing, "she did not
want a rival so near her own person."

"And that is your narrative, is it?" said Lady Gordon; "it seems to me
to reflect much more discredit on your cousin than on my friend."

"Upon my word, Rosa, you are rather free in your remarks on my
relatives," exclaimed Fanny very indignantly.

"I beg your pardon; _I_ have not complained of what you have been saying
of my friend and guest."

"But what is there remarkable in Lady Fanny's proceedings to strike you
with wonder? I think it was quite natural; setting aside any jealousy of
Emma, she was surely right not to bring into her house, as governess to
her daughter, a girl who had anything like a slur on her character."

"Excuse my saying that if Lady Fanny did not object to employing the man
in question as a physician, she had no right to take umbrage if another
permitted him as a companion."

"But I understood there was something quite improper in the way in which
she commenced and carried on the acquaintance—quite clandestine and
against her sister's known opinion. In fact, the whole affair was so
shocking that no one would speak to Emma at Croydon, and she was obliged
to leave the town in disgrace. In short, her reputation there was
completely _mise en pièce_."

"I am perfectly persuaded," replied Lady Gordon, "that you have been
exceedingly deceived in this affair. As to believing Emma Watson guilty
of anything deserving censure, I cannot until it is proved."

"I should have thought my authority good enough," said Miss Carr.

"You speak only on hear-say evidence, Fanny: you heard from Lady Fanny
what was told her by certain professed gossips, who must either have
been acting as spies themselves, or have been the collectors and bearers
of the slanders of other individuals. No, there is no authority for your
assertions—no testimony which would stand in a court of justice."

"You are determined neither to see nor understand, Rosa, or you could
not talk in that, way," retorted Fanny quite angrily.

"We shall never agree, so we had better not discuss the subject
further," replied Lady Gordon, "suppose we go to luncheon."

The riding party had again been under discussion, and it was decided
that they should all five take an excursion on horse-back, Emma being to
mount the quiet and gentle animal so strongly recommended by Sir William
Gordon.

Just as they were starting, their party was joined by another young man,
a neighbour, who was coming to pay a morning visit, and whom Lady Gordon
invited to accompany them. Whether for the sake of a fresh object, or in
hopes of pique by contrast, or from some other cause unknown, Miss Carr
fastened on him as a victim, and wherever the width of the road required
a division, they two kept side by side. This was a peculiarly agreeable
arrangement to the others, as allowing of two conversations deeply
interesting to some of the parties at least. Lady Gordon wanted to have
a private conference with her husband, on the subject which Miss Carr
had been discussing, and she took this opportunity of belonging to a
party of six to commence it. She told him everything straight-forward,
from the accusation of a flirtation with him, down to the asserted loss
of character. Sir William heard her gravely, and with fixed attention,
without interrupting her eloquent narrative by a remark or a question.
She concluded her story before he opened his lips, and then turning full
towards her, he enquired:

"Well, and have you determined to turn her out of the house?"

"I really feel much inclined to do so, I assure you, the attempt to make
dissension between us is so unpardonable."

"You should first be quite convinced that the attempt has been made,"
said Sir William very coolly.

"My dear William, what else can you call her accusation that Emma
flirted with you? She could not make me jealous, but it was most
ill-natured of her to say so; for were the scandal to come to Emma's
ears, it would of course make her very uncomfortable."

"I beg your pardon, Rosa," replied her husband with a smile, "we were
speaking of different individuals; you, I presume, understood my
question as applying to Miss Carr, whilst I really referred to Miss
Watson, and I own your answer rather surprised me."

"So it well might. Could you suppose me capable of resenting to Emma
what Fanny might say. I thought you would have known me better. I shall
take no notice of all the Croydon scandal, except by being kinder to
poor Emma, and as to yourself, I must beg you will do so too. Talk to
her, walk with her as much as you like, I am not afraid for either of
you."

Sir William's eyes expressed far more than his brief answer seemed to
convey, she could read their language, and therefore—"Thank you, I hope
we shall neither of us abuse your confidence!"—was quite satisfactory to
her.

In the meantime Lord Osborne was compelling Emma to undergo a catechism,
the purpose of which she could not comprehend. He began by enquiring
where she had been staying previous to her visit to his sister, made
himself quite master of the connection of Miss Bridge with Croydon, and
ascertained that Mr. Bridge was a friend of hers. He then informed
himself whether she had any relatives still in the town, learnt with
evident satisfaction that her eldest sister, whom he remembered, was
still there, and also that her brother was settled in the place. Emma
even told him that her sister was speedily to be married to a very
respectable brewer in the town, quite heedless whether such a piece of
information was likely to invalidate her claims on his regard. He seemed
exceedingly well pleased with the result of his investigation, but no
explanation followed as to the object of all his enquiries. As she
thought one was certainly her due, she at length took the step of asking
to what all these questions tended, if she might make so bold as to
demand it.

He hesitated a good deal, and then said flatly he should not tell her,
so it was no use her asking him; at least now, though she would very
likely know it by and bye; he then added in a confidential tone, that he
was going to leave home for a short time; but that he hoped in a few
days to return to her with pleasure. She could not compliment him by
pretending to be sorry at his departure, as she really cared very little
about it; but she enquired, by way of making some kind of answer,
whether his sister was acquainted with his plans. He told her she was
not yet, but that he intended to tell her the first opportunity, as he
had not yet had time to tell her, his project had been so suddenly
formed; it originated solely in some news he had heard that morning.

Emma was too indifferent about him, to feel any curiosity as to the
reason of his journey or its object—for she little suspected that it
nearly concerned herself; the fact being that, in consequence of the
scandal that Fanny Carr had repeated in the morning, he had resolved to
go over to Croydon and exert himself to trace and confute, what he was
certain were only base calumnies, and when he had succeeded in
triumphantly proving her innocence, he meant to lay at her feet his
title and his fortune. He was perfectly delighted at the prospect of
proving his devotion to her by this piece of knight-errantry,—which, he
flattered himself, would render him quite irresistible in her eyes;
indeed, he had serious thoughts, if the original fabricator of these
lies was a man, of challenging him—a step which he firmly believed would
not fail to secure the heart of any woman, for whom the duel was fought.

His ideas on this subject were rather derived from the old-fashioned
novels, where the hero invariably fights at least three duels, to clear
the character of his lady-love.

Very soon after imparting this information to Emma, there came a
division in the party; Lady Gordon having persuaded her husband to
change places with her brother for several reasons. One of the motives
that actuated her, was a wish to converse with Lord Osborne on the
reports relative to Emma, and learn what he thought of Miss Carr's
stories. But she rather wished likewise to separate him from Emma—with
whom she thought he had been enjoying too long a _tête-à-tête_; and she
was, moreover, determined to prove the entire absence of all jealousy as
a wife, notwithstanding the insinuations of her friend.

Emma was always pleased with Sir William's company and conversation, and
enjoyed this part of her ride much more than the first. She had the
pleasant conviction in her mind that Sir William liked her; a feeling
which made their intercourse very agreeable—and, as to the scandal which
Miss Carr had tried to insinuate on that subject—she was so perfectly
ignorant of it, that it never occurred to her that an exception to their
being together could possibly be taken.

All Lady Gordon's eloquence and persuasive powers—seconded by the
strongest curiosity, failed to draw from her brother an acknowledgement
of his purpose in leaving home, or a definite opinion as to his belief,
or otherwise, in Miss Carr's stories. On this subject, indeed, he was
particularly impracticable, only exclaiming—

"Pshaw! don't ask me, Rosa, about any thing she says—you know I never
listen to her."

One thing which greatly excited her curiosity, was the manner of her
brother's journey; she had questioned him as to how he intended to
travel, and he only told her to guess. In vain she attempted to do so.
His carriages were all enumerated in vain—his horses, his servants, were
not to accompany him; she concluded that he must be going on foot, and
the object of his journey became more mysterious than ever.

He piqued himself on his discretion, and was delighted to torment her,
until she was obliged to own herself fairly puzzled, and then he told
her to console her—"Time would show."

In fact Lord Osborne left the Castle the next morning in a gig, with a
single attendant, who only accompanied him a couple of miles, and then
returned home, leaving his lordship and his portmanteau at a small
road-side public house. Further than this, nothing was to be extracted
by the most adroit questioning of Lady Gordon's woman, who well knew how
curious her mistress was on the subject. But although his expedition was
a secret to his relatives and friends, it is none to the reader, and we
shall, therefore, without ceremony leave him at the public-house in
question, until the stage-coach through Croydon passed, and picking him
up transported him the rest of the journey.



                               CHAPTER X.


The party left at the Castle, was too ill-suited to be particularly
agreeable, and Sir William now and then privately complained to his wife
of the dead weight which Miss Carr was in society where there were no
young men present. She had so little conversation besides scandal, and
so little occupation of any kind, that Sir William was extremely weary
of her. She sometimes played a little on the harp, but she never did
that with perseverance, or anything else at all. Her father had never
allowed her to learn any species of needle-work, which in some shape or
other forms the universal occupation and resource of women, because, he
said, there were so many unfortunates who were compelled to earn their
bread in that way, that it was unfair to take it out of their hands.
With no taste for anything but the lightest species of literature, a
novel was her only quiet resource, and in the country it was difficult
in those days to procure a sufficient supply of new novels. Lady Gordon
could only listen patiently to her husband's complaints; she did not
know when Fanny and her foibles would remove; nor could she at all
foretell when Lord Osborne and her spirits would return, though pretty
well aware that they would re-appear together.

The only resource she could suggest was arranging a small party for a
dance or some such amusement, as she had never said another word about
the acting, which at one time had so occupied her mind. This would give
her friend something to think of and amuse herself with, as she might
arrange a new dress for the occasion; nay, if Lady Gordon could only
unite a daylight and an evening party in one, she might have the
happiness of preparing two dresses at least.

The prospect of such a pleasure revived Miss Carr, and she awoke to a
full sense of the responsibilities of life, when so important a thing as
a _fête_ was in progress. Of what nature should it be, was the question,
and one which occasioned as much amusement as could be hoped from the
actual party. They had a great many different plans in their heads;
fancy dresses—historical characters—costumes from the old family
portraits in the picture-gallery, were all discussed with much warmth
and animation. But every one of these proposals had so many objections
attached to it. The difficulty of getting other individuals to enter
into their views, and the impossibility of those unaccustomed to such
scenes entering into them at all, were all suggested as impediments by
Sir William, who had no fancy for any of their plans, and it ended in a
much more simple arrangement. A collation in a _marquée_, in some
romantic part of the park, bands of music stationed in favorable
situations, to entertain them whilst eating; and the beauties of the
glen, the echo, and the waterfall within a distance favorable for a
walk, to amuse them afterwards. Then there might be the return to the
Castle in the evening, and a dance afterwards, which would finish the
day's pleasure, and afford a proper proportion of fatigue to all.

To settle on a picturesque costume for this occasion, became now the
pre-eminent object of Fanny Carr's thoughts. Emma herself was under no
uneasiness on that point, as Lady Gordon had taken the occasion to
present her with a suitable and elegant dress, on the plea of making
some compensation for the awkwardness of her brother on the occasion of
the last ball at Osborne Castle.

Lord Osborne's return was delayed from day to day, by his finding more
difficulty in his undertaking than he had expected; but as the course of
his pursuit led him to London, he wrote from thence to his sister and
gave her reason to expect to see him again before the _fête_ day
arrived. This was a relief to Miss Carr's mind, for although desirous of
universal admiration, she was peculiarly anxious for his special
attention and regard.

Fortunately for her she was gratified; as she was sitting in Lady
Gordon's dressing-room the day preceding that for universal happiness,
busily engaged in twining a delicate wreath to deck her hair on the
festive night, Lord Osborne marched into the room, and suddenly laid
down before her a packet of papers, which he was carrying in his hand.
She gave a great jump and a little scream, exclaimed at his abrupt
entrance, and enquired playfully if he meant to frighten her out of her
senses. He replied quietly:

"Not in the least, but he knew there was no danger of that, as her
nerves were sufficiently strong to bear a much greater shock."

But what in the world were those papers he had placed before her? what
was she to do with them?

He told her to read them and they would gratify her exceedingly.

"What on earth are they?" said she, unfolding the
packet—"'Testimonials—Miss Emma Watson—Rev. John Bridge—Barbara
Bridge—Lucy Jenkins—Eliza Lamb—'good heavens! what is the meaning of all
this, my lord—are you trying to make a fool of me?"

"No, Miss Carr, I am only trying to prevent your making a fool of
yourself," answered he with perfect self-possession.

"I really am excessively obliged to you. I did not know I was in danger
of such a catastrophe, or that I was likely to be indebted in that
respect to your lordship's deep intellect, and brilliant genius. Pray
may I ask the meaning of all this, for really at present my folly is too
profound to allow me to reach the pinnacle of comprehension."

"You remember, Miss Carr," said Lord Osborne gravely, "those slanderous
tales against Miss Watson, which you were pleased to repeat the day
before I left this place."

"Yes, I remember saying something which indeed I am certain could be
proved to a fraction. If you think I repeat things without a foundation,
you are very much mistaken indeed. I assure you I am excessively careful
of what I say, and never dream of giving circulation to unfounded
reports, or—"

"I am excessively glad to hear it—I hope you never will—I listened to
you then without speaking, I must beg you will do so now to me. Feeling
perfectly sure, as I did, that your tale was untrue; I have been to
Croydon—and, without troubling you with a long detail of the trouble I
have taken, I shall just make a short story of it at once, by saying
that the result is, that Emma Watson's character is perfectly clear."

"I am sure then, my lord, that Emma Watson herself must be excessively
obliged to you; but really, excuse me for asking what is all this to
me!"

"It's no use your attempting to deny it, Miss Carr, it convicts you at
once of the very unpleasant and disagreeable fault of repeating
slanderous reports. I hope it will serve as a warning to you to prevent
such wickedness again."

"Upon my word, my lord, your Quixotism surpasses all ordinary bounds—do
tell me what you will do next? Riding about the country one day to
exculpate a girl who can be nothing to you, beyond a common
acquaintance, and then sitting down to preach lectures to me, without
fee or reward for it; I do not know how sufficiently to honour such
exemplary greatness of mind."

"You are welcome to your wit and your eloquence, Miss Carr; I have
neither wish nor pretension to equal you in the flow of words; but you
cannot, even if you take the most round about form of expression
possible, deny that you have been quite wrong in the whole affair."

"I am amazingly flattered by the extremely complimentary turn which your
conversation takes, Lord Osborne. You seem to have benefitted by the
superior style of society with which you must have associated at
Croydon; really, your sister will hardly know you again. May I venture
to enquire whether you have confided to the fair Emma—the heroic
devotion and the extraordinary exertions to which she has inspired you?"

Lord Osborne, who was looking over the packet of papers which Miss Carr
had tossed contemptuously back on the table, neither answered nor looked
up; and the sudden entrance of Lady Gordon, prevented any further
acrimony on the part of the young lady—who, as soon as she recovered her
temper, became very sorry that she had spoken as she did, whilst under
the influence of vexation and shame.

Lady Gordon appeared very glad to see her brother; though she declared
she had always felt certain that he would return in time for her
_fête_—she always had such good luck at her _fête_. Her astonishment was
extreme when she learnt the end and object of his journey; and she
certainly felt, besides astonishment, a considerable portion of secret
annoyance, that he should have been sufficiently under the influence of
partiality for Emma, to be roused to such an exertion. She, who knew him
well, was aware how very strong must have been the feeling of interest
which could incite him to undertake and carry through a task repulsive
to all his former habits and tastes. It marked a very decided love
indeed; and Rosa lamented the existence of such a partiality, even
whilst rejoicing that its results were so favorable to the reputation of
her friend. But, on the whole, she was growing more reasonable than
formerly—like all women who love their husbands, she was adopting her
husband's opinions, and beginning to think that Emma would be no
disgrace to the peerage, were she ever to become a member of it; but
that her brother's chance of winning her being small, his affection
would not be conducive to his happiness. The astonishing degree of
warmth he had manifested on the present occasion, shewed the state of
his mind; but as for Emma herself, if she had read her feelings rightly,
they were in favor of another object. Lord Osborne detailed to his
sister the whole history of his exertions. He had gone to Croydon quite
incognito—had established himself very quietly at the principal inn, and
after bespeaking a dinner, walked down to call on the Vicar. To him he
had detailed his object, and asked his advice, giving, as a reason for
the interference of an unconnected individual like himself, the peculiar
intimacy which existed between his sister and the young lady in
question. Mr. Bridge had entered most kindly and warmly into his views,
had pointed out the course he thought best, and made Robert Watson and
his wife own that Emma had remonstrated against being exposed to meeting
Mr. Morgan out walking, and that she had made no secret of the
occurrence. It was not without great difficulty and adroit arguments
that he had brought Jane to acknowledge the truth on this subject; only
by representations of the necessity of clearing her own character, which
she could do, by admitting, as Mr. Bridge knew was the case, that she
had yielded to her sister's persuasions, and in consequence of them had
abstained from sending Emma out with her little girl.

Having thus cleared Emma from the imputation of there being anything
clandestine or intentional in her meetings with the doctor, a fact which
the eldest Miss Watson could also corroborate, his next step was to see
Lady Fanny Allston and learn from her who had been her authority for the
slander to which she had yielded. Her ladyship was in town, but Lord
Osborne, not to be baffled by such a circumstance, set off after her,
and without waste of time presented himself in her drawing-room in
London.

On his first application her ladyship denied all recollection of the
circumstance, there were so many young women who applied for the
situation of governess to Miss Allston, that she could not be expected
to remember any of them after the lapse of so long a time as three or
four months. But he was not to be so put off, and took so much trouble
to remind her of the circumstances, that she was at last forced to admit
that she could recal something about it. When in consequence he pressed
for her authorities on the occasion, she laughed excessively at his
heroic exertions in a cause which could not concern him in the least.
What possible motive could he have she observed, for interesting himself
in a girl whose state and circumstances were so obscure. A girl who was
forced to go out as governess, what could he know about her—what ought
he to know about her—a mere country-parson's daughter, without fortune
or connections, it was ridiculous of him to be tearing about the country
to vindicate her from a little country-gossip. His lordship must excuse
her laughing at him for his knight errantry, but what mattered it
whether the said Emma Watson had flirted with the doctor of Croydon or
not, or who had said that she had, if she had not.

It appeared as if Lord Osborne's character had been totally changed
under the influence of Emma's charms, or the excitement of his pursuit;
indeed he owned to his sister it was as animating as a fox-chase, and
that he enjoyed hunting up scandal-mongers excessively. Lady Fanny's
ridicule, from which formerly he might have shrunk, could not now move
him from his object. He answered her quietly, that the character of
every individual was of value to them, and the more so in proportion to
the less of wealth or importance they had. Her ladyship might, without
scruple, forfeit her reputation for integrity, honour and justice, if
she chose, by refusing what he asked, and thus robbing Miss Watson; and
that the world, seeing she _was_ Lady Fanny still, might consider it no
great matter; but the case was very different with his sister's friend,
who as Lady Fanny justly observed, had neither friends, rank nor fortune
to gloss over the calumny, or support her through right and wrong, and
who it was possible might depend on her character for her subsistence.
But seeing that she _was_ his sister's friend, and at this moment her
guest, he was determined to see justice done to her, both for her own
and his sister's sake; he therefore called on Lady Fanny, if she did not
wish to be considered the fabricator of the false report herself, to
acknowledge who was the author of it—for false it certainly was, as he
had other means of proving.

After some attempts at prevarication, she at length owned that she had
learnt the circumstances from Miss Jenkins, and she even at last
produced and gave up to him the identical letter to herself which
contained the whole tale, with a variety of circumstances which it was
evident to any unprejudiced observer must have been entirely invention,
as no one could have been witness to them, by the writer's own showing.

