« VorigeDoorgaan »
nervous about her negotiation, Lady More-led Mrs. Roberts in reply, “I should break ton exclaimed,
my heart-I should indeed !-I am quite you have got an atom of feeling in sure I should break my heart, if you could you, Mrs. Roberts, you must pity me about either of you think me capable of smiling that wet blanket of a girl. in your whole at what must naturally make you both feel life now did you ever see a creature look so very far from pleased. I did smile, and move as she does? It would be bad am quite aware of that; I did smile, my enough, I dare say, for any body, high or dear ladies, and the cause for which I low, rich or poor, but think what it must smiled was, that my sole and only reason be to me! But it is no good to talk of it for coming here this morning, was in the to you, or to any body else who does not hope that I had thought of something which live in my own style, and who does not might perhaps relieve you from your disknow what it is to have gone on as I have agreeable difficulties about this poor, melandone with every living soul, taking care choly-looking young lady. I could not help that I should not be plagued; for even poor smiling as I thought that perhaps I might gouty Lord Moreton was for ever and ever have the exceeding great good luck and ordered by the physicians to go here