Armed with this document, Lord Osborne had returned to Croydon and laid
the paper before Mr. Bridge. That gentleman, delighted at having reduced
the accusations to a form so easily combated, had agreed that they
should go together, and compel Miss Jenkins to retract her assertions.

They had called on her, and at first met only with impertinence and
prevarication. She did not know who Lord Osborne was, and would not
allow his right, or that of Mr. Bridge, to question her conduct.
Supposing his lordship to be only one of Emma's relations, and as such
deserving no particular consideration or courtesy, she did not scruple
to behave with the insolence and neglect with which underbred people
consider themselves entitled to treat their inferiors. Of course her
confusion was extreme when she found, to her astonishment, that it was a
baron whom she had scornfully answered, and whom she had scarcely
condescended to ask to seat himself.

She fell, on this discovery, into a prodigious fit of agitation and
flutter, protested that she was perfectly ashamed of herself—quite
shocked his lordship should have been treated so—would not his lordship
move nearer the fire—would he not take a more comfortable chair. She
hoped his lordship would not refuse a glass of wine or a little cake;
was he quite sure that he did not sit in a draft—the corner of the sofa
and a foot-stool would be much better for him. Lord Osborne very
positively, and rather abruptly, declined all her attentions, declaring
that he wished for nothing better than his present situation, nor
desired anything else from Miss Jenkins than the fulfilment of the
particular object of their visit—the declaration what authority she had
for her assertions regarding Emma Watson.

She now attempted to deny that she had ever said anything at all
injurious to Miss Emma Watson's character; it was quite impossible that
she should—she had the highest regard for the young lady in question,
and must have for any one whom she knew to be the intimate friend of
Lady Gordon, and about whom his lordship was so kind as to interest
himself. She never could have been guilty of any unjust reflections on
such a person, and it must be an entire mistake of Lady Fanny Allston's
if she imagined anything to the contrary.

With the greatest self-possession Lord Osborne listened to her
assertions, and then producing the letter and laying it before her, said
he was exceedingly concerned to be compelled to disprove the assertions
of a lady, but really her present words were so contrary to her former
opinions as recorded on that paper, that he must beg to revive her
memory on the subject. Would she be so kind as to look over the
accusations which that letter brought against Miss Watson, and let them
know how much of it was false, and what part, if any, was true; and how
she became possessed of the knowledge which she had there set down.

Miss Jenkins looked a little confused on seeing her own writing brought
to witness against her, but not nearly so much so, as she had done when
she found she had allowed a peer of the realm to seat himself so near
the door. However, she set herself to work resolutely to deny all she
had written; she could not imagine how she had ever made such
assertions, she could recollect nothing about it; it was most strange,
most extraordinary, most wonderful, most incomprehensible that she
should have written such things, she could not believe it possible: she
even seemed to expect that they would be so complaisant as to disbelieve
it likewise. Miss Lamb had been with her when she wrote the letter, it
must have been on her authority that she had made these extraordinary
statements. In short she was perfectly ready to contradict them entirely
now, and to sign any statement which Lord Osborne would please to
suggest; such was her respect for Miss Emma Watson, she was sure she
could never speak of her in terms too high.

With great satisfaction, but unutterable contempt, Lord Osborne
compelled her to retract every particular which she had formerly stated,
and after agreeing that one copy of her present deposition should be
sent to Lady Fanny Allston, they decided to continue their investigation
by a reference to Miss Lamb, who was accused of being her
fellow-conspirator on the past occasion.

Miss Lamb was a very different person from Miss Jenkins; cold and
repulsive in her manners, and sparing of her words, she hardly deigned
even to justify herself. She did condescend, however, so far as to say,
that she had had nothing at all to do in the most distant degree with
the affair in question, either by word or deed; though on being
cross-questioned she admitted she had seen the letter which Miss Jenkins
had sent to Lady Fanny; she had indeed been sitting by whilst it was in
the course of composition; but she denied entirely having assisted her
companion in any way, excepting in spelling and grammar, points in which
she sarcastically observed her friend occasionally needed help. As to
her requiring assistance or suggestion beyond her own imagination, where
anything ill-natured was in question, that was quite unnecessary as
everybody acquainted with Miss Jenkins's taste for gossip must be aware.
She had such a superfluity of invention on all such matters as could be
equalled by few ladies in Croydon. She, Miss Lamb, knew she had watched
Emma closely, and discovered that Mr. Morgan had joined her occasionally
when out walking, and this was quite enough to form the foundation of
any little scandalous romance which she thought might look well, or be
agreeable and amusing to Lady Fanny. For her own part, she knew no harm
at all of Emma Watson, and she hoped that after this statement she
should have no further trouble in the matter, as she was going out, and
did not wish to be detained.

Thus their interview terminated; and Lord Osborne perfectly satisfied
with his success so far, having shown the declarations of these two
young ladies to Mr. Watson, and his wife, once more repaired to London,
to learn what Lady Fanny thought of the paper he had sent her.

Her ladyship this time was ill-used and hysterical, sobbing over the
depravity of human nature, which had led Miss Jenkins wickedly to invent
such tales, and thereby greatly to deceive and incommode her ladyship;
preventing her obtaining a desirable governess to her great
inconvenience, and exposing her moreover to much trouble, anxiety, and
other evils, endangering her reputation for veracity, and threatening to
place her in a ridiculous position.

Lord Osborne could not help perceiving the absurdity and selfishness of
her lamentations, but he let her go on as she would, so long as she
agreed to sign an admission that she had been misled. He would not,
however, make her the promise which she requested from him, that he
would use his influence with this very charming young person to
undertake the situation from which she had previously been so scornfully
repulsed; he gravely observed he did not think it was any business of
his, and that he could not interfere in her private arrangements. Lady
Fanny, smitten with a vehement desire to become the patroness of the
slandered Emma, determined, she said, to write and renew her proposals.
He made no objection, though perfectly determined that proposals from
himself, and of a different nature should if possible precede hers.

This resolution of his own he did not detail to his sister, nor did he
communicate another circumstance which had occurred, namely that he had,
whilst in London, sought an interview with his mother, whom he found
deeply engrossed in a flirtation with a young colonel of the guards. He
did not like the young fellow's appearance at all, nor the air of being
at home which he assumed, but on his taking leave a still more
unpleasant scene had occurred. His mother had enquired if Howard were
still at the Castle, and on her son mentioning where he was, but adding
that he hoped soon to remove him to a better living, her ladyship had
broken out into the most violent opposition to this plan.

Lord Osborne had just learnt that the incumbent of another living, to
which he had the right of presentation, a very old man, was in a state
of health, which would in all probability speedily terminate in death,
and he was perfectly determined to give it, immediately it fell vacant,
to his former tutor. He felt that in every respect this would be a most
desirable circumstance, and had not the present incumbent so opportunely
fallen sick, he should certainly have attempted to negotiate some other
exchange which would have promised a speedy removal. Why Lady Osborne
should so resolutely set herself against it, he could not imagine; her
feelings towards Howard he could not understand, unless in case of a
suspicion which occurred to him proving correct, that the clergyman had
refused the baron's widow. She who used to be so friendly and favourable
to him, now indulged in feelings apparently of hatred and enmity. She
evidently wished to injure him, wished to hinder any improvement in his
circumstances, wished to prejudice her son against him. He thought his
mother hardly in her senses on this subject, so extremely bitter and
unreasonable her sentiments appeared. Her indignation passed all bounds
when she found him perfectly unpersuadable on this point. His object in
wishing to remove Mr. Howard was quite as potent as hers in wishing to
torment him, and his obstinacy in following his own opinion at least as
great; there was therefore no chance of their coming to any agreement,
and they parted on very bad terms.

Now when his tale was done, he was ready to sit and listen to his
sister's plans and designs for to-morrow, ready to encourage her with
hopes of a fine day, and still more ready to anticipate much intercourse
with Emma Watson. He determined to seize some opportunity during the
approaching fête to make known his sentiments, and ask her hand. His
courage felt quite high: he had been so successful in this undertaking
at Croydon that he began to think he must have quite a winning way with
women, and thoughts, complimentary to himself, which had never before
entered his brain, began now to bud and grow, and rapidly increase
within him.



                              CHAPTER XI.


The morning opened in a way as promising to Lady Gordon's plans as could
be desired; bright and serene; a gentle air, not strong enough to wave
the flag upon the Castle turrets, rustled amongst the forest trees; a
deep blue sky, a cloudless sun, and the mist upon distant objects which
accompanies heat in this country, all promised everything most charming.

The whole party were in high spirits, and when, after their breakfast,
the ladies had put the finishing stroke to their toilettes, any
unprejudiced observer must have admitted that they all three looked very
captivating in their several ways.

Lady Gordon anxious to be on the appointed spot previous to the arrival
of any of the guests, soon started from the Castle, and the two young
ladies accompanied her.

The scene which had been chosen looked very lovely certainly, and the
marquees and trees in its vicinity, festooned with flowers, and
ornamented in many dainty devices, had a most tasteful air; but Emma
could not help thinking that the forest glade in its natural state would
have been more taste picturesque, and to her far more enchanting, than
with the gay flags and ornaments which now decked it. She thought of the
ages which had passed over those lordly trees; the generations of fair
faces, which had perhaps strolled beneath them; the histories of happy
or of broken hearts, which, could they but be known, would read so many
a moral lesson to herself. They looked so very old, those huge spreading
trees, with their giant trunks and wide extending branches; she quite
felt respect for such stability and strength. Their boughs had probably
waved

     "O'er manhood's noble head,
      O'er youth's bright locks, and beauty's flowery crown."

and now another generation was to meet beneath them, and how many gay,
thoughtless hearts, would they this day shade.

They had not been long enough there for Miss Carr to be very tired of
waiting, nor for Emma to be at all anxious for a change of scene, when
the company began to arrive, and she had other amusement and occupation.
It was a very large assembly, and every one came prepared to enjoy
themselves, convinced that what Lady Gordon did must be wittiest and
most fashionable, if not

     "Wisest, discreetest, virtuousest, best."

The band played, the sun shone, the green trees waved in the breeze, the
silks and muslins fluttered, fair checks reddened, bright eyes glanced,
sweet lips smiled, fairy forms flitted about, everything was elegant,
lively, agreeable—any thing but pastoral, not at all in the fashion of
an old French print of a Louis Quartorze fête champêtre. There were no
mock shepherdesses, with powdered heads and crooks in their hands; no
badly supported and out of character costumes; people came to act no
part but that of lively, and if they could be, lovely English ladies, in
the most fashionable gowns, meeting well-bred, well-dressed,
well-intentioned English gentlemen. There were smiles, and flattery, and
flirtations, and a little affectation, and some small share of folly;
but on the whole, it was an extremely elegant and well-satisfied party,
and every one was ready to tell every one else how excessively pleasant
it was, and how much more they preferred these delightful, unformal
parties, to the more usual, but less exciting, in-door assemblies.

To those who loved good eating and drinking, it could not fail of being
an agreeable re-union, for "the feast provided, combined," the
newspapers said on the occasion, "every delicacy of the season, which an
out door repast would admit of, in profusion, and the hospitable and
liberal-minded hosts were truly delighted to press on their nowise
reluctant guests, the choicest viands and the most refreshing products
of the vineyards."

In reallity, there was a great deal of pleasure afforded on the
occasion, and if there were some dissatisfied minds, it may be concluded
that they were those, who under no circumstances were likely to be
pleased.

Among the discontented was Margaret Musgrove, who came over with a
friend, in that friend's carriage, her husband driving the brother of
this lady, as he preferred anything to accompanying his wife. After
their arrival, he attached himself to this friend, and carried on with
her a very tender flirtation. Mrs. Harding Russell was a fine, dashing
woman, who very much enjoyed a flirtation with her friend's husband, and
was delighted to make herself conspicuous, and the wife uncomfortable.
Margaret would not have minded, had the brother been inclined to assist
her in paying her husband off—but this was not the case, he was a man's
companion, not a woman's, and never troubled himself to flirt at all.
Margaret for some time formed a very inharmonious third to the otherwise
lively duet which was performing between Tom and Mrs. Harding Russell,
whose company made her perfectly miserable; but at length she succeeded
in securing as a companion one of her former acquaintances, who though
he had long ago ceased to care for Margaret Watson, had no objection,
_faute de mieux_, to make himself agreeable to Mrs. Tom Musgrove.

When the greatest portion of the visitors was assembled, at a given
signal, the sides of the largest marquee were opened, and every one was
invited to the collation. Amidst the throng and pressure of this
occasion, Emma found herself within a a short distance of her
brother-in-law and his friend, and an unavoidable hearer of their
conversation. Mr. Corbet was enquiring—

"What has come over Lord Osborne to make him such a different fellow
from what he used to be? Why when I was here before, he was a fine,
dashing lad, quite ready to join in any sort of sensible fun; and now he
seems all taken up with women and girls. I remember when he would have
scorned to join in such trumpery nonsense as this; but when I proposed
just now that we should slip away to have a cigar and a little brandy
and water, hot and comfortable, he told me he must attend to his
sister's guests. Such a precious notion, 'pon my soul, I could not help
laughing to think of a fellow like him turned into a lady's companion; a
pretty thing indeed. If I were a peer of the realm, catch me troubling
my head about any sisters or mother of mine."

"'Pon my honour, I think," said Tom, "it's a monstrous pity he _is_ so
altered, for I am sure he's not the same person to me that he was; I
really think it is all for the sake of my sister-in-law, that pretty
girl who is here now, you noticed her I dare say."

"Not I, I never look after pretty girls of that class—those I can have
nothing to say to; there's an uncommon pretty girl at the lodge-gate,
who stared at me as I came in, I noticed her there, and winked at her as
hard as I could; and I intend to notice her again before I've done with
her; but what are other pretty girls to me—not my sort, eh Tom?"

Tom laughed so much, Emma did not hear what followed, but it ended with
a proposal that when they had had enough grub, they should adjourn to
the lodge to look after the rustic beauty.

By this time Emma had been borne by the throng into the interior, and
unluckily the place she found for herself, was close to Mrs. Harding
Russell and her brother-in-law. She did not expect much pleasure from
this vicinity, and could not, therefore, complain of disappointment, as
well as disagreeables during this part of the entertainment.

Mrs. Harding Russell for some minutes would not turn her head towards
Tom, and when he claimed her attention, she turned towards him with a
scornful smile and exclaimed:

"Oh, you are come, are you? I hope you did not hurry yourself on _my_
account, Mr. Musgrove. I should be sorry if you had put yourself to any
inconvenience."

"Indeed I have though. I have been making frantic exertions, and trodden
on at least a dozen toes to secure a place near you, convinced you would
enjoy nothing unless I were here to help you."

"Upon my word, a very pretty speech—just like a man though—quite what
one might expect from the vain sex. Pray do not take a seat, which I
have no doubt must be very disagreeable to you. I dare say somebody else
would change places with you: the young fellow talking to your
wife—Baker—Butcher—Barber—what's his name—I shall call him, he would do
just as well—he could hardly say less civil things."

"What did I say, anything rude? do you not know you were to take my
speeches by contraries—did we not agree so—it is so much safer: but you
know your power—your delight in tormenting me—caprice is so charming in
women—and _you_ know how to make it positively bewitching."

"Really I have not the slightest wish to bewitch you, nor can I believe
that I do so—I have no power over any one, least of all you—I who have
no charms, no graces—oh, no indeed, I do not expect civility, much less
attention from men."

"Fie, you slander yourself and me, and the whole race of men in such
assertions; you no charms—no graces—I should like to know where they are
to be seen, that is all, if you do not exhibit them. I am sure Mr.
Harding Russell would not say so, happy man!"

"What do _you_ know of Mr. Harding Russell?" enquired the lady turning
abruptly round to him.

"Nothing at all, except that like Roy's,

                     "His age is three times mine"—

shall I go on?"

"Say what you please, it is better to be an old man's pet than a young
man's slave," retorted she.

"Possibly, but you may reverse that saying—a young man would infallibly
become your slave, fairest."

The rest of the conversation need not be detailed, it was too
common-place, and trivial to deserve further notice; every one has heard
two under-bred and over-pretending individuals making fools of
themselves and each other, by their compliments and self-flatteries.

Very much rejoiced was Emma when the conclusion of the banquet at last
allowed her the relief of a change of neighbours and conversation. As
she was looking about for some one whom she could join, standing back a
little to allow the tide of finery and flutter to roll past, she
suddenly found Lord Osborne at her side.

"How came you to go all wrong, Miss Watson, at dinner?" enquired he
abruptly.

"I, my lord—how!" was her answer, rather puzzled.

"Getting down quite with the wrong set—you belonged to us, and had no
business at all with Mrs. Harding Russell, or women of that kind; I
looked for you, but you had given me the slip."

"Oh, is that all?" replied she, "I was really afraid I had committed
some glaring crime, from your lordship's reproaches, but if it was only
sitting near the wrong persons, I assure you I have done penance enough
already for that—I cannot say that I thought them very pleasant."

"I am glad of it," he replied with much animation, "you would have been
very different from what I fancied, if you had found any pleasure in
Mrs. Harding Russell."

Emma made no answer, and he immediately afterwards proposed her joining
Lady Gordon, to which she assented. They found, on joining the circle
round the hostess, that she was proposing for them a ramble through the
prettiest parts of the park, to see the waterfall and the fairy
fountain, and hear the echo, which was famous in the glen; there were a
number of young people round her, and they seemed just in a humour for
such an expedition. Some were to take carriages, some to go on foot, and
amongst this latter group were included Emma and also Miss Carr, who
seemed suddenly seized with a very decided partiality for Miss Watson,
which grew particularly strong whenever Lord Osborne approached.

Quite uninvited she linked her arm in Emma's, and would be her
inseparable companion in the walk. It was very pretty scenery through
which they had to pass, and the lively party with their gay dresses gave
it quite a novel effect. There was nothing like connected conversation
carried on, only lively remarks, and quick repartees, with quaint
observations from Sir William Gordon, who formed one of the party, and
matter-of-fact assertions from his brother-in-law, who was, however,
remarkably talkative for him.

In passing through one portion of the park under a sunny bank, they
startled some of the harmless speckled snakes which writhed themselves
away in haste, but not without causing much alarm and trepidation on the
part of some of the young ladies, who protested they had a natural
horror of such reptiles. This led the conversation into a new train, a
long discussion on natural antipathies, when all the young ladies were
called on by Sir William to declare what were their pet antipathies,
presuming that they all cherished some such amiable weakness. He in
return was immediately assaulted by an accusation of thinking ill of
young women—entertaining satirical ideas about them, and making
ill-natured speeches to them; which of course he denied, and the dispute
which this accusation brought on lasted till they reached the fairy
fountain.

Seated by the side of the spring was a brilliant, dark-eyed, beauty of a
gipsy, who seemed to be waiting their approach.

"Here's a part of the masque for which I was not prepared," cried Sir
William; "I wonder whether my wife sent this woman here."

Then advancing, he enquired what she wanted.

"I am waiting," she exclaimed with a smile, "to meet you all—not you,
Sir William," putting him back with her hand. "It is not you I wish to
see, but the young lord. Stand forth, Lord Osborne."

"Holloa! what now," cried he advancing—but another gentleman put him
back, and placing himself before the gipsy enquired why she called him
forth.

"I never called _you_, Arthur Brooke—who named your name?—keep in your
proper place, and be not hurried to assume that of others." Then rising,
she pointed to the spring and exclaimed, "Are you all come to drink at
the fairy spring? How will you do it—where are your glasses or your
pitchers?"

It was perfectly true they had all come to drink, but had forgotten or
neglected to bring any vessel with which to draw the water. After
looking at them for a moment, with triumph she exclaimed,

"You must then condescend to be beholden to the gipsy for your
draught—see here," and she produced, as she spoke, a small silver cup:
"Lord Osborne, take this cup and fill it for your guests."

Lord Osborne advanced and prepared to obey her. Sir William stopped him
by suggesting perhaps it was a magic cup which might work them harm and
woe.

"Scoffer!" said the woman. "It is a magic cup. Carry that cup steadily
to your lips, full to the brim, without losing a drop, and it betides
you success in your life's undertakings."

"Who will try the omen?" cried Lord Osborne. "For whom shall I dip?"

"Not me! not me!" exclaimed several of the young ladies addressed.

"Let me try first for myself," he said, and stooping filled the little
goblet to the brim, raising it steadily and carefully.

"A toast," cried Sir William, "you must not drink without a toast."

"Success to our secret wishes," said he, and drained the cup to the
bottom. "Will none follow my example," added he: then again filling the
cup, he presented it to Emma; she took it and drank a part, then
deliberately poured the remainder on the ground. The gipsy's eyes
flashed.

"You defy me," she said, "dark-haired girl—but ere the sun stands again
where it now does, your heart will be as heavy as your curls—your hopes
as dark as your eyes—tremble—for the approaching news—you, who have
dared to disregard my cautions."

"Whatever ill news may be in store for me," said Emma firmly, looking
up; "it will come quite irrespective of the water I just poured upon the
ground. I do not fear _you_. I have seen you before."

"Yes, we have met before; and I remember kindness with gratitude, and I
grieve that young hearts should break—but it must be so—triumph and
success to his lordship—but tinged with regret and sorrow—for he has
drank from the gipsy's cup. Who will have their fortunes told."

"I don't believe a word of it," said Lord Osborne, "How should she
know?"

"It is well to disbelieve, no doubt; but see now, you come to the fairy
well for water; but, without my help, you would have come in vain. So it
is with the future. You wish to draw knowledge from the dark bottomless
well of destiny; you may seek in vain, unless you condescend to borrow
of gipsy lore. Have courage and face the future."

"Oh! do not let us have any thing to do with her," cried one young lady.

"I am not afraid, I will have my fortune told," said Miss Carr,
advancing; "tell me, if you can, what will be my fate?"

"No," replied the young woman, turning away, "I dare not predict for
you—but one thing I foresee—disappointment and sorrow to you all—bright
hopes faded—joyous faces clouded—smiles changed to tears for some, and
the gayest hours cut short with grief and dismay. Farewell!"

She fled down the glen as she spoke, and a turn of the path hid her from
sight. A something of fear and chill fell on the whole party. Sir
William was the first to break the silence.

"Who is she, Miss Watson? she claims you as an acquaintance—where did
you ever see her?"

Emma told him that it was a long time ago—before last Christmas—when out
walking with one of her sisters. She did not explain that it was during
that well-remembered walk, when she had met Mr. Howard for the first
time after the ball, and he had accompanied them home. This young woman
had followed them on that occasion, and Emma had persuaded Elizabeth to
give her some relief from the kitchen, as she seemed almost famishing.
Having been struck by her beauty, Emma had instantly recollected her.

The waterfall and the echo, combined with meeting those who had gone
there in carriages, and detailing the adventure of the gipsy girl to
them, sufficed to restore most of the spirits which had been damped by
her predictions—and there was a great deal of merriment going on around
her—but Emma remarked that Sir William looked particularly thoughtful
and quite unlike his usual self.

"Are you brooding over the threatenings of the girl," enquired she,
coming to his side, "you look so uncommonly grave, I really think they
must have made an impression on you."

"I own they have," replied he.

"Oh! Sir William," exclaimed she, "I did not expect such superstition
from you. I am surprised."

"Are you," said he, looking fixedly at her; "do you not know that those
people seldom prophesy without some foundation to go on? They are quick
at guessing feelings and wishes, and combining them with past and
passing events; and extremely quick at learning any kind of news and
turning it to their own advantage. Their knowledge in this way is
astonishing; and I certainly feel afraid lest it may prove too
true,—that something to us unknown, has occurred to grieve us."

"You almost frighten me, Sir William," replied Emma, turning pale. "Your
attaching such consequence to words which appeared to me spoken at
random, seems quite like a reproach to me for treating them so lightly."

"Perhaps her predictions, after all, may be the worst things that we
shall hear," added Sir William, trying to shake off his gravity; "and
they will be quite fulfilled, if I make you so pale. You are tired—take
my arm!"

She could not deny it; and was glad to accept a seat in one of the
carriages to return to the Castle: whither the most delicate of the
guests now agreed to turn their steps, to rest and refresh themselves
after their exertions, previous to the ball at night.



                              CHAPTER XII.


Emma was content to lie down quietly in her own room, for her ankle was
not strong, and she had taxed it so severely, that she felt dancing
would be out of the question for her that night; she was rather sorry,
for she really liked dancing; but she felt that prudence required the
sacrifice, lest she should be lame for a much longer period.

How the rest of the afternoon was spent by the guests, she could not
tell, except that the sounds of music and merriment were often borne
through her open windows, and came apparently from the lawns or the
terrace.

Refreshed by a couple of hours' peace and solitude, she repaired, about
seven o'clock to Lady Gordon's dressing-room, and found her busy with
her toilette. Her own dress and appearance received due commendation
both from her friend and her friend's bower woman. It being the gift of
the one, and the work of the other, it was no wonder perhaps that they
thought it looked well. The attendant observed:

"It was quite a pleasure to make gowns for Miss Watson, she became them
so completely: the work was never thrown away on her."

Perhaps the speaker had an eye to some future situation as waiting-woman
to the young Lady Osborne, for his Lordship's devotion was quite evident
to the inmates of the still-room, as it was then called; and Miss Watson
was honoured accordingly. Whilst she was there, Sir William came in
likewise, and chatted in a way, which drew from Emma the observation
that he had quite recovered his spirits; his wife did not hear the
remark, and taking advantage of the occupation which at that moment
engrossed her, to speak without her notice, he begged Emma not to allude
to it before _her_ again. Of course Emma was quite ready to comply, but
she thought it strange that he should attach so much importance to the
circumstance.

They all went to the grand reception rooms together: they were already
gay with parties impatient for the continuance of their pleasures. When
the dancing commenced, Emma withdrew into the conservatory, which was
cool and refreshing, for the ball-room was already heated by the company
and the lights. Here she walked in solitude for some time; her friends
were all dancing, Lady Gordon, her brother, her husband, and Miss Carr,
so there was no one to interrupt her reverie, or disturb her
meditations.

But at length, by the cessation of the music, she learnt that the long
country dance had finished, and soon afterwards, couples and groups
sought the same refreshment as herself. She sat down in a moon-lighted
corner, where amongst the flowers and shrubs, and by the soft and
subdued light, her white crape gown showed like the sculptured drapery
of some marble statue, and here she was still suffered to remain in
peace, though the conservatory echoed to merry voices, and the light
laugh and sparkling sally of wit, sounded above the trickling of the
silvery fountain.

Presently, the music recalled all the dancers to the ball-room, and she
was again in solitude, but not now for long: a heavy step approached,
and just as she was rising from her seat, Lord Osborne joined her.

"Now do sit down again," said he, "but how completely you have hidden
yourself; I began to despair of finding you—ain't you going to dance?"

She told him her reason for declining it, at which he expressed concern,
but immediately added:—

"However, perhaps on the whole, it is as well, for I wanted particularly
to talk to you, without being overheard: can you listen to me now?"

She acceded, with some surprise at the request; he leaned against the
wall by her side, and began.

"Do you know my journey the other day was all on your account?"

"Indeed," she exclaimed, in some surprise.

"Yes, I will tell you why, only don't interrupt me till I have done,
that puts me out; Miss Carr, whom you know I do not like, but perhaps
you do not know I do not believe, would say such ill-natured things
about you and Lady Fanny Allston, and her reason for not taking you as
governess, none of which I believed, so you need not look angry, that I
determined to go to her Ladyship, and make her contradict them. What do
you think of that?"

"You really went to Lady Fanny on that subject," exclaimed Emma, "may I
ask what authority you had for interfering in my affairs?"

"The authority, Miss Watson, the right which every man has to protect a
woman who is slandered and defenceless. Miss Carr had slandered _you_ to
my sister, in my hearing; she referred to her cousin as her authority, I
compelled her cousin to acknowledge the sources of the calumny, and
having traced it to a contemptible and envious Miss Jenkins, I forced
her to eat her words, and retract every aspersion she had cast on the
character of one whom I always believed blameless. Are you now angry
with me Miss Watson?" his voice softened at the last words, his energy
fled, and he looked again like himself.

"I cannot tell what I feel," said she hesitating, "Tell me what Lady
Fanny says now of me!"

"That she is convinced that she was misled by vile calumniators, and
that she wished me to use any influence I possessed with you to renew
her former negotiation."

"Which you promised to do," said she, "and so you tell me this?"

There was a tone of playfulness in her voice which reassured him.

"You are not angry with me?" said he enquiringly.

"I think not; it depends partly on your motive, but on the whole I am
inclined to forgive you."

"A hundred thanks, but if you do forgive me—give me your hand!"

She extended one finger towards him, saying with a smile her whole hand
was too much at once: but he did not listen to her words; her hand was
caught and pressed in his, and raised to his lips before she could
release it from the unexpected thraldom. Then mustering all his courage
and becoming eloquent under an emotion which makes many an eloquent man
silent, he added,

"It was for your hand I did it, to earn a claim on that, that I
travelled and met strangers, and wrangled with and coaxed them. It was
because I could not bear a blot on your fair fame—you whom I love so
very much: dear Emma—you who are so kind, so good-natured, will you not
love me!"

"Lord Osborne," said she with profound gravity, "cease I beg; this
species of conversation becomes neither your station nor mine. If I own
myself obliged by your exertions for my sake, do not annul the
obligation by words which never should have been spoken. Let me go!"

But he stood before her, and would not let her pass; whilst saying in a
low, deep voice,

"You must misunderstand me, Miss Watson, or you would not speak thus.
Have I not as much right as any one, to love what is fair and
excellent—if I am plain and awkward myself, can that make my love an
insult—and you—are you not deserving to be loved, worshipped, idolised
by every man who comes near you. Have you not everything that I
want—everything that would grace a far higher title, a much larger
fortune than mine. But because I have none of these things is that any
reason I should not admire, and love them, or offer my coronet to one
who would so well become it. It is yours if you will but accept it;
hand, fortune, title, everything—do give me an answer."

But before Emma could find voice to answer, or arrange her ideas, they
were startled by a scream from the ball-room—the music stopped
completely, and a sudden stillness for a moment prevailed, seeming awful
by the contrast to what preceded: then came a murmur, like a hundred
whispers in one, which seemed to gather and increase.

Emma had started up at the scream, and now stood suspended, with a
beating heart and unsteady breath.

"What can be the matter," said he, "shall I go and see—sit down, do not
alarm yourself."

She really was obliged to seat herself, for she could not stand; he went
a few steps, where he was met by Sir William.

"For Heaven's sake Osborne come here and send off all these people, your
sister is in a fit, and I am almost as bad from horror."

"What in the world is the matter," cried he, struck by the agitated tone
and look of his brother-in-law.

"A report has been brought from Wales that Howard is dead," said Sir
William, "killed by a fall from a horse amongst the mountains, and Rosa
heard it suddenly—and I am afraid—"

"Killed—Howard—dead—good Heavens," instinctively he was turning to the
spot where Emma sat, but Sir William impatiently seized his arm and
hurried him away unconscious that she was near.

She was left alone to her feelings, and how the next half hour passed
she never knew. She could neither think nor move; to feel was too much,
for a confused murmur rang in her ears; a sound of suppressed voices,
and hurried footsteps, and rolling wheels, and then all seemed still
again. How long she sat there she could not calculate, horror-struck and
immoveable, she seemed unconscious of everything but the one thought
that he was _dead_. And so suddenly, so awfully—it could not be!—and yet
it must be true; she shivered with horror, and then she seemed again to
become insensible to everything, closing her eyes to the gay lights and
gaudy flowers which appeared to mock her when she gazed at them.

She was just beginning to recover, but still unable to move, when she
heard Sir William's voice enquiring,

"Where is Emma—Osborne, have you seen her? she was not in the
ball-room."

"She was with me in the conservatory," replied his companion.

"Good heavens, then she must have heard it all," cried Sir William, then
hurrying forward as he caught a glimpse of her white gown, he gazed with
anxious enquiry at her.

Her bloodless cheek, and her whole air, at once betrayed her knowledge
of what had passed; but making a violent effort to conquer emotions
which were almost choking her, she attempted to rise and come forward.
She had hardly strength for the exertion, she trembled so violently, but
still the effort did her good. Sir William looked at her
compassionately, and drawing her hand under his arm without a word, led
her away. Lord Osborne followed with a look of deep dismay in his face,
and an air of indescribable dejection over his whole figure.

"Can I be of any use to Lady Gordon?" enquired Emma, forcing slowly, one
by one, from her parched and trembling lips, the words which she could
scarcely articulate.

"Lady Gordon is tolerably composed, and gone to bed," replied he, "let
me recommend the same course to you. I am shocked to think you should
have been left so long uncared for. You seem quite exhausted and worn
out."

Emma gladly complied with his recommendation, and tried to sleep, but
that was vain. Images of horror of every kind filled her mind the moment
she attempted it, and she was glad at length to rise and throw open the
window to breathe the fresh air.

The moon, which was still high in the sky, was beginning to grow pale
before the increasing light in the east; the air was calm, the wind
merely a gentle breathing: now and then was heard the chirp of the early
birds in the neighbouring trees, but as yet the busy tenants of the
rookery near the castle were still. The cry of the deer in the park, the
lowing of cattle at a still greater distance, the murmur of the stream
in the valley came distinctly on the ear, during the profound hush which
preceded the dawn.

Everything looked so fair and calm, and happy—could it be that misery
and disappointment, and suffering, were for ever lurking under all! How
gay had been the commencement of yesterday; how sad the close! Such was
worldly pleasure—such it must be—such it ought to be. Happiness was fled
from her for ever; she could not expect to meet it again. A calm, dull
future spread before her, uncheered by love, or home, or hope. Her
affections blighted in their first spring, were for ever destroyed, and
if she could learn resignation that was the utmost she could look
forward to.

She burst into tears, went back to her bed, cried herself to sleep, and
did not wake till a late hour the following day.

Of course she was looking wretchedly pale and miserable when she
descended the next day. So conscious was she of this that she longed to
remain in her own room, but feared that it might have even a more
suspicious appearance than her pale cheeks. She was relieved on entering
the sitting room to find only Sir William, Lord Osborne having
breakfasted and gone out. He was looking sad and grave, but replied to
her anxious enquiries, that his wife was better, but not well enough to
leave her room yet. He regarded her with a compassionate expression, and
said,

"You too are suffering from the events of yesterday—no wonder; such a
blow coming after so much excitement and fatigue."

Her lip quivered, and she could not answer.

"Miss Watson," added he, "the gipsy must have known of this before we
met her. She must have alluded to this shocking event."

Emma made an effort, and succeeded in articulating,

"Certainly."

Then after a pause, she ventured to enquire,

"How did the report reach you?"

It had been brought, it appeared, by one of the guests, whose cousin or
brother, or some such friend, had just arrived from Wales, and learnt it
before leaving Denbighshire. It had been accidentally mentioned by this
gentleman in Lady Gordon's hearing; and she being at the time in a
nervous, irritable state from fatigue, excitement, and the heat of the
ball-room, had been seized with a violent fit of hysteria at the
information, which had broken up the dancing and compelled her to quit
the company.

"And my abruptness I fear overpowered you, Miss Watson," added Sir
William, "I had no idea that you were there when I met Osborne, and
spoke with the conviction that I was distressing no nerves weaker than
his."

"But even Lord Osborne must feel such a shock," said Emma.

"Oh yes he feels it very much, but it is not his way to be overpowered
by his feeling. None who had known Howard could help feeling it—so
sudden an event—and quitting us quite well only a few days before—what
his poor sister must have felt!"

Sir William paused, for Emma had walked away to hide her tears and
smother her sobs at the window. The entrance of Miss Carr at the moment,
well-dressed, and cheerful looking as usual, tended greatly to compose
Emma's spirits, but quite overpowered Sir William.

He escaped instantly out of the room. Miss Carr came up to Emma.

"How miserably uncomfortable everything seems to-day. I cannot imagine
why the death of this man—even supposing he is dead—should derange
everybody here to such a degree. A thing which happened too some
hundreds of miles away, Rosa in bed, and neither Sir William, nor
Osborne visible. Don't you think it's too bad?"

"I dare say Lady Gordon will soon recover," replied Emma, "but I cannot
wonder if she is indisposed considering everything—the heat, the
fatigue, and all the excitement of yesterday."

"Have you breakfasted, Miss Watson?" enquired Miss Carr.

Emma replied she had not.

"Then come with me, and let us get some," said she, passing her hand
under Emma's arm. "There is no reason that we should fast, I suppose;
for, though Mr. Howard's death is very shocking, I confess it does not
take away the appetite quite."

Emma thought it would be the easiest way to consent, and they went
accordingly. On entering the breakfast-room, which they had entirely to
themselves, they found that, owing probably to the confusion in the
household, the letters, by that morning's post, had been laid on the
table there, and no one had seen them. Miss Carr immediately began
looking them over, and presently exclaimed:

"Here are two—three for you Miss Watson. I wonder there are none for
me!"

Emma received them, and glanced at their exteriors to see whether she
should open them there. One she saw was from Miss Bridge—one from
Elizabeth—and thinking that the occupation of reading them would prevent
her hearing Miss Carr's chatter, she broke the seal of the latter, and
began to peruse it.

It gave her a lively account of Lord Osborne's visit, and contained many
hints as to the object of his journey and the motive for it, which
suddenly re-called to Emma's mind the fact, which until that moment, had
absolutely escaped her memory—his proposal to herself—a proposal to
which he had, as yet, received no answer. It seemed hard and cruel to
keep the poor young man in suspense, which would end in
disappointment—for she could not hesitate a moment, as to her answer.
Under no circumstances could she ever accept him, or persuade herself to
think him an agreeable man. But the meditation on his love, and her
intentions with regard to it, forced another consideration upon her,
what else should she do with reference to him. Would he leave the house,
or should she, or could they go on as before with any comfort to
herself. It would be very disagreeable to have to continue in daily
intercourse with a rejected lover, unless, indeed, he were much more
magnanimous than the rest of his sex; for, with men in general, it
appears, no insult can be deeper, no injury more severe, than a woman
differing from their estimation of themselves, and doubting the fact of
their making a suitable and agreeable husband. This is so unpardonable
an offence, that there are few men who would acknowledge having met with
such a rebuff, or if they do, it is in the well-known language of the
"Laird o' Cockpen."

Emma flattered herself, on consideration, that she should not suffer
from any pique on his part, as when her unalterable resolution was once
known to him, there would be nothing to prevent his immediately removing
himself and his disappointment to some other scene.

After dreaming over these things for some time, she took up the other
letters and rose to go. Casting her eye, as she did so, on the post-mark
and address of the third, which, hitherto, she had not noticed, she was
startled by perceiving that it came from North Wales—and, if her senses
did not deceive her, it was Mr. Howard's handwriting.

The small remains of presence of mind which this discovery left her, was
just sufficient to check the exclamation rising to her lips; and the
impulse of her feelings prompting her to seek solitude and fresh air—she
rushed out on the terrace, down the flight of steps into Lady Gordon's
flower garden; and there, secluding herself under a wide spreading bay
tree, she endeavoured to recover sufficient breath and composure to
examine the letter. With trembling fingers, beating heart, and tearful
eyes, she broke the seal, and after hurriedly glancing at the date and
signature, laid it down on her knees, and resting her head on her arm,
burst into a fit of crying, which she tried vainly to control.

And was the hand which had penned those lines never to clasp hers again!
Did the heart which dictated them—did it beat no more! Had the
declaration of his love been delayed until the acknowledgment of her own
could never gratify his ears! Why, oh! why was this! Why had he
suppressed his feelings! Why had he left her! Why had he tortured her
thus!

She caught up the letter—covered it with kisses—and then through her
blinding tears attempted to read it. It contained a short and simple
statement of his love, and an offer of his hand; if she could consent to
be a poor man's wife, he would do his utmost to make her happy.

But it was all too late now; by the date it was evident that the letter
had been written nearly a fortnight ago, and the tardiness of the
post-office arrangements had alone prevented his receiving a reply. And
he had, perhaps, been blaming her for silence and proud disdain—perhaps
with the mixed quick-sightedness and blindness of love, he had been
alike jealous of Lord Osborne's passion, and alarmed lest she were
influenced in his lordship's favor. He might have been attributing her
silence to this cause, and perished blaming her for coquetry, coldness,
or ambition. Could she but have told him of her feelings—but now he
would never know them.

It was a very great relief to her to give unrestrained course to her
tears—there was no occasion now to repress them. She need not fear harsh
constructions, nor shrink from animadversions on her feelings. She had a
_right_ to grieve. She had lost a declared lover, one too whose passion
she had returned—and who would blame her now for pale cheeks and tearful
eyes?

She did not think this with such distinctness as to put it into words,
but she felt it deeply, and it was a strange comfort to her.

After the letter had been read many times, every word weighed and
examined, and the reason which dictated his choice of each expression
guessed at; after even the address had been accurately surveyed, and
either anxiety or love discovered in every curve or stroke of the pen,
it was carefully folded and placed in her bosom, there to remain for
ever; for never could the feelings with which she regarded its writer
change; never could she love another, or listen to another suit. Her lot
in life was fixed for ever, and perpetual celibacy for his sake was not
too great a compliment to the memory of one so dearly loved, so sadly
lost.



                             CHAPTER XIII.


After composing her feelings, smoothing her hair, and cooling her face
at the fountain close by, she ventured to return to the Castle, with the
intention, if she were permitted, of seeing Lady Gordon, though she had
not yet decided upon telling her how deeply her feelings were involved
in the melancholy past. Her friend was in the morning room when she
returned to it, lying on a sofa, and on Emma's entrance there was a
general expression of wonder as to where she had been for so long a time
from the three who were sitting there. Her only answer of course was
that she did not know she _had_ been long away: she had been sitting in
the flower-garden.

"I wonder you like to sit there," said Miss Carr; "I always am stung by
gnats if I venture on such a thing."

She then turned herself sleepily on the sofa and dozed again.

Sir William, after an earnest look at Emma's countenance, withdrew his
eyes, and was apparently occupied with a newspaper, whilst Emma drawing
her embroidery frame close to Lady Gordon's sofa, sat down with apparent
industry to her work, with the satisfactory consciousness that every
time she drew a long breath, her precious letter was more closely
pressed to her swelling heart.

The long silence which ensued was only broken by Sir William at last
throwing down the paper, and proposing to his wife a walk or a
drive—anything for change of air and scene. She agreed to the drive, and
he went to hurry the phæton, she to arrange her dress. Miss Carr begged
to accompany them, and could not be refused, though they did not
particularly desire her society; and thus Emma was left alone to indulge
in sad recollections and tender reveries, which were, however, speedily
cut short by the entrance of Lord Osborne.

It was natural that, having seen the others go out without Emma, he
should calculate on finding her alone, and equally so that he should be
exceedingly anxious for an interview, as his question was still
unanswered, his hand unaccepted, his future happiness as yet uncertain.

She looked up with an air of consciousness on his approach, which
encouraged him to advance, and draw a seat by her side. He tried to take
her hand, but the attempt was made with so much hesitation and
awkwardness that she was not even sure whether he intended it; no
repulse was requisite, the simple not encouraging it was enough to
prevent so daring an act of gallantry. In fact, he had lost the courage
which on the previous night had distinguished him; the warmth and
animation were gone—he was again himself, labouring under rather more
than his usual awkwardness of manner, and quite overpowered by his
various sensations. To have expressed all his feelings would have been
impossible even for an eloquent man—his love was so mingled with
jealousy, his hope with doubt, and his satisfaction with regret.

He sat looking at her for some minutes in silence, which Emma thought
particularly disagreeable, until at length she concluded that he
expected her to commence the conversation, and looking up with as steady
a voice as she could command, she enquired whether he had received any
further intelligence from Wales.

"No!" he replied, abruptly, but the question roused him to exertion, and
he added,

"You cannot imagine, however much I may think of the unlucky event, that
I came here to talk about _that_ to you. I am come to ask, to entreat,
to claim an answer to my question last night: for every man has a right
to an answer to such a question!"

He paused, and she tried to speak; it was at first with difficulty she
could utter a syllable: but her courage rose as she proceeded, and she
was able to finish with firmness.

"Lord Osborne, I cannot deny your claim to an answer, but I regret that
I should be under the necessity of paining you by that answer; I cannot
accept the offer you have made me, but I shall always remember your good
opinion, and liberality of sentiment, with gratitude."

"I did not ask for gratitude," replied he reproachfully, "what good will
that do me? Besides I do not see that I deserve it."

"You have judged me kindly, my lord; you have given me credit for
rectitude, nay you have exerted yourself to prove it, when others might
have thought and acted very differently."

"Yes; I dare say—some who did not know you as well, might have judged
you harshly, but Emma, dear, beautiful Emma, I knew you could not be
wrong. I have loved you so dearly, and I never loved any woman before,
it is very hard you will not like me in return."

"I cannot, my lord," said she, her eyes filling with tears, "I have no
love to bestow on any one, my heart is—" she stopped abruptly.

He looked very fixedly at her, and then said,

"You _did_ love Howard."

She raised her eyes proudly for a moment, but there was nothing of
impertinence in his look or tone, nothing which need offend her; and
moved by her feelings at the moment she exclaimed,

"Yes I _did_ love him—how can I listen to your suit?"

He looked down intently, and taking up one of her embroidery needles
thrust it backwards and forwards through the corner of her work, for
some minutes, with an energy which ended in breaking the needle
itself—then again addressing her he said in a feeling tone.

"Poor fellow, he did not live to know that, I am sorry for him!"

There was something in the manner of this very unexpected admission
which quite overpowered Emma's heroism; it was so different from what
she had expected; she covered her face and burst into tears.

He sat looking at her, then said, "Don't Miss Watson, pray don't cry—it
makes me so very uncomfortable; but indeed I do pity our poor friend,
and the more so because loving you so very much myself, I feel what he
has lost; and I am so sorry for you too; you must have felt it—the shock
of his death I mean."

Emma's sobs quite prevented her speaking, but she struggled to suppress
her tears, and presently succeeded in mastering her agitation.

"Did you know he loved you?" asked Lord Osborne suddenly.

"I did, but not till this very morning," answered she, hardly conscious
of what she was saying.

He was again silent for a good while, but ended with saying firmly,

"With such feelings, I cannot expect you to listen to my suit, and will
not torment you with it. Remember you have not a sincerer friend in the
world than myself, or one who would do more to prove his good opinion.
And I do not say it merely to be thanked—as I mean to shew you whenever
I can."

He took her hand this time, and pressed it, looked at it as he held it
for a moment, and then as she drew it away, he rose and left the room.

She was quite surprised at the way in which the interview had
terminated; he had shewn so much good feeling, so much less of
selfishness than she had been in the habit of mentally attributing to
him; there was no indignation, no wounded pride, no pique or resentment
at her refusal; it was almost as if he had thought more of her
disappointment than of his own, and regarded her feelings as of more
consequence than his attachment. Her opinion of him had never been so
high as when she thus declined his proposals: she felt that with a
suitable wife, one who could value his good qualities, improve his
tastes, and really love him, he might in time turn out a very estimable
character.

If he were but as fortunate in his selection of a partner, as his sister
had been, there was every probability of his equalling her in domestic
happiness. She did not regret her own decision, but she regretted that
he should have been so unfortunate as to love where no return could be
given; if he had but chosen one whose heart was disengaged;—but as for
herself, _she_ was not the woman who could really make him happy; she
had not the energy and decision of character requisite for his wife; she
did not wish to govern, and she felt that she could only be happy, in
proportion as she respected as well as loved her husband; unless she
could trust his judgment and lean on him, she felt convinced she should
despise him and be miserable.

When the family met at dinner, Lord Osborne was there, and she had not
the slightest hint as to his probable departure; but there was nothing
in his conduct or manners to create unpleasant feelings, or reveal the
past to lookers on. There was but little said in their small circle that
evening; the shock had been too recent to be yet so soon rallied from.
Lady Gordon had been so very much attached to Mr. Howard; from her
girlhood he had been her peculiar admiration, and her standard of
excellence as a clergyman: the only wonder was that this attachment had
continued on both sides so entirely platonic; that considering their
opportunities of intercourse there had never been any approach to love.
But so it was—whether there was too much pride on both sides, or whether
her heart had been unknowingly engrossed by Sir William Gordon, she
could not have told, but certainly, though they had talked and jested,
quarrelled and been reproved, agreed and differed for the last four
years, they had never passed the temperate zone of friendship, and her
sorrow at his death was expressed fully, unreservedly, bitterly, without
exciting the shadow of jealousy in her husband's mind. Indeed he fully
sympathised in her feelings for he had loved and highly valued Howard,
whom he had known intimately at College, before he became the young
lord's tutor.

Fanny Carr was the only member of the party who seemed quite unaffected
by what had occurred, but she was out of temper about something which
concerned herself, and was fortunately silent.

Emma went to her friend's dressing-room the next morning by particular
desire to breakfast quietly with her, whilst Sir William was sent down
to do the honours of the house to Miss Carr and his brother-in-law.

"I want to talk to you, my dear friend," said Lady Gordon, "but I hardly
know how to begin—about this shocking affair—poor, dear Mr. Howard, is
it not sad?"

Emma's eyes filled with tears, and she could not answer.

"I thought so," said Lady Gordon, earnestly gazing at her face, "I knew
your heart—you have, of us all, the most reason to regret his death."

Emma continued silent, for she had no voice to speak.

"You are not angry with me for the suggestion," continued Rosa, taking
her hand, "I would not offend or vex you, but I cannot help expressing
my interest in your feelings. It was so natural that you should return
his affection."

"You knew of his love then," sobbed Emma.

"I could not help seeing what was so very evident, but you, doubtless,
were better informed on the subject?" replied Lady Gordon, with some
curiosity.

Emma controlled her feelings enough to give her a sensible account of
the letter which she had received the morning previous; that precious
letter which had doubled her sorrow, and made her feel her misfortune so
much more deeply.

"How very sad," cried Lady Gordon, "and that was really the first you
heard of his attachment—the first declaration you had from him; it must
have broken your heart. I can imagine in some degree what you have felt.
Had he been alive what answer would you have returned?"

"What answer?" exclaimed Emma, "how can you ask, Lady Gordon—you _know_
what I should have said; that his love was dearer to me than all the
wealth of the country, or the honors of the peerage!"

"Poor girl—you will never recover from such a shock."

"Never, never—I can never love another, or cease to regret the one I
have so sadly lost. Time can only increase my regret. But we must not
think only of ourselves, what must his sister have felt—dear Lady
Gordon, think of her; how I wish I were near her, to love and comfort
her."

"Poor thing," sighed Lady Gordon, "yes I do pity her. She was very fond
of him, and she can never have another brother."



                              CHAPTER XIV.


Just at this moment a gentle tap was heard at the door; Lady Gordon gave
her permission to enter; and the opening door displayed to their
astonished eyes, Howard himself.

Yes, there he was, to all appearance perfectly well,—the man whom they
had been mourning over as dead, stood before them in flesh and blood,
with no other difference from his usual air, than that he looked rather
flushed with exercise, and somewhat surprised at his reception.

"Mr. Howard!" gasped Lady Gordon, scarcely believing her senses.

Emma was speechless with twenty different feelings.

"I fear I am an unwelcome visitor," said he, amazed at his reception;
"shall I withdraw?"

Before either of the ladies could reply, Sir William precipitately
entered the room; he had apparently been in the act of dressing, for he
made his appearance without a coat, and unmindful of where he was, he
rushed up to Howard, and actually embracing him in the excitement of his
joy, exclaimed:

"My dear fellow, twenty millions of welcomes to you, how came you
here—we never thought to see you again!"

Lady Gordon too, had risen, and clasping both his hands in hers, she
exclaimed:

"Oh, how I rejoice to see you alive—you cannot think how we all grieved
when we heard you were dead!"

It was now Howard's turn to look bewildered: he turned from the husband
to the wife in uncontrollable amazement, and said:

"May I ask what is the meaning of all this—are you performing a comedy
or acting a charade!"

"Why I suppose," said Sir William, recovering himself a little, "we do
all seem rather frantic to you, since you must be alike ignorant of our
anxieties and the relief your presence has occasioned. The fact is, we
heard you were dead!"

"Indeed!" exclaimed Howard.

"Take care, or Mr. Howard will begin to believe it too, and that will
frighten him," said Rosa, laughing almost hysterically.

"But do tell me what you thought was the matter with me," said Howard
impatiently.

"We heard you had fallen and been killed amongst the rocks," said Sir
William, "and we were very unhappy about it. I assure you, you have been
wept by bright eyes, and fair cheeks have turned pale at the news of
your death. There is not a man in the whole county has been more talked
of than you; the news of your melancholy death reached us in the gayest
moment of a _fête_, sent Lady Gordon into fits, and all the company out
of the house, broke up the dance, interrupted six tender flirtations and
three rubbers at whist, in short, caused more unhappiness,
disappointment, and dismay, than an ordinary individual would reasonably
expect to excite either living or dying."

"Really it is a very uncommon fate for a man to hear the lamentations
occasioned by his death, and if what you say is not exaggerated, Sir
William, I ought to be greatly flattered," replied Howard smiling, but
at the same time looking round the room to see what was become of the
one face, whose expression he was most anxious to read. But Emma was
gone; she had left the room without a word of congratulatory greeting,
or a single expression of interest.

"I cannot think how you can jest about so serious an affair, William,"
said his wife reproachfully, "you did not jest, however, whilst you
believed it; he is not quite without feeling, Mr. Howard."

"And did you honor me with tears, Lady Gordon?" said the young
clergyman, taking her hand with an irrepressible feeling of
gratification. "That was a thing almost worth dying for."

"Come, come," said Sir William interposing, "do not be making love to
Rosa before my face; though she did cry, hers were not the only tears
shed on the occasion, nor the most flattering to you."

"Who else wept for me?" enquired he with something more than curiosity.

"Your old housekeeper, and your gardener's daughter," replied Lady
Gordon maliciously.

"Nobody else?"

"Abominable conceit—who else do you expect to hear of?" exclaimed she,
"I declare all men are alike, if you give the smallest encouragement to
their good opinion of themselves, they set no bounds to their
presumptuous expectations. I shall tell you no more. Find out for
yourself who feels any interest in your fate."

"Miss Carr expressed great sensibility on the occasion," interrupted Sir
William, "I was dancing with her at the time the news arrived, and she
said:

"'Dear me, how very shocking—poor young man.'"

"Thank you," replied Howard with a glow of satisfaction, "you have told
me quite enough to satisfy a much less modest man than I am. I have
heard sufficient. But I think I know how the report arose. I _was_ left
behind at a riding party, as the girth of my saddle broke, and I stopped
at a country shop to get it repaired. I dare say in the imperfect Welsh
which was all we could muster of the country's language, there was some
confusion made between a broken girth and a broken neck, which gave rise
to the distressing intelligence."

"That may be very possible," replied Lady Gordon, "but I shall never in
future believe any report of your misfortunes again, and if you want me
to grieve again for you, you must break your neck in good earnest."

"Excuse me, but I have no wish to cause you any concern, Lady Gordon, or
to put your feelings to such a test."

"By the bye, when did you arrive, Howard?" enquired the baronet.

"About two hours ago; and I own I was rather surprised to find my house
shut up, and nobody at home; but if my servants thought me dead, it was
all very natural."

"No doubt they will tell you they were afraid of remaining lest you
should walk again," observed Sir William.

"As I do not know when they will return," continued he, "and I do not
wish to break into my house, I must throw myself on your hospitality for
to-day, if you will receive a poor wanderer."

Of course he was made extremely welcome by his friends, and invited to
remain as long as was convenient. It was very pleasant to be so kindly
received; but there was another voice he was longing to hear welcome
him, another hand he wished to press, another smile to bless his eyes.
As soon as he could he left Lady Gordon, and went to look for Emma. In
the breakfast-room, the library, the conservatory, the flower-garden he
sought her, but in vain; in fact she had shut herself into her own room,
to give utterance, in grateful thanks, to the emotions which swelled her
heart; emotions far too powerful for words.

At the moment she could not have encountered him with anything like a
due and decorous dignity; had she seen him, she must have been guilty of
expressing too warmly her interest in his welfare: it would not do to
flatter him with a knowledge how very glad she was at his having safely
returned; for he was but a man, and as such, liable of course to all the
foibles of mankind: the vanity, the triumph, the selfish gratification
which such a dangerous knowledge would create. She thought very well of
him certainly, but the temptation to conceit might be too strong, and
she might have to rue the day if she placed such confidence in him.

No, she would not see him till her feelings were in better order, and
more under her own control.

Such was her resolution as she sought the shelter of her dressing-room;
it did not occur to her, that he might consider he had a claim on her
attention, and a right to demand an interview with her; a claim and a
right which no man very much in love could be expected to forego.

Having been quite unsuccessful in his search for her, he took a very
plain and straight-forward course to obtain what he wished, going to
Lady Gordon for assistance.

"Will you be my friend," said he, appealing to her with a look of great
concern, "my friend in a very important matter."

"Have I ever been otherwise, why should you ask?" replied she.

"Then procure me an interview with Emma—I cannot find her any where, and
I cannot exist longer in suspense. Dear Lady Gordon, do pray have pity
on me!"

"Yes!" replied she, affecting to look very grave, "I have pity on you;
and since you wish so much for an interview, I will try and procure one,
that is if Emma is not absolutely bent on refusing to hear you. But are
you prepared—can you stand the shock which awaits you?"

"Good Heavens! what do you mean, Lady Gordon?" cried he, catching her
hand in his with an accent of alarm.

"Why, what do you expect?" said she, withdrawing her hand, "but that she
will refuse you; what else can you anticipate?"

"Refuse me, why—do not torment me—I am _not_ afraid—" he added, trying
to smile.

"Upon my word, a very modest speech!" exclaimed she, "so you feel no
alarm—tranquil self-confidence possesses your soul. Emma will be
intensely gratified!"

"Dear Lady Gordon—" said he, pleadingly; but she would not listen.

"So I am to call Miss Watson down to you, persuading her to come with an
assurance, that you feel so confident of what her answer will be that
you entertain no anxiety, no alarm. Is that what I am to say?"

"Say anything you please, Lady Gordon," exclaimed he, in desperation,
"only procure me the sight of Miss Watson, and the opportunity to speak
to her."

"Very well, go to the library, and I will bring her there."

He anxiously hastened to the rendezvous she appointed; she crossed the
gallery to her friend's dressing-room.

On obtaining admission, she found Emma had been lying on the sofa in a
darkened room; she sat down by her, and affectionately kissing her
forehead and cheek, she said,

"I am come to congratulate you, my dear Miss Watson, that our imaginary
tragedy has proved an entire fable—Mr. Howard is quite well, and all the
loss on the occasion is that of a very pleasant dance, which I had
intended should be very much enjoyed."

"It seems so strange and incomprehensible," observed Emma, putting back
the ringlets from her forehead, "I could hardly believe my eyes, or
credit my senses, and as to speaking, that was out of the question. I
hope you did not think me very rude if you noticed me, but the only
thing I could do, was to run away."

"But now you have recovered your self-possession, and the use of your
speech, I hope you do not mean to seclude yourself here all day; pray
come and join us all. You had better."

"Perhaps I had," said Emma, "I will come with you in a moment; just let
me smooth my hair first."

"It is very nice I assure you, but I will wait as long as you please."

Miss Carr and Sir William were in the sitting-room; but Lady Gordon did
not stop there; to the great relief of Emma, who dreaded the remarks of
the young lady, they walked into the conservatory, through it, and
entered from the other end the library window.

Lord Osborne and Mr. Howard were there together, but the former
instantly took flight at their approach. Lady Gordon still keeping
Emma's hand under her own arm, led her up to Mr. Howard, and said,

"I have brought my friend to congratulate the dead-alive, Mr. Howard;
she was wishing to say civil speeches to you like the rest of us, but as
I have done my duty in that way, and a twice told tale is tedious, I
shall leave you, to go after my brother."

As Emma had held out her hand to the gentleman, she could not follow
Lady Gordon in her flight, though looking exceedingly inclined to do so;
for he held her with a gentle pressure, and would not let her go. His
eyes were so earnestly bent upon hers, that she dared not look up after
the one glance she had given him; and she stood, her slender fingers
trembling in his grasp, longing to speak, but wanting courage to break
the silence.

"I am glad Miss Watson is not to be the only one from whom I hear no
word of welcome," said he gently. "If you knew how very grateful I
should feel for one sentence of kindness—even one look which evinced
interest, could you refuse me?"

"I assure you, Mr. Howard," said she, determined no longer to stand
silently blushing like a criminal before him; "I assure you it was not
want of interest, or kindly feeling towards you, which kept me silent."

"Thank you—you were glad to see me again?"

"Indeed I was."

"And you guess—you must know and feel why I hurried home?"

"No, indeed," but the words were accompanied by so very deep a blush,
that they looked exceedingly like a falsehood.

"There was a letter, which I wrote, but to which I received no answer,
which hurried my movements—do you now know what I mean?"

"I believe I do," she uttered in desperation finding he seemed
determined she should answer him.

"And though you would not write, you will condescend now to answer that
letter by word of mouth," taking her hand in both of his; "I am sure you
are too generous wilfully to torment me—and if you had known how much
pain your silence gave me, you would not have allowed it to last so
long."

"Mr. Howard," said Emma, looking up, but making no attempt to withdraw
her hand; "I only received that letter yesterday morning; and as I then
thought you were dead—you cannot imagine the pain which the receipt of
it occasioned _me_."

She spoke hurriedly, without considering the full value of her words;
but _he_ saw the implied meaning—where was the man ever blind to such a
compliment. The speech he made on the occasion, was a great deal too
rapturous and lover-like to bear transcribing, indeed, when lovers'
speeches really come from the heart, they would seldom be sufficiently
intelligible to interest general readers. There is so much understood by
the pressure of the hands—so much explained by the language of the
eyes—and so much made up by other signs well-known to the initiated, but
unnecessary to detail to those who have never gone through such an
ordeal, that in most cases it seems probable an accurate relation in
words would be the most tiresome, the most incomprehensible, the most
ridiculous thing in the world to those not taking a principal part in
it.

Where the heart takes but a small share in the proceedings, indeed, fine
speeches may be made, but where the affections are engaged, the meaning
can be perfectly understood without them.

The result of his speech, and Emma's answer, was much more favorable to
his happiness, than the reply which she had made the previous day to a
similar question from Lord Osborne. She acknowledged that she loved him,
and that the dread of being poor, or the desire of being great, would
not prevent her promising to become his wife.

When the first effervescence of his joy had subsided, and he was able to
speak in a calm and reasonable manner, and consider what was best to be
done, he urged her to come out with him into the park, as the first step
to securing her company perfectly undisturbed—for, in the library, they
were constantly exposed to be interrupted. Here she tried to obtain from
him some rational account as to why he had tantalised her so long by
deferring an explanation—which, for any thing she could see to the
contrary, might just as well, or better, have been made long before.
Since he professed he had loved her even before she went to Croydon, why
did he take no steps to tell her so; or why, since he ended in writing,
did he not write to her there? Was it necessary to go as far as North
Wales to find courage for such an epistle.

He told her it was doubt and want of courage kept him silent—then he
contradicted himself and said it was really jealousy of Lord Osborne. He
had believed the young baron loved her.

So he might, perhaps, was Emma's reply—but what had that to do with it;
to make the admiration dangerous, it was necessary that she should
return his affection, "and surely, you never suspected me of that?" said
she.

"How could I tell? Might you not naturally be dazzled with the idea of a
coronet; why, should I have interfered with your advantage or
advancement?"

"As if it would be to my advantage to marry a man like Lord Osborne,"
replied Emma. "I do not wish to say anything derogatory to your friends,
or to Lady Gordon's brother, but indeed I think you might have given me
credit for rather a different taste at least. I have no wish either to
flatter you too much; but I fancy, whether better or worse, _our_ tastes
are more consonant than mine and Lord Osborne's."

"But, my dearest Emma, did he not love you?"

"What right have you to ask me any such questions, Mr. Howard? so long
as I assure you, I did not love him, that ought to be sufficient for
you—let his feelings remain a secret."

"There should be no secrets between us, Emma."

"Very well—but there shall be between Lord Osborne and me."

"For shame, Emma, I shall certainly forbid anything of the kind."

"Set me the example of sincerity and openness then, tell me to how many
ladies you have made love—how many hopeless and inextinguishable flames
you have nourished, and how many hearts you have found obdurate to your
finest speeches."

Mr. Howard protested he had never loved any other woman, never sought
any other hand than hers, and never made fine speeches to any one. With
all his eloquence and ability he was not able to extract from her the
fact, that she had refused Lord Osborne. She had two motives for her
silence; a feeling of delicacy towards her rejected suitor, and a
decided determination not to flatter Howard's vanity by such a mark of
her preference. She thought it quite enough for him to know himself
accepted without learning, at least at present, how many she had refused
for his sake.



                               CHAPTER XV


Lady Gordon, and her husband, learnt with sincere pleasure, that a happy
understanding had been established between Emma and her lover; they both
hinted that the disappointment to Lord Osborne would not be lasting, and
that the attachment would on the whole have done him good. He had
improved so much during its progress, had become so sociable and
civilised by his affection, that he seemed a different person; and
whilst rejoicing at the change, they trusted he would not relapse under
the effects of his want of success, but would prove himself worthy of
his place in society, and his position in the world.

As to the young man himself, he felt his disappointment most acutely,
but it did not make him more selfish than he had been. On the contrary
it seemed to give rise to a magnanimity of sentiment which could hardly
have been expected from him.

Two days after the engagement it was found he went down to see Howard at
the vicarage immediately after the post had come in. That morning he had
received an announcement of the death of the old rector before
mentioned. He now hastened to offer the living to Howard, delighted to
have it in his power thus to improve his circumstances.

"Howard," said he, "I have learnt by this letter that the living of
Carsdean is vacant. I am glad of it—as I am sure it will make you much
more comfortable. Will you accept it?"

"My dear lord," said he, with much emotion, "you are too kind to me: I
am ashamed to accept such a benefit, when I have robbed you of what you
so much desired."

"Do not speak of that," said the other, "she took her choice, and no
doubt chose wisely; I always _felt_ you were beloved, Howard, even
whilst I was fool enough to flatter myself with success: but I am not
angry either with her or you, and since I cannot make her happy myself,
I am glad I can help you to do so. This living was always meant for
you—but coming as it does just now, it gives me very great pleasure."

"I knew you were generous," replied Howard, "and I can feel how much
satisfaction the power of obliging must confer."

"Make her happy, Howard, and when I can, I will come and see you, but it
is best at first that we should be apart. You accept my wedding gift!"

"A noble one, like the heart which dictates it, and a welcome one indeed
since it removes the only obstacle to my marriage," replied Howard.

"Howard, you are a lucky man; I would have given half my income to have
had the power of persuading her to accept the other half. You know, I
dare say, that she refused me?"

"No, indeed!"

"Did not Emma tell you? She _did_ refuse me, and I loved her the better
for it, for it was entirely for _your_ sake; but as I thought you were
dead then I did not take it so much to heart, because I trusted to time
and perseverance when my rival was removed."

"And when I came back and destroyed your dream, how you must have hated
me! I wonder you could shake hands as you did, and say you were glad to
see me."

"Howard," said Lord Osborne with much agitation, "if I thought you were
serious in what you say, I would never speak to you again; I _know_ you
only say it to torment me, but is that generous when you are the winning
party?"

"I beg your pardon," said Howard holding out his hand; and no more was
said on the subject.

"What a pity it is," said Emma Watson to Howard when he was joyfully
detailing to her his happy prospects, and Lord Osborne's generosity,
"what a pity it is that Lord Osborne's manners are so inferior to his
mind. With so much good feeling and generosity of sentiment, it is
unfortunate that he should have so little engaging in his appearance and
address."

"I do not think so at all, Emma, for if his manners had been such as you
admire, and calculated to set off his good qualities, you would
certainly have been lost to me."

"What abominable conceit!" cried Emma; "you really take credit to
yourself, do you, for such very captivating manners yourself, since you
think that those alone are the passports to my good opinion."

"I did not mean to say that; I trust my other good qualities are so
remarkable that you have, in their favour, overlooked any little
deficiencies which might otherwise strike you in my manners."

"Modest, truly! What is the income of the living which his lordship
presents to you?"

"About a thousand a year, I believe, and a very pretty country and
pleasant neighbourhood. I have been there, and always thought I should
like it so very much."

"I am quite sorry to leave this pretty place though," said Emma looking
at the Vicarage near which they were wandering; "I am sure the other
cannot have so pleasant a garden, nor so pleasant a little drawing-room.
Those were happy days when we were snowed up there."

They then went off into a long series of reminiscences and explanations
through which it would be useless, were it possible, to follow them.

Emma spent one very happy week at the Castle after her engagement; which
was not the less agreeable to every one concerned because both Lord
Osborne and Miss Carr left it. He quitted his house immediately after
the conversation above recorded; and she then decided that her visit had
been long enough to such dreadfully dull people as Rosa and her husband
were become: so she took leave of her dear friends and returned,
unsuccessful, home.

At the end of a week, Mr. Howard found it necessary to go too; there was
business connected with his new living which must be attended to, and
unwillingly he tore himself away.

Mrs. Willis still continued in Wales, for though Charles was better, and
indeed daily gaining strength, the physicians had so strongly
recommended sea air for the re-establishment of his health, that his
mother had decided on spending the summer on the sea-coast there.

Howard's departure proved, however, only the prelude to Emma's return to
Croydon. Elizabeth's marriage was fast approaching, and she pressed to
see Emma again before that event. The idea of again becoming an inmate
of Robert's house was so very repulsive to Emma that she demurred from
that reason alone, and she was much more inclined to accede to Miss
Bridge's repeated invitations to return to Burton. But this Elizabeth
urged would be doing no good at all; fourteen miles would as effectually
preclude daily meetings as forty, and would be only tantalizing instead
of comfortable. The affair was at length arranged through the
intervention of Mr. Bridge, who invited both his sister and her young
friend to take up their residence for a time in his Vicarage at Croydon.
And so it was settled at last, and after a hundred kind words and
caresses from Lady Gordon, and the most cordial good wishes from her
husband, Emma left the Castle, travelling, be it recorded, in one of Sir
William's carriages half the way, where she was to be met by Miss
Bridge's chariot, to convey her the latter half of the journey.

With no accident and no adventure she reached Croydon, and of course
received a far warmer welcome than when she had formerly made the same
journey.

Elizabeth was waiting to receive her—her face was seen through the
flowers in the drawing-room window, and she reached the entrance door,
and ran down the steps to open the carriage before the fat,
well-powdered footman had time to put on his livery coat. She led her
sister into the house, and in the passage pushed back the bonnet and the
dark curls from her cheeks, to see if she was as pretty as ever. Then,
before leading her into the drawing-room, she paused again to make her
guess who she would find there.

Emma suggested Mr. and Miss Bridge.

"You little goose," replied Elizabeth, "as if I should have thought it
worth while to make you guess that!"

Then throwing open the door she ushered her in, and in another moment
Emma was clasped in the arms of her dear brother Sam. This was a very
unexpected pleasure—she had hoped to see him certainly, but never for a
moment anticipated meeting him so soon. It was the joint kindness of
Miss Bridge and Elizabeth; the one well remembering the affectionate
terms in which Emma always spoke of her brother had been suggesting the
possibility of his coming, and the other eager to carry out the plan had
persuaded George Millar to ask him to his house for the week preceding
the wedding. He had arrived that very afternoon, and after an
introduction to his future brother, had accompanied Elizabeth to meet
Emma.

Emma had much to communicate to Sam; besides her own prospects she had
matters which must be interesting to him as concerning himself. A
farewell visit which she had paid to the Edwards had brought another
engagement to her knowledge. Mary Edwards was soon to be married to
Captain Hunter. She found them _tête-à-tête_ in the parlour when she
entered, and appearances were so very suspicious, that even without the
direct information which Mrs. Edwards subsequently whispered to her, she
would have concluded her brother's cause to be lost.

Mrs. Edwards appeared on the whole better reconciled to the match than
Emma, from her early recollections, would have supposed. Perhaps she had
discouraged Mary's partiality for the Captain, from a doubt of his
sincerity, which was now removed; or perhaps finding herself in the
minority, she had given up her previous objections, because it was no
use to persist in them; whatever were her feelings, she had received
Emma's congratulations with a good grace, and Emma hoped there was no
ill-will implied in the message of compliments which she charged her to
deliver to their old acquaintance Mr. Sam Watson.

All this she had to communicate to Sam, who listened with philosophy,
and whistled _sotto voce_ instead of an answer. Certainly the part which
piqued him most was Mrs. Edwards' message; for some time indeed he had
almost despaired of Mary's affection, but he could not bear that the
mother who had never been his friend, should suppose he cared at all
about it.

There seemed nothing wanting to complete the felicity of the happy party
assembled at the Rectory of Croydon. Perhaps indeed Mr. Howard would not
have been flattered had he supposed this the case; but so it really was;
Emma had parted from him so recently that she hardly felt the want of
his society yet, and the satisfaction of knowing herself beloved was at
present sufficient for her repose of mind. The agitations and anxieties
of suspense were over, and were followed by a calmness and peace of mind
which seemed all that she could require. She had now as much to hear as
to tell, for Sam had been to Chichester, and seen Penelope and her
husband, had arranged the plan for his future establishment, and his
prospects were of a very bright character. Could he only have commanded
a couple of thousand pounds, besides what he possessed, there would have
been no difficulty at all in stepping into a comfortable house and
flourishing business. As it was, the prospects which Penelope promised
him should be realized in a short time, were sufficient to raise his
mind and ease his spirits.



                              CHAPTER XVI.


The next morning Emma had a succession of visitors. Miss Millar was
among the first and gayest of the number. She came up with Sam
immediately after breakfast, to spend a long day, and expressed great
satisfaction at seeing her again.

"You cannot think how dreadfully dull I have been," said she, "almost
ever since you went away. George being in love is the stupidest thing in
the world. Formerly when he had done with his business, and escaped from
his offices he used to be glad of my society and would read or walk when
I wanted him, but now all that is quite changed, and if I do get a
speech from him once in a week I am taught to consider it a great
favour. Upon my word it is a sad disease."

"They say it is infectious," said Emma, laughing.

"Oh I trust not," cried Annie quite seriously, "I hope I shall escape
the infection, I have such a horror of the whole thing. I beg the pardon
of all such of the present company who may be engaged, but I think that
people in love are very ridiculous."

"Can you always discern at the first glance when they have the disease,"
enquired Miss Bridge good-humouredly.

"Yes I think I can—but happily it leaves no marks, and when it is
passed, people may be as amiable as before. But it's a sad thing that
young people should be so constantly exposed to the danger. I hope you
will keep clear Emma, in spite of the atmosphere to which you have
removed."

"Is it worse than when I was here two months ago?" enquired Emma,
secretly smiling at her young friend's remarks.

"We shall soon see," replied Annie; "if there were any one to fall in
love with here, I am certain you would be in a dangerous position."

"Well, why should you except me?" said Mr. Bridge, "here I am a
bachelor, why may I not aspire to be considered as a dangerous
individual?"

"You, my dear Mr. Bridge—because you are engaged to me; you know you
long ago promised to marry me yourself," replied Annie.

"I am flattered at your remembering our engagement, young lady, but I am
astonished that you are left so long to me without competition; I think
you must be something like Beatrice."

"No, I never had lovers to mock," said she, "except Mr. Alfred
Fremantle, and he is the facsimile of Sir John Suckling's constant
lover, or rather he resembles him in constancy, but has none of his wit
to express it. What is it he says—

     "I have been in love three days,
      And shall be three days more."

"I cannot remember the words exactly, but it is something to that
effect."

Sam turned round from the window, and repeated the lines to which Annie
alluded. She looked astonished.

"How came you to know them?" said she.

"I read them amongst his poems," was his answer.

"I thought you were a surgeon, Mr. Samuel Watson," said she still in
amazement, "and though never doubting that you knew a great deal of
anatomy and such things, did not expect you would be acquainted with
love poetry."

"And is it to want of taste or want of time, Miss Millar, that you would
attribute my imaginary ignorance?"

"I do not wish to offend you, but certainly I had expected a surgeon's
tastes to be different; and I should have referred a case of dislocation
or fracture to you, with much more faith than a failure of memory."

"You thought I could mend your finger better than a broken verse, and
that though I might make you whole, I should make a line halt—was that
it?"

"I believe it was, and my amazement is so great, I do not know when I
shall recover," replied she saucily.

"I know you always had a strong prejudice against the medical
profession," said Mr. Bridge smiling, "you considered one specimen the
type of the whole class."

"I am delighted to hear it," exclaimed Sam, "I like of all things to
meet with prejudiced people, one has such a pleasure in disputing with
them; good, strong prejudices are delightful things, they are so
constantly changing their color and complexion; for I have often
observed a strong dislike converted into a decided approbation, whilst
the owner is unaware of the change, and gravely assures you he never
alters his mind."

"That must be a man's prejudice, Mr. Watson," said Annie, "women are
much more consistent. I have hated doctors, surgeons and apothecaries
ever since I was five years old, and Mr. Morgan gave me some _bon-bons_
which made me sick. I have always distrusted them since that."

"I am not at all surprised," said Sam, with much gravity; "such an
offence was unpardonable, and well deserves to be visited on the whole
of the medical profession by your unchanging and unmitigated contempt.
After this we cannot allow your dislike to be called a prejudice!"

"Is your brother always as impertinent to every young woman as he is to
me?" enquired Annie, turning to Emma, "he seems determined to quarrel
with me—has he naturally a bad temper?"

"Really I do not know," replied Emma, "I have seen so little of him, and
never with any other young ladies; do you imagine want of temper a
necessary accompaniment to his profession?"

"Oh no, I am not quite so bad as that," said she laughing, "doctors
ought to be particularly bland and insinuating, able to make all the
bitter realities they inflict on one, pass easily under the sweetening
cover of a smile and honied words."

They were interrupted by the arrival of other visitors. Emma having just
arrived from a prolonged visit to Lady Gordon at Osborne Castle, was
likely to become a very popular character at Croydon; there was so much
virtue comprised in the friendship of a baronet's wife, and as it was
whispered, the admiration of her brother; for accounts of his visit to
Croydon had been whispered abroad, and such an act could only be
attributed to one motive. All her former acquaintance looked on her as a
baroness elect, and all began to find out what a very charming girl they
had always thought her. They would not for the world neglect calling on
that sweet, amiable Emma Watson. They were so delighted to see her back
again; they were so eager that she should make a long stay amongst them
all. Croydon would be so gay with all that was going on. The three Miss
Watsons had been such a very great addition, it had never been like
itself since they came.

Amongst her visitors were her sister-in-law and niece. Emma was really
glad to see the little girl, who clung to her and begged her to come
back again very soon, as she had no one to teach her now so nicely as
she had been used to do.

"My dear Emma," cried Jane, "how delighted I am to see you again, and so
blooming as you are looking; upon my word, I really begin to see what
Mr. Morgan once said of our likeness. I hope you left your kind friends
at the Castle well—charming young man Lord Osborne; nothing of hauteur
or pride about him. He seemed quite at home with me—but, to be sure,
when people have lived in the same sort of society, they acquire a sort
of ease towards each other. I cannot make out that he knew my uncle, Sir
Thomas, but he reminded me very much of some of the young men that I
used to see at his house."

Here she paused, and Emma, thinking some sort of remark necessary, and
yet not having the least idea what she was expected to reply to, only
ventured to enquire for her brother.

"Mr. Watson? oh, he is well enough, I believe! I have not seen him this
morning, however, for he breakfasted early with Elizabeth; I believe, if
he can, he will come and see you some day, but indeed, Emma, you must
come to us. We have plenty of room, and should you have any friends
coming, we could easily accommodate them too. I would not mind putting
myself to any inconvenience for your sake, my dear."

"I am sure I feel much obliged, but at present I mast decline your
offers," said Emma, trying to speak with warmth.

"Oh, no, not at all, I assure you, you could expect nothing less from
us; _we_, you know, are your nearest relations, and under certain
circumstances, _we_ may naturally be expected to show our approbation
and patronage; every young woman has a claim on her own family; so you
will certainly come back to us."

"Indeed I must decline Jane," said Emma firmly, "at least, for the
present."

"And indeed, dear, I will not take a refusal, so I shall certainly get a
room ready for you, and another shall be prepared for a friend whenever
it is needed. Did you leave Lord Osborne at the Castle, did you say?"

Emma replied in the negative of course.

"Really, for so young a man," continued Mrs. Watson, "his air and manner
were remarkable; so exceedingly high-bred and aristocratic. I have
seldom seen manners which delighted me more, I assure you. Don't blush
so, my dear," added she, making believe to whisper; "nobody here knows
anything about him, except you and me."

"Then allow me to suggest that, as a reason for dropping the subject,"
said Emma, "and recurring to some one more generally interesting."

"La, my dear," laughed Jane, "it looks very suspicious, your not
choosing to talk of him. However, if you don't like it, I will say no
more—I would not vex you for the world, my dear sister—what a sweet
pretty gown that is you have on; Lady Gordon's choice, beyond a doubt."

"No, indeed," replied Emma, smiling, "but I dare say Miss Bridge
remembers choosing it for me, whilst we were at Burton."

"What sort of bonnets are most in fashion, Emma?" asked Jane,
"Elizabeth's wedding bonnet is, to my taste, vastly ugly; not that I
pretend to be a judge at all,—though I used to be thought to have some
taste—but I dare say, she was quite right not to take my advice; one
must not expect to be always judged candidly—every one cannot see one's
merits; so I am not surprised—how are heads worn now?"

Emma tried to recall and describe some of the bonnets she had seen at
Lady Gordon's _fête_, but Mrs. Watson pronounced her description
unsatisfactory, wished she had been there to see it, and wondered
Margaret had never thought of asking her over for that day. She might
have done it so easily, Jane was sure, and considering how very kind
Jane had been to Margaret, and how large a share Robert had had in
bringing about her marriage, she thought it was the least she could have
done, to shew her gratitude and mark her sense of former favors.

Emma tried to excuse Margaret, but fortunately, before she had wasted
much eloquence in that way, Jane perceived it was time to withdraw.

No sooner was she out of the room than Sam returned from the window
where he had ensconced himself during her visit, and exclaimed:

"Really, I hope it is not very wicked, but that woman puts me more out
of patience than all the rest of the world of Croydon put together."

"The rest of the world of Croydon is infinitely obliged to you," said
Annie Millar, walking up to him; "allow me, sir, as its representative,
to make you a grateful curtsey on the occasion. You can bear with us all
better than with your sister-in-law?"

She made him a saucy curtsey as she spoke, looking exceedingly pretty as
she did so.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself for such a speech, Sam," said Emma,
at the same moment; "I am sure she meant to be kind."

"Yes, but who did she mean to be kind to, Emma? was it to Emma Watson or
some imaginary future baroness," replied Sam.

"Why should I enquire into motives, or attribute a bad ones? She might
have been just the same if Lord Osborne had never existed."

"I do not believe it," persisted he.

"Your brother wants to see how violent prejudices become him," said
Annie Millar, "do not argue with him—he does not deserve it."

"Miss Millar is angry with me for the implied reflection on Croydon,"
said he, "but I knew she had not been brought up here, and never thought
of her as belonging to the place."

"And what do you know of Croydon, to give you so dark an opinion of its
inhabitants?" enquired she, "I do not think we slander, or court here
worse than in other places."

"I have heard a great deal about you all, from my two sisters," replied
he; "Emma especially, gave me lively pictures of your proceedings. I was
well acquainted with you and your irreconcileable prejudices against
unfortunate surgeons several months ago.

"Oh! you used to correspond with Emma, did you?" said she.

"To be sure I did; would not you write to your brother, Miss Millar?"

"Perhaps I might—but I do not think he would read it if I did—especially
if I crossed the letter! George is not fond of letters!"

"But you like them yourself?"

"Oh yes! I should like to have seen Emma's to you. I am sure they would
have been very interesting—does she not write very clever letters?"

"_I_ used to think them interesting and clever—but, perhaps, that was
because I am only a surgeon, and could not be expected to have either
taste or judgment," replied he, with mock humility.

"Oh, but I think you might have both on _that_ subject—your admiring
Emma's letters is decidedly a proof of it."

"Even though I am a surgeon?"

"Yes, even though you are a surgeon."

"And though you have never seen any of those letters, the liking which
secures your approbation?"

"Ah! you are too clever for me—you want to make me contradict myself, or
something of that sort—but I will not argue with you, and then you
cannot prove me wrong."

"You need not say you _will_ not—you _cannot_ argue; no woman can, they
can only feel, and express those feelings."

"And taking the converse of your proposition, Mr. Samuel Watson, I
presume that men surpass us so much in argument, because they have _no_
feelings. Am I to infer that?"

"We have them, but we guide them, not they us. It is exactly the reverse
with you, and you never see more than one side of a question," replied
he, in the most straightforward manner possible.

"Yes; you have some feelings very apparent," replied she, "contempt for
women is evidently a prominent one."

"Contempt, Miss Millar! no indeed, you do me injustice, if you think
so—but, perhaps, you imagine that a part of my profession?"

"I certainly think it one that hardens all the feelings," said she
turning away and thus putting a stop to the conversation. It had been
settled that the whole vicarage party were to dine at the Millars' that
afternoon, and it now became time for those who did not belong to it, to
return home to prepare for dinner. Elizabeth Watson, her brother, and
Miss Millar accordingly set off together. Elizabeth taking Sam's arm,
and Annie walking on her other side; they made the passage with scarcely
a syllable passing between them; and as the Millars' house was nearer
the vicarage than the residence of the Robert Watsons, Annie left them
at the door of her house.

"What do you think of Annie Millar?" cried Elizabeth eagerly, as she and
her brother proceeded together. "Is she not charming?"

"Yes, she is a very fine girl," replied he quietly.

"Oh, Sam," continued Elizabeth, "I do so wish you would like her; I have
always thought she was exactly suited to you. She will have twenty
thousand pounds of her own, and I am sure she is much better worth
liking than Mary Edwards."

Elizabeth, in her open-hearted zeal for Sam's welfare, never for a
moment reflected that she was taking the most probable way to prejudice
him against her, since there is nothing which in general has more
influence that way than a sister's praises; whilst the surest means to
interest a man's favor for any young woman, is to abuse or find fault
with her. True to his feelings as a man, Sam of course replied:

"If you reckon her merits by her pounds, I dare say she is, but I do not
see otherwise in what she surpasses Mary Edwards."

Fortunately they had just arrived at the termination of their walk, and
Sam having seen his sister safely deposited in the house, returned alone
to George Millar's residence.

The evening was a very merry one, for the whole party was well assorted
and in good spirits, in spite, as Annie observed, of the tremendous
event hanging over some of them. But it was not Elizabeth's nature to be
very pensive; positive evils did not make her sad, it was not likely
then that what she firmly believed to be a positive good, would weigh
heavily on her spirits. She was perfectly satisfied with her future
prospects, and could look forward without any trembling emotion to her
approaching fate. After dinner, when the ladies had returned to the
drawing-room, Elizabeth, who was burning with anxiety to make known the
fact of Emma's engagement, began enquiring of Annie, if she thought her
sister changed since her visit to Osborne Castle. Miss Millar declared
she was looking better, plumper, gayer, prettier than ever; but in no
other respect was she altered.

"Then you do not suspect her of having fallen in love?" enquired Miss
Watson laughingly.

"I see no trace of it," said the other, examining Emma from head to foot
with a grave air, taking a candle from the chimney-piece to throw more
light on her countenance. "I see no symptoms at all, pray do not attempt
to raise such unfounded imputations against her, Elizabeth; your
insinuations disgrace you!"

"Nay then, in my own justification I must inform you, Annie,—shall I
tell, Emma—or do you blush to own the truth?" enquired Miss Watson with
a significant smile.

"Not that she is engaged to that Lord Osborne!" cried Annie, starting
back with horror, "you are not going to confirm the rumour which Miss
Jenkins and Mrs. Watson so industriously circulate, and that brought
Miss Morgan and Miss Fenton to call on her to-day. This can never be."

"My dear Annie," said Emma smiling quietly, "_that_ Lord Osborne, as you
call him, is a very estimable young man, and would make any woman who
liked him very happy I have no doubt."

"Indeed! well I hope he will, if you are going to marry him," said Annie
with a mournful countenance and expression, that made Elizabeth laugh
out-right, "but in that case, when you are Lady Osborne, we shall never
see you again."

"I dare say not," replied Emma, "but, believe me, I never intend to be
Lady Osborne, so your alarm is unfounded."

"And you are not engaged to him, and you are free—oh, how glad I am—I
was sure you could not be," cried Annie quite rapturously.

Emma looked at Elizabeth and said,

"Finish the story, as you began it."

"Well then, Annie, I am sorry to lower your opinion of my sister, but as
the fact must come sooner or later to your knowledge, and you seem now
tolerably prepared to receive it, I have to make to you the distressing
announcement that Emma is in reality engaged to be married, though not
to Lord Osborne, who is not the only man in the world I assure you."

"Emma engaged to be married," said Annie with a desponding look, "then
_I_ have no hope; the next thing I shall hear, is that my hand is
disposed of; we shall none of us escape it. Dear Miss Bridge, how did
you manage?"

"I would not recommend you to wish for my fate, my dear, I had a bitter
disappointment," replied the old lady with extraordinary placidity.

"My dear madam," said Annie respectfully, and taking her hand as she
spoke, "I beg your pardon a thousand times, but I assure you I did not
know that, or I would not have jested on the subject."

"My dear child, the thing is too long passed to hurt my feelings now,"
said Miss Bridge smoothing down Annie's glossy hair as she inclined her
head towards her; "but I do not think you would wish to buy my present
peace of mind by undergoing all I have felt and suffered."

A pause ensued, which Mrs. Turner was the first to break.

"Well Elizabeth, do tell us what is the name of your sister's young
man—who is he and what is he? I am longing to know all about it."

Elizabeth told them all she knew, and when she added that Lord Osborne
had recently given him a valuable living, Emma enquired whether she was
not right in saying that Lord Osborne was an estimable young man.

"What, because he has livings to dispose of?" said Annie. "I suppose he
could not help that."

Emma was silent, but Elizabeth exclaimed,

"Oh! but you must understand that Lord Osborne was in love with her, and
therefore, as he could not marry her himself, it was very generous of
him to give his rival an income to enable _him_ to do so."

"Elizabeth!" said Emma reproachfully.

"Emma tries to make a mystery of it," continued her sister; "I cannot
get her to own that Lord Osborne proposed to her; but I am sure if he
did not, it was because she accepted Mr. Howard before he had time to do
so."

The gentlemen at this juncture returned to the drawing-room, for neither
of the three seemed disposed to prefer the bottle to the ladies, and
Annie sat down to prepare tea. Sam approached the table, which was a
little removed from the others, and tendered his assistance if
necessary. She did not accept or decline his offer, but looked a little
confused; he could not decide whether she was angry or vexed, and stood
quietly by considering her countenance, and aiding her whenever she
required more water from the elegant silver kettle which swung over a
spirit-lamp in the place of our modern urn.

At length, when the others seemed engrossed with their tea and
conversation, she raised her head and said, with a little embarrassment,

"I certainly owe you some apology, Mr. Watson, for the incivility of my
last speech to you this afternoon. I am quite shocked to think I should
have been so rude."

"Indeed, Miss Millar, I was not affronted, for I had known your opinion
before, and I thought the apologies were rather due from me, since,
though quite unintentionally, I had given you the idea that I
entertained a contempt for women. I did not deserve that accusation, but
my expressions must have been wrong, if they awoke such an idea."

Annie could not help feeling that even a surgeon might look very
handsome, and that _his_ tone and manner might convey the conviction of
his perfect sincerity: she liked him, in spite of his profession.

"Seriously, Mr. Watson, I should never accuse you of anything of the
sort," returned she after a moment's reflection; "so I suppose we may
pass an amnesty for past offences, and declare a truce for the present."

"Let it be a treaty of peace," said he playfully; "permanent peace."

"No," she replied shaking her head; "that would be promising too much. I
shall be certain to quarrel with you again, and it does not do to break
treaties. Do you know I was never, as a child, so much inclined to be
naughty as when I had just promised to be very good. Let us content
ourselves with a four hours' truce, renewable or not at the end of that
time."

"Be it so," replied he laughing, "if you think that the safest
proceeding or the most agreeable. So you were a naughty girl, were you,
at school?"

"Oh, always in a scrape—the torment of my governess," said she laughing
at the recollection. "They used gravely to shake their heads, and say
they did not know what would become of me; I should never be good for
anything; so idle—so rebellious—so mischievous—so saucy—and withal so
merry and happy—I always got my own way with them all."

"And what did you learn at school, may I ask?"

"First to play at battledore and shuttle-cock, and repeat 'I love my
love with an A,' &c.—then to dance—I liked that—then to do cross-stitch,
tent and marking—I worked a magnificent sampler, which I will show you
some day. Then I learnt my letters and to read, because they promised me
some fairy tales if I would try. The next accomplishment I acquired was
to do a sum in the rule of three, for which I was rewarded with 'Sir
Charles Grandison,' in seven volumes. I do not know that I learnt
anything else, except the way to govern all my companions, coax my
superiors—oh, and write a letter."

"Well, I think it must have been a very good school, and if ever I have
daughters they shall be sent there too. I admire the system
exceedingly."

"Yes, I think it was a very good school," replied Annie; "to be sure, I
learnt nothing worth knowing, and a great deal which I had better have
let alone: one sees a prodigious deal of meanness, and manœuvring, and
artful conduct when thirty or forty girls are assembled together; but I
suppose it is all right, since it has gone on for so many generations,
and I do not know that women are worse than they used to be before they
ever pretended to learn. We do not expect to rival Lady Jane Grey, or
Queen Elizabeth, or the daughters of Evelyn, and I dare say if we did,
we should only be disliked and ridiculed. No doubt it is quite right
that women should be idle and frivolous; it keeps us in our right places
in the world."

She spoke with something in her tone between jest and bitterness, to
which Sam hardly knew how to answer.

"I protest against your giving the conversation such a turn; it is
breaking our truce," said he, "you must either speak in complete jest,
or serious earnest. I shall be getting into a scrape again with you, if
I answer now, for I do not know which you mean."

"Let it pass for a jest then, lest you should think me seriously
discontented with my position in society," replied she, "and in the
meantime, give me Miss Bridge's teacup to replenish!"

"She is an odd girl," thought he, "I wonder in what light she looks upon
me!"

"After all, for a surgeon, he really is pleasant," thought she, "it is a
pity he has such a bad profession, I am quite sorry for him."

It was with these feelings that they sat down to cards; after which, of
course, they had no more private conversation until the company had left
the house.



                             CHAPTER XVII.


The week that preceded Elizabeth's wedding, seemed extremely short to
the whole of the parties immediately concerned; every day was occupied
with some excursion for their amusement, and every evening was passed at
the house of some friendly acquaintance, who would not be refused the
pleasure of their company. Nobody, at this epoch, was more popular than
the future Mrs. George Millar; since her neighbours could not prevent
her marriage, they were determined to extract as much pleasure from the
occurrence as possible. For this end they gave a number of tea-parties
to welcome her brother and say good-bye to her sisters, and learn as
much as they could of the future plans and prospects of each. The
handsome Mr. Samuel Watson, with his lively manners, promising
prospects, and probable disengaged heart, was really a most interesting
object; and since Emma was supposed to be engaged, and there was no
further ground for her exciting jealousy, she was allowed, on all hands,
to be uncommonly handsome and agreeable too. Nothing, therefore, was
omitted, which could express their favourable opinion of the whole
family, or their anxiety to be on good terms with them all.

It was no particular misery to Jane that, whilst every one else was
pressing for their company, there was not one day left disengaged for
her. She liked a great better to be invited to meet them, as she was
every evening: for, unless she could quite outshine all her neighbours
in the elegance of her entertainment, she preferred giving none at all;
and as it happened that Robert was in a stingy mood, she had, with
difficulty, extracted from him sufficient money to buy the very handsome
gown and bonnet in which she was to appear at the wedding.

At all these parties where, of course, the Millars regularly met the
Watsons, Sam still contrived to be a great deal with Annie,—but the most
favourable opportunities for intercourse, were during their long rambles
in the country. Then he was always her cavalier, and they quarrelled and
laughed together without interruption. Her spirits seemed as
inexhaustible as her strength; she could both walk and talk for miles
without mental or bodily exhaustion, and often tired out all her
companions except Sam.

It was no wonder then, when he paid her the compliment of untiring
attention, and unvarying amusement, that she should, in her turn, find
him a most delightful companion, infinitely more agreeable than any one
she had ever known. No more was heard about his profession—she forgot it
entirely, and only considered him in the light of a very pleasant
acquaintance.

It was natural that, during some of their many engagements, Emma should
again meet Mr. Morgan; and equally natural that she should feel some
embarrassing recollections at doing so. A bow was all that their
situation, at the first moment of meeting, allowed to pass between them;
but, when by a movement amongst her neighbours, a vacant seat, and the
power of reaching it allowed him, he did not hesitate to avail himself
of the opportunity, and place himself by her side.

There was nothing of restraint or embarrassment in his manner—no
appearance of consciousness or shame; he did not know, perhaps, how much
their joint names had been made the subject of gossip and scandal—she
thought so for a moment, but then, from what she remembered, she knew he
must have been aware of it; then she felt angry at his impudence; but
finally, she concluded that, after all, he was taking the wisest course;
and that to converse quietly, as if nothing had passed to raise an
unpleasant feeling, would be, on the whole, the conduct least calculated
to excite attention.

Calm and polite as she was, he was sensible of a difference in her
manners from past days, and he did not indulge a hope of regaining her
confidence; but it wounded his vanity to suppose that she, amongst all
the women of his acquaintance, beheld him with calm dislike; whilst he
could not even to himself deny her superiority over the many whose
approbation or admiration constantly followed his footsteps.

If he could not regain her friendship he wanted at least to excite some
emotion in her mind, and call up one of her former smiles so full of
brightness and feeling. With the tact which gave him half his
popularity, he hit upon the subject most likely to awaken kind
sentiments in her heart; he began praising her brother. The introduction
had given him so much pleasure, he was, he would not say astonished, but
certainly most agreeably surprised to find Mr. Samuel Watson so very
superior a young man. There was no likeness to Mr. Watson—no—he could
not compliment his good friend, Robert, by saying that there was; seldom
had he seen two brothers more dissimilar; but her younger brother's
manners were so good—such a young man must make his way in the world,
must be a favourite; there was every probability of his success; nay,
there was certainty of it: there was intelligence and spirit in his eye,
which promised nobly. Then he enquired minutely into his prospects;
entered with the warmth of a friend into the plan for his establishing
himself at Chichester, and gave several hints for his benefit.

Emma, in spite of her aversion to the speaker, and her determination
that nothing should make her admit even the semblance of mutual
friendship in their future intercourse, found herself speaking with
unintentional warmth and animation. She checked herself immediately, and
a shade of vexation passed over her countenance; which was not lost on
her companion. Accustomed to study the minds and inclinations of his
various patients, his quickness at reading all the little marks of
feeling evinced in their countenances, enabled him pretty well to
appreciate the state of her mind; but when he proceeded on the same
subject, in hopes of once more inducing her to express her feelings, he
was extremely vexed to find that, after making him some short and
trivial reply, she rose and walked away.

This movement marked a decided aversion on her part which piqued him
deeply, and for which he was not prepared. He remained in his seat,
spoke to no one else, and occupied himself, whilst he continued in the
room, in considering whether he no longer had any chance of regaining
his influence with her.

He knew pretty well all that had passed, and all that had been whispered
about their former intimacy; but he thought that since all that had been
set in a favourable point of view, and her character perfectly cleared,
she need not now have been so cold and distant to him. If, as was
whispered, she was engaged to some one else, there was no reason for
shunning him, unless, and the thought actually thrilled his mind with
delight, unless she had really preferred him, and now feared to trust
herself in his power. This would account for all her conduct; her flight
to Burton—her engagement itself, and her present shrinking from him—all
might be traced to the same source. His vanity was excited to the
highest pitch, as he thought of this interpretation, and he could
believe her quite capable of such strength of mind, and firmness of
purpose. Other women when they had liked him, had thrown themselves in
his way, but it was perfectly consonant with what he supposed her
character to be, that she should follow a precisely opposite course of
conduct.

If this were the case he felt sure he might regain his former influence
by a little dexterous management, and as a first step towards it, he
resolved to cultivate the friendship of her youngest brother. Had he
known that he was perfectly excluded from her regard by the double
barrier of a very ill opinion of himself, and a warm attachment to Mr.
Howard, he might have spared himself the trouble of the attempt.

Towards the end of the week a sort of gipsy party had been arranged to
form an expedition to a pretty park in the neighbourhood, which from the
absence of the owner was a frequent resort on such occasions. Mr. Morgan
was not originally asked to join it; but knowing what was going on, he
presented himself at the door of George Millar's house just before the
company started, and his expressions of regret at not having time to see
more of Sam speedily produced a very hearty invitation from Mrs. Turner,
the chaperone of the party, to accompany them; for, as she observed, "on
such occasions the more the merrier."

It was a very large party without him. Mrs. Turner and the two Millars,
four Watsons, for Jane was of the party, with Alfred Freemantle as her
escort, since her husband would not leave the office, two cousins of
hers, young ladies who had arrived the day before to grace Elizabeth's
wedding, Miss Bridge, and some young ladies, natives of the town: in
short they numbered fourteen without Mr. Morgan, but as ladies were in
the majority he was heartily welcomed by several of the party at least,
if not by those particular individuals whose favour he most desired.

How the whole of the party were disposed of in different vehicles, need
not now be particularised; there was variety at least in their
equipages, and the power of choice in arranging themselves. Sam was the
charioteer of an "inside Irish car," which of course amongst its
passengers numbered Annie Millar, and likewise Emma Watson; Mrs. Robert
Watson; two young cousins, completed this party, and apparently made any
addition impossible; but one of the girls, not liking to be entitled to
only a fifth part of the attention of any gentleman, suddenly abdicated
her seat in favour of Mr. Morgan, that she might enjoy the place of
third in a gig, under the escort of Alfred Freemantle. Nothing could
have been more consonant to his wishes, than this sudden piece of good
luck which thus befell Mr. Morgan: his gaiety was quite remarkable, but
his judgment and tact, were still more so. For he devoted himself at
first to please the stranger, and do the honors of the country to her;
he was bent on making himself agreeable, but it was in the most open and
unsuspicious way. There was nothing of tenderness or sentiment in his
manners, nothing approaching to flirtation in his address to Miss Hall,
and to the others it was as perfectly correct, as if dictated by Lord
Chesterfield himself.

Annie, indeed, was too much engrossed by the driver to notice the
intruder; she had no attention to bestow on any one else; and had not
the horse been particularly quiet and sagacious, and the road remarkably
smooth and straight, it is by no means unlikely that their drive might
have terminated abruptly under some hedge, so much more was Sam himself
occupied with the lady behind, than the road in front of him. Neither
Miss Hall nor Emma, however, made any complaint of his coachmanship; for
Emma, being opposite to Annie, enjoyed the full benefit of her lively
remarks; and whilst her neighbour confined his attention to his
_vis-à-vis_, the proximity to him, in which she unexpectedly found
herself, did not discompose her at all, nor did she feel any impatience
for the termination of so agreeable a drive.

When they alighted in the park, which was the termination of their
drive, they found most of the company assembled before them, and
separated into groups strolling about on the borders of the artificial
lake, a sail on which was one of their projected pleasures. In
consequence of this, these five were left together to entertain each
other, until the arrival of the whole party enabled them to arrange
their plans for the day's amusement. The point of rendezvous was an
ornamental boat-house, standing at one angle of the lake, embowered in
fir trees, and commanding a pretty view of the opposite banks, which
were high and woody. Miss Hall was, what was then more rare than now, a
sketching young lady: and her pencils were speedily produced. But she
could not bear inspection whilst taking her views, and unceremoniously
desired the other four to walk away.

It was a proof of Sam's great good-nature to Emma, that he continued
with her, and declined the tempting opportunity of securing a
comfortable walk with Annie Millar, that he might not leave his sister
with no other companion than Mr. Morgan. Perhaps Miss Millar might not
entirely appreciate this self-sacrifice on his part, or possibly might
not thank him for it, so much as Emma; certainly Mr. Morgan, who had
calculated on a different line of conduct, judging from the evident
admiration which Sam had previously testified for Annie, was very much
disappointed at it. He took care to keep close to Emma's side, ready to
improve any opportunity that might present itself; and thus they
wandered about, without thinking much of where they were going, or
paying much attention to the really pretty scenery around them. The
consequence of this was, that they lost their place in the boat, for
being quite out of sight and hearing when it was ready, their companions
did not wait for them; and the intended sail had so entirely escaped the
memory of the quartet, that the first thing which recalled it to their
memory, was the sight of the boat, which caught their eyes just us they
gained the summit of an eminence commanding a view of the whole sheet of
water at their feet.

Sam expressed a hope that Miss Millar was not vexed at this incident.
Annie protested that for herself she did not care about it, but she
should be very sorry indeed, if she had beguiled Emma from sharing in
any pleasure she would have enjoyed.

Emma, on her side, was of opinion that they were much more comfortable
as they were; the boat seemed very much crowded, and she thought to be
squeezed in such a way that they could not move, nor even turn their
heads to contemplate the scenery, was not half so pleasant as sitting on
the green bank where they were resting so comfortably.

"In parties of this sort," said Mr. Morgan, "all depends on the company;
an uncongenial companion will spoil everything—even the finest landscape
in the world."

"Very true," replied Annie, quickly; "but how can one help that? One can
not say to a disagreeable person, 'Go away—you annoy and distress me!'
One can only smile politely and suffer internally."

"You, I dare say, can smile whilst annoyed," observed Sam, "but I never
can; whether I am happy or miserable, I show it immediately."

"Do you indeed," replied she, "I am sorry to hear that; I had been
hoping that the gloomy look and air of despondency with which you have
treated us, were your habitual manners, and might not really indicate
the state of intense suffering to which I suppose I must now attribute
them."

"I am certain my looks have expressed my feelings accurately," replied
he sturdily.

"Very well, I shall set my imagination to work to invent some romantic
cause for the dejection of spirits which you display. You are, probably,
repenting over some lost patient, whose end you hastened by your
surgical arts."

"I do not think you ought to jest on such subjects," replied he,
gravely; then, as she turned her head towards him with an expression of
surprise, he added, "Excuse my liberty of speech. I quite forgot who I
was speaking to."

She was silent and looked down, so that her bonnet concealed her
countenance. He viewed her uneasily, and wanted to know whether she was
affronted—or from what other reason she maintained this silence. Mr.
Morgan saw all this; he could not read Annie's feelings exactly, but he
felt convinced that, had they, at that moment, been without witnesses,
some very tender scene would have ensued.

He now took up the conversation by observing, how much more beautiful
the landscape would be in two months' time, when the tints of autumn
gave a little variety to the scenery. The dull, heavy green of summer,
he declared, reminded him always of mourning; it was so sombre.

He appealed to Emma, and she was compelled to reply. She had nothing to
urge against his preference for the autumnal tints—except, that their
proximity to winter gave them sadness, which, in themselves, they did
not merit.

"The sadness of autumn is, however, compensated by the hopes of
returning spring; we can bear to part with the verdure, which we know
will be restored in fresh beauty. In that respect, how superior is
inanimate nature, and our feeling of love for it, to human friendship,
or regard, or esteem."

"I do not see that," said Emma.

"Who can tell when a faded friendship shall be renewed, or when a
withered hope shall again look flourishing and verdant. The blast of
winter is certain to pass away, and its consequences vanish with it—but
the fatal breath of enmity—the chilling effects of whispered
malevolence—the poison of calumny—tell me Miss Watson, of a cure for
these, if you can."

"I know of none, save patience and a good conscience," replied Emma.

"Yes, patience—one needs that, indeed, to bear what I alluded to—when
one sees the face which used to meet one with a smile, averted
gravely—the hand once freely extended, now drawn back—the kindly words,
once gushing out from the friendly heart, like water from a copious
fountain, exchanged for the slow and measured accents which freeze the
heart, as they drop out one by one; when one sees all this," he
continued, lowering his voice, but speaking with impressive energy; "and
knows it to be the cold deadness of feeling produced by the ill-will of
others—the blighting words of malice—what can one hope—to what spring
shall one look forward? when may one expect the young feelings of
friendship to bud again?"

"Depend upon it they will, unless there is something more than unkind
breath to check them. To pursue your allegory, Mr. Morgan, if the plant
of friendship wither irretrievably, it must be because there is
something wrong at the root, otherwise, it is certain once more to
revive."

"I believe," said he, after a momentary pause, "my feelings are deeper
and more permanent, than those of most people."

"Yours Mr. Morgan!" interposed Annie, amazed, "I had no idea you were
troubled with any thing of the sort—when did you first find out that you
had any feelings?"

"Have I ever given you cause to doubt it," enquired he, significantly.

"Why, to own the truth, though we have been so long acquainted," said
she, "I cannot say that I ever undertook to investigate the nature or
extent of your feelings on any subject. I had a sort of general idea
that you had some; but of what quality I should have been very much
puzzled to say, except that I certainly should _not_ have thought of
constancy as your particular _forte_. However, I am willing to plead
total ignorance on the subject. Ignorance for which I alone am to blame,
arising from indifference and inattention."

"You need hardly remind me of that, Miss Millar," retorted he with mock
humility, "I am quite aware that I am too entirely an object of
indifference to you, for my feelings to be considered worth a moment's
attention."

He walked away, as he spoke, to a short distance, and seemed occupied in
viewing the landscape from the brow of the hill on which he stood, his
features expressing an appearance of wounded feelings struggling with
pride.

"You have hurt him, Annie," whispered Emma, "you are too severe."

"At least he wants to make us believe so," replied she softly, "but it's
all seeming—seeming—there is nothing real about that man."

"Now I rather like him," said Sam, "he seems so kind and friendly
towards me, I am quite indebted to him for the interest which he has
taken in my prospects, and the useful hints which he has given me."

"Did he recommend you to marry, Sam?" enquired Emma.

"I did not consult him on the subject, it is a point on which I should
neither ask nor take advice."

"Bravo, Mr. Watson—a most spirited determination. It is a point of so
little consequence indeed, and one in which your own experience must be
so calculated to guide you, that no doubt your intention to reject all
advice, is most judicious and praise-worthy."

"Are you of opinion that I am incompetent to act for myself in such a
case?" enquired he.

"I shall tell you as I did Mr. Morgan just now, I am ignorant and
indifferent on that subject—and now _you_ can go and walk on the other
side of the hill—or if you think it will look more picturesque, by the
side of yonder angry gentleman."

"No, Miss Millar, your ignorance, and indifference shall not drive me
from you; I would rather try to enlighten the one and overcome the
other."

This, though whispered softly, seemed to overpower her; she coloured
deeply; rose from the bank where they were sitting, and walked away to
the side of an adjoining thicket, where she employed herself in trying
to gather some brier roses from the hedge. Sam watched her for some
minutes, then perceiving that in stretching forward to grasp a blossom,
her veil had become entangled in a thorny shrub, he started up, and in a
moment was at her side to aid and release her.

Emma did not like to follow them, thinking she should be in the way, and
expecting that a few minutes would bring them back. In the mean time Mr.
Morgan looked round, and seeing her alone joined her. He still affected
to look hurt and sad, and Emma generously gave him credit for more
feeling than he deserved.

"That volatile girl—" said he, and then stopped.

"You must not mind what she says," suggested Emma kindly, "I am certain
she sometimes speaks without thinking, but never from malice or ill
will, even when she seems severe."

"She does not surprise me," replied he; "I am used to her ways, and
there is no change in _her_; she is always the same, it is vacillations
of friendship, variations of good opinion which I confess astonish and
pain me. And yet why should they—after all, the human mind is so liable
to error, so prone to seek misconstructions, so inclined to change and
variation, that nothing of the kind ought to surprise me."

She was determined to be silent, and occupied herself in wishing for the
return of her brother and Annie, who had strayed farther than she had
expected, and were now out of sight.

He was disappointed at her silence, and changed the subject into an
enquiry as to whether she should make a long stay at Croydon. She told
him she was only to remain until her sister's marriage, which would, as
he knew, very shortly occur.

"And then," said he, "may I ask where you are going—do you return to
Osborne Castle?"

"Certainly not," replied she decisively, "I do not think I am likely to
go there at all. Sir William and Lady Gordon have taken a house in the
neighbourhood of his own property, and if I visit them, it will be
there."

"Then where will be your home?"

"At Burton, with Miss Bridge, for the present I believe."

"I trust _you_, with your talents and accomplishments, your taste and
your sensibility, are not doomed to pass your life as the companion of
an elderly lady, buried in an obscure country village, unknown and
unadmired."

"There might be many worse positions in life, more disagreeable
companions, and more trying situations, Mr. Morgan," replied Emma with
warmth.

"Forgive me if my interest for you has led me to express my feelings in
an unauthorised way. _I_ cannot entirely forget the past, nor consign to
oblivion all that I once flatter myself was felt between us."

She could not exactly tell what to answer him, for she really hardly
knew what construction to place upon his words. He paused for a moment
and then resumed.

"Rumour was wrong then, when it asserted that there were ties in
contemplation, which would bind you closely to Osborne Castle—that, in
short, the young lord, doing justice to the merits which would grace a
higher rank, had sought to make you his wife."

"I am not engaged to Lord Osborne, if that is what you mean," said Emma
calmly.

"I had thought it strange indeed if a young man so unformed, so bearish,
so almost brutal, had known how to value, much more to win, a jewel so
bright and excellent."

"I must beg, Mr. Morgan, if you mention Lord Osborne's name at all, it
may be in terms such as I may listen to without offence. Pray remember
that I am under obligations to that family, for which it would be a bad
return to hear, without remonstrance, such aspersions cast on the head
of it. But I must confess I see no reason why either they or myself
should form the subject of your interrogatories. You have no claim
either past or present, which can make these enquiries anything short of
impertinent, and I must beg they may cease entirely."

She then walked a few steps to see if she could obtain any view of her
brother and friend, for whose return she felt anxious. Nothing, however,
was to be seen of them, and as she paused, her companion was again at
her side.

"How unfortunate I am," said he in a low tone, "it is constantly my fate
to offend those for whom I feel the deepest interest, and to be
misunderstood on every occasion where my sentiments are concerned.
Interest, friendship, zeal, constantly carry me beyond the bounds
proscribed by cold custom and formality, and I am repulsed in a way
which all but annihilates me. At this moment _you_ are angry with me;
have I sinned unpardonably?"

"I am not _angry_" said Emma, drily, "but I must beg that all personal
subjects of conversation may be dropped; we have neither sentiments nor
interests in common, and on all topics connected with feeling I must
impose a total silence."

"Unfeeling, cruel girl," cried he, then seeing that she resolutely
walked away in the direction of the boat-house, where she concluded the
party must be now assembled, he followed her steps in haste, and placing
himself by her side, he continued in a low but emphatic tone,

"Emma Watson, why should you scorn my offers of friendship, and my
professions of regard? Why should you shun me as if I were some
dangerous enemy? Do you mistrust my word; or am I responsible for the
silly gossiping of idle women? Did I not warn you against it?—why then
visit it on me? Or have I personally offended you?—what have I done?—you
will not speak—you try to elude me—nay, but you _shall_ hear me; you
_shall_ answer me by heaven!—Who has wronged me in your opinion?"

"Mr. Morgan, let go my hand—is _this_ honourable?—is this manly to
attempt to obtain an answer to impertinent enquiries by compulsion?—Let
go my hand—I tell you I will neither hear nor answer you!"

"Emma, I was wrong—" said he, softening his voice, but instead of
releasing her hand, clasping it in both of his, "I ought to know you
better—I understand your heart and feelings—"

"You do no such thing, sir,—or you would not detain me here, or compel
me to listen to such language. Let me go—I command you."

"Emma, your heart is no longer your own—am I not right?—you _love_!"

"And if I do—what concern is that of yours?" retorted she.

"Of _mine_, it is everything in the world to me—you love _me_—deny it if
you can."

"Insolence!" exclaimed Emma, "unmanly insolence."

"No, it is not insolence, Emma, you look beautiful in scorn, but you
need not scorn _me_; I am your equal in birth and education—aye! and in
taste and mental qualities too—and happily possessed of the fortune
which _you_ want. And I love you, and tender all to you. You have done
what no other woman ever did—for your sake I would even stoop to the
yoke of matrimony; so great is my love and admiration for you. Now have
I said enough—now you may venture to confess the feelings long treasured
in your heart—the love which I have long read in your downcast eye, and
averted smile—maiden modesty need no more compel you to silence—speak,
_my_ Emma—bless me with the words I am longing, panting to hear."

He advanced one step nearer as he spoke, and seemed about to pass his
arm round her waist, but Emma availed herself of the movement to snatch
her hand from his, and stepping back, whilst she cast on him a look of
withering scorn, she replied,

"Yes, you _have_ said enough, Mr. Morgan, to warrant _my_ speaking
plainly—and I _will_ speak—from what extraordinary perversion of
reasoning, you have persuaded yourself I loved _you_ I cannot tell, but
I trust you will believe me once for all—when I say _my_ feelings are
entirely the reverse of yours—and when I add—I _love_ and am _engaged_
to another."

Mr. Morgan stepped back in his turn with an air in which disbelief and
bitter mortification struggled, with an attempt at indifference and
contempt.

"Engaged—impossible—Emma, you are deceiving me—it is a downright
falsehood!" exclaimed he.

"I must beg you to leave me," said she, haughtily. "I am not accustomed
to associate with those who accuse me of falsehood—I can find my way
alone."

She had continued to walk on from the moment she had declared her
engagement, and she flattered herself she must be approaching the
boat-house, but as they had reached the low ground, and were making
their way amidst thickets intersected with narrow paths, they could not
see the building.

"And it is for this," he exclaimed, presently, "that I stooped to ask
your hand—that I humbled myself as I never before did to woman, to be
scorned and rejected—false-hearted girl—true type of your weak and
vacillating sex—leading me to believe you preferred me, that you might
spurn me from you with disdain!" he approached one step nearer as he
spoke, and his face wore a look of malignity which absolutely frightened
Emma—he saw it.

"No, you need not shrink from me—I am not so mad as to do you harm; you
are safe under the protection of the laws. I would not risk my freedom
for all the girls in Surrey. But I must speak my feelings—"

He had no time, however, to say more, for hurried footsteps were heard
behind them, and in another moment Sam was beside his sister.

"My dearest Emma, I beg ten thousand pardons, but I was so sorry that I
left you—I assure you I had no intention of doing so—only—only—Annie
Millar persuaded me; but the moment we met some one whom she could join,
I ran back for you, and found you were gone—I am very sorry. You are not
angry with me?"

"No," said Emma softly; "but I am very glad you are come, dear Sam."

He felt her hand tremble under his arm, and looking in her face,
perceived she was very pale.

"You have walked too far, dear Emma," said he affectionately; "you
wanted my arm—how sorry I am. Why did not Morgan support you?"

He looked round, but the gentleman in question had taken another path
and was out of sight. Emma tried to speak, but instead of articulating
words, she only burst into tears, and astonished Sam by appearing on the
verge of a fit of hysterics.

He had too much sense to press for an explanation, but contented himself
with making her sit down, removing her bonnet and gloves, and supporting
her till she was calm again.

He then begged for some explanation of her emotion: she said she was
foolish: he admitted that was possible, but only if she refused him all
reasons for her conduct. She promised to be more explicit some other
time if he would only now give her back her bonnet, allow her to make
herself tidy, and rejoin the party.

These very reasonable requests could not be refused, and they returned
to the boat-house together, just as another division of their party
entered it likewise; consequently their appearance without Mr. Morgan
created no surprise or remark.

He returned a short time after, quite calm and happy in appearance, and
nothing on either side transpired to attract the attention of the
company, or give rise to the smallest surmise that anything unusual had
occurred. It was some comfort to have to deal with so complete an actor,
one who would betray nothing undesirable, by word or deed.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.


After dinner Sam again drew Emma aside and would not be satisfied till
he had, by close questioning, extorted from her everything that had
passed. Nothing less than the exact words, so far as she could remember
them, would do for him; he supposed things twenty times worse than the
truth, unless she could assert, on her honour, the exact state of the
facts. She was quite miserable at telling him, because she could not get
him to own what he thought, or promise to take no further notice of the
circumstance. Instead of giving her the assurance she required, he
sometimes laughed and put her off with an evasive answer, sometimes
frowned and resolutely closed his lips—sometimes told her to go away for
a foolish girl, and not meddle with what did not concern her.

She was certain he meditated more than he would own, and her fears made
her apprehend that any demand for explanation or apology from Mr.
Morgan, would produce a quarrel which must end in a challenge. With
wretched feelings she returned to the party.

Here they found a rather noisy scene. Alfred Freemantle and Mr. Morgan,
having both elevated their spirits by the great quantity of bad wine
which they had imbibed at dinner, were trying to induce some of the
young ladies to accompany them in the boat, which was lying near the
shore. The two Miss Halls and Mrs. Robert Watson, were carrying on a
half-romping opposition to this plan, but evidently intending to yield
their consent after a proper opposition.

Alfred Freemantle accused them of being cowards, which the three ladies
of course denied.

"Come, then," cried Mr. Morgan, catching her hand and dragging Mrs.
Watson down the bank. "Come and shew that you trust me!"

George Millar turned to Sam, and said softly,

"Morgan is half drunk—can you not prevent your sister going with him."

"I have no influence with either," said Sam, coolly, "perhaps you could
dissuade her better than I!"

George followed her, and drawing her back, whispered something in her
ear, which was not communicated to the others, but which seemed to have
some effect upon her. She paused a moment, and then returning to the
others said,

"I think you are right, George Millar, it will not agree with me so soon
after dinner. I shall not go."

"And if you do not, Jane," said Miss Hall, "I am sure neither my sister
nor I shall venture—it would be quite improper without a chaperone."

"I think you are very wise," observed Miss Bridge, quietly.

"I know what it is," cried Alfred, "you think we cannot manage the boat,
but you are quite mistaken, as you shall see. I am not drunk, though you
think we are; we will go without you!"

As he said these words he sprang on board after Mr. Morgan, who was
already there, and they pushed off from the shore, and rowed a little
way. Presently two of the other young ladies called to them to enquire
where they were going.

Mr. Morgan replied that they were going to land on a little island
opposite to smoke a cigar—would they come?

The girls acceded to the proposition; and, contrary to the advice of the
whole party, persisted in their determination. The boat returned to take
them on board, and no sooner where they seated, than Alfred amused
himself by making the boat roll in the water, in order to frighten them.
Had they sat still, there would have been no danger—but in their alarm
they both started up, and catching hold of him at the same moment, they
all three fell heavily against the gun-wale and upset the boat at once.

A loud scream from the party on shore was, of course, the first effort
of their sympathy. The two other gentlemen simultaneously rushed into
the water, and without much difficulty, succeeded in rescuing the two
ladies—for the accident had happened so close to the shore, that it was
not out of their depth. Alfred Freemantle likewise rose, and scrambled
towards the bank, up which he crept a deplorable object.

The young women of course, excited the greatest sympathy, and none but
Emma, at the first moment, remembered that there had been a fourth
person in the boat. But she had kept her eyes on the place where he had
sunk, and saw, with horror, that there was no trace of him—he did not
reappear.

"Mr. Morgan," she exclaimed, "what has become of him?"

Every one turned at the name, from the dripping objects round which they
had been crowding—ejaculations on every side were heard.

"True, Morgan! he has sunk—he is drowning! good heavens! can you do
nothing? Call for help! run for the boatmen!" and twenty other
exclamations.

"Watson, we must look for him," said George.

Sam's coat was off before he had done speaking.

"But we must be cautious," continued Millar, "he may be sunk in a hole,
or entangled in the weeds—the bottom is very foul."

"Where did he sink," cried Sam, "did any one see."

Emma pointed out, as well as she could, the spot where he had
disappeared, and watched, with breathless anxiety, whilst the two swam
round and round, and dived again and again. His hat was floating on the
water at a little distance; but no sign or trace of him appeared. One of
the party had summoned the boatmen, who, after much delay brought drags
and hooks, and having succeeded in righting the boat, they did their
utmost to discover the missing man; but they did not seem to have much
expectation of success; they said they knew it was a dangerous part of
the bank; that there was a deep hole just thereabouts, into which the
gentleman had probably sunk, and that many years ago, a similar accident
having happened, had occasioned the former owner of the place, to forbid
boating there at all. But his son had, for some years, allowed it,
though they should not wonder if he were to shut it up now from the
public.

Their conjectures on the subject might have lasted a long time before
any one interrupted them, for the whole party were too horror-stricken
to speak. The dripping and the dry alike stood together in motionless
excitement, or intense anxiety, watching the result of their efforts. It
seemed impossible, that one but lately so full of life and spirit, one
of themselves—one who had for so long a time belonged to them, could
have thus suddenly disappeared without warning, and have left no vestige
behind. It was too horrible—to perish before their eyes, and from so
trivial a cause. For many minutes, the extremity of their feeling was
shown by their total silence; then, when the conviction was forced on
them, that he was really lost, hysterical sobs and screams were heard,
especially from the two girls, who had been the immediate cause of the
accident, and who, shocked at their own share of the misfortune,
shivering with cold, convulsed with horror, and in every way overcome,
now demanded the attention of such of the party, as had any sense or
self-possession left.

Fortunately the carriages were at this moment announced, and the only
possible thing to do, as they were far from all assistance, was for the
sufferers to be wrapped in such cloaks as could be found amongst them,
and conveyed back to Croydon as speedily as possible.

Neither George nor Sam would consent to leave the place, whilst a shadow
of a hope remained that the body might be recovered, but they insisted
that their sisters should return home at once, as they proposed, when
all was over, if the search was unsuccessful, to walk to a public-house
on the outskirts of the Park, and dry themselves there, before returning
to Croydon. Emma had the presence of mind to propose that a carriage and
a supply of dry clothes should be despatched there to meet them, by the
first of the party that arrived at home.

Under the escort of Miss Bridge's manservant, instead of Sam, Elizabeth,
Emma, Annie, and Miss Hall, returned in the vehicle which had borne them
so gaily and light-hearted to the Park. But little conversation passed,
and the few words which were said, had no reference to the fatal event;
it was too recent and too shocking to speak of. To Emma, indeed, after
what had so lately passed between them, the circumstance seemed beyond
description or imagination terrible. The angry feelings with which they
had parted, the malevolence he had expressed, and the evident state of
half-intoxication, to which he had perhaps resorted to drown his
disappointed feelings, and conceal his chagrin and mortification, all
seemed to rise up, as if to reproach her conscience. Why had she been so
scornful and so bitter; perhaps, had she answered more mildly, had she
shown less contempt and more compassion, he might still have been alive,
all this might not have happened. It appeared like a horrid dream
altogether, their angry dispute—Sam's indignation, and her fears for
him, and finally, Mr. Morgan's sudden disappearance, all had passed so
rapidly, that she could scarcely feel it a reality.

One thing she was resolved—she would never join a large, mixed
pleasure-party again; it was impossible that real satisfaction could be
found in such society, and so far as her experience went, they seemed
always nothing but preludes to some heavy misfortune. It was a relief to
her to find herself once more at home in the Rectory at Croydon, alone
in her apartment, able to think without distraction, rest without
interruption, and cry without observation.

She was so completely worn out, that to sit down and indulge in a very
hearty flood of tears was the greatest relief imaginable.

Sam called at the Rectory on his return to the town, and saw her for a
few minutes. It was dark and the candles were not lighted, so she had
ventured down stairs to meet him.

"Any news?" enquired Mr. Bridge.

"Nothing," said he: then crossing the room to his sister, he whispered,

"Emma, you are avenged!"

She shuddered and did not answer.



                              CHAPTER XIX.


The next day brought a pleasing change to the current of Emma's
thoughts. She was walking slowly under the old trees on the lawn, and
was not aware of any one's approach until an arm was suddenly clasped
round her waist, and she found herself obliged to submit to several very
unceremonious kisses from her lover, who had contrived as usual thus
unexpectedly to meet her.

"How you do startle one," cried she struggling to release herself. "I
will have you indicted for assault."

"_Tears_, Emma," said he looking at her attentively; "what are those red
eyes for?"

"You had better not ask questions," replied she, "lest you should hear
unpleasant truths."

"But I will ask questions, and you must answer me!" said he earnestly;
"I cannot let you cry without knowing the reason."

"But suppose there is none, what then?" suggested she playfully.

"Then I shall feel under the necessity of effacing the marks of your
tears in the best way I can," replied he.

She then relieved her mind and his feelings by telling him the whole
history of their yesterday's excursion and its termination, which led of
course to almost interminable references to past events, explanations
and details relative to Mr. Morgan himself, of all which until this
moment he had been profoundly ignorant. The slanders circulated relative
to Emma, the expedition of Lord Osborne to rebut them, and the trouble
he had taken on her account made a great impression on him, and he took
a vehement dislike to Croydon and everything connected with a place
where Emma had been exposed to such misrepresentations. Of course he
would not admit that she was in the least degree to blame for past
events, or that she had showed any undue severity towards Mr. Morgan—on
the contrary, he thought she had throughout been too lenient towards
him; but this was an error arising from the rare goodness of disposition
which led her in so remarkable a degree to tolerate the imperfections
and weaknesses of those around her, of which her attachment to himself
was a conspicuous example.

He had some news to communicate in return for hers, which though not of
quite so tragical a nature, was to him a great disappointment.

The rectory house at Carsdeane proved to be in so extremely dilapidated
a state that, in order to make it at all a comfortable residence, Lord
Osborne proposed to rebuild it entirely. In the meantime there was no
suitable home for Emma, and he feared their marriage must be delayed at
least for some months, instead as he had hoped of taking place
immediately.

This was a very great disappointment to them both. Emma had ventured to
hope that the Autumn would have seen her installed in a settled home, of
which she would be the mistress, and they tried very hard to persuade
themselves and each other, that it would not be more prudent and
advisable, to wait till Mr. Howard had a house to receive his bride.
They might have succeeded perhaps in thinking so themselves, but they
could not induce their friends to agree in the decision. On the
contrary, like most friends when two young people wish to marry, they
all concurred in considering it a very great advantage that they should
wait a little.

And I am far from supposing them wrong in the idea. Taking into
consideration Emma's youth, for she was not yet quite twenty, and the
shortness of their acquaintance, which had as yet lasted barely six
months, I am of opinion that the delay even of a whole year would have
been by no means detrimental to their future happiness. It was perfectly
natural that both Mr. and Miss Bridge should adopt this idea, and I
trust equally so that since they urged it, Emma should yield to their
prudent persuasions: the more especially as appearing to yield at this
time and agreeing to wait a twelvemonth, would by no means preclude them
from entirely changing their minds in a couple of months time, in case
they should see any occasion for so doing.

As to any difficulty about Emma's home in the meantime, Miss Bridge
declared it could not exist, since her house was always open to her, and
she could regard her in no other light than as her adopted child. In
vain Mr. Howard remonstrated. Miss Bridge was so firm in her conviction
that Emma had better spend the next year in her house, and professed so
much satisfaction at the idea, that he at last declared, in despair, he
was certain it was for the sake of securing her company that Miss Bridge
interposed to prevent the marriage.

Before however the two disputants could settle their conflicting claims
on Emma's society, a new turn was given to the affair by the
intervention of her youngest brother. He should want a companion at
Chichester, and it had always been an understood thing he declared, that
Emma was to live with him till she married. She readily admitted the
fact, and so it was settled; she was to accompany him to Chichester
immediately after Elizabeth's wedding, and remain there as he said,
"until they were tired of one another."

Howard yielded this point much more readily than the other. Carsdeane
was much nearer Chichester than Burton, and he could easily visit her
there. Besides his penetration led him to surmise that Sam would be soon
desirous of placing another person at the head of his establishment;
that a sister's society would not long content him, and that when this
change took place, he would probably be thankful to be relieved from the
charge he was undertaking. He thought it likewise a great advantage that
she should be removed entirely from Croydon for a time, and from the
painful impressions which he observed seemed still to haunt her. She had
suffered so much there, as he now began to understand, that he could not
help wishing that she should see the place no more; a wish in which she
certainly did not concur when she remembered it would be Elizabeth's
future home.

The wedding that week was a very quiet one: the death of Mr. Morgan had
thrown a damp over the whole town from which it could not at once
recover, and no one felt inclined to indulge in festivities where he
would be so much missed. Accordingly everything was conducted in the
simplest manner, to the great disappointment of Mrs. Watson, who vowed
it was hardly worth putting on her new and handsome clothes, when there
would be no one to see her at Church.

It was some alleviation to her distress of mind however to remember that
they would be equally handsome and more interesting after the wedding
was over, and she should be able to appear in uncommon splendour, when
returning all the congratulatory visits on some subsequent occasion.

When all was over, and Mrs. George Millar and her husband had set out
from Croydon to make a short visit to London, which the bride had never
seen, Emma took an affectionate leave of Annie Millar, and returned to
the Rectory to prepare for her journey.

Sam remained a few minutes behind; it was only to ask Annie if she still
thought marriages as foolish as she had always declared them to be.

"Twenty times worse," said she, "they are not only foolish but sad, and
I shall consider myself particularly fortunate when this miserable day
is fairly over."

"What do you consider the worst part of the affair," enquired he, still
lingering.

"Oh the leave takings," said Annie hastily, "if Elizabeth had never
married you would all have stayed on here waiting for it, and we have
been so happy for this last week. Now you are going, and you must take
Emma too!"

"And will you give me leave to flatter myself that you are sorry at my
going."

"I dare say you would not wait for my leave; men always take it for
granted that women sit down and cry when they leave them," said she
saucily.

"I should certainly entertain no such expectation Miss Millar; I am
aware my profession renders me too unpleasant in your eyes for you to do
otherwise than rejoice at my departure."

"Upon my word you make me out to be a very rational young woman,"
replied she; "when did I ever find fault with your profession, or
express a wish that you were other than what you are? Because I should
never have chosen the surgical profession myself is that any reason that
I should detest a man who did—or so long as you do not exercise your
skill on me, or in my presence, do you imagine I object to your
exhibiting it elsewhere?"

"I had much rather you should detest my profession than consider it with
indifference, Miss Millar."

She only looked down and blushed, then holding out her hand, said in a
hurried manner,

"Good bye, I must go!" and left him, to his great disappointment.

If Sam felt discouraged by this sudden termination to his interview, the
feeling lasted no longer than till the receipt of Annie's first letter
to his sister after they were settled at Chichester; for there the
allusions and reminiscences were of a most flattering kind, and the
frequent mention of his name, and the manner in which it was introduced
gave him very great pleasure.

Emma became reconciled to Penelope's marriage when she saw how well she
was suited to her situation in life, and though she did not greatly
admire her brother-in-law, he was so very superior to Tom Musgrove, that
she thought her sister quite fortunate in comparison with Margaret. To
forget everything that had passed of an unpleasant nature previous to
her marriage was the wisest source which her friends could adopt; and it
is so exceedingly common that there should be something which requires
forgetting, that if the relatives of all married couples acted in the
same way, there would be a great deal more of unity in the world than at
present.

Before she had been resident at Chichester three months, two events
occurred, which effected a change in her plans. One, as Mr. Howard and
many others had foreseen, was the engagement of Sam and Annie, and
preparations for their speedy marriage. The other was more unexpected.

Her aunt, whose sudden and ill-advised marriage had originally deprived
her of her home, exasperated by the unkind and unprincipled conduct of
her young husband, quitted him abruptly; procured a separation, and as
she still retained the control of her income, he was left very much as
he deserved to be, no better off than when he made his mercenary
marriage. She returned to England, wrote to Emma, then came to her; was
delighted with Sam, with Mr. Howard, and with everything she learnt of
their doings, past, present, or future. She made Emma a magnificent
wedding present, both in money and clothes, and declared her
determination of ultimately dividing her fortune between her youngest
nephew and niece. In the meantime, she took an elegant mansion in the
parish of Carsdeane, and insisted on the marriage taking place
immediately, and the young couple taking up their residence with her,
until the rectory house was prepared for them.

This advice was much too agreeable to be long resisted, and before Emma
and Mr. Howard had seen the anniversary of their first meeting, they
were man and wife.

Whether they ever repented the interference of Miss Bridge to delay, or
of Mrs. MacMahon to hurry the union, I leave entirely to the
imaginations of my readers to settle; satisfied with having done my duty
in detailing events as they really occurred.

There is but one more circumstance of any importance to relate; but that
is, that Lord Osborne, after Emma's marriage, joined a regiment abroad
as a volunteer—fought for some years in the Peninsular, and returned to
England about ten years after he had been refused by Emma, accompanied
by his wife, a very charming young Spanish lady, with whom he fell in
love, because her dark eyes reminded him of Mrs. Howard's.

He had forgotten the likeness long before he reached Osborne Castle; and
no one who saw Mrs. Howard when visiting the young bride, or watched his
devotion to Lady Osborne, could, for a moment, have imagined that Lord
Osborne's love could have had such a foundation.

I have nothing more to say of any of the party, and only trust that all
who read my tale, may be convinced, as I am, that prudence, gentleness,
and good sense, will secure friends under the most disadvantageous
circumstances; but that marriage alone, unless undertaken with right
feelings and motives, cannot be considered a certain recipe for worldly
happiness.



                                THE END.



        T. C. NEWBY, Printer, 30, Welbeck-street, Cavendish-sq.

------------------------------------------------------------------------


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------------------------------------------------------------------------



 ● Transcriber's Notes:
    ○ A few cases of inconsistent spelling were regularized.
    ○ p. 223: Rosa changed to Fanny ("You give me more credit than I
      deserve a great deal, Fanny;)





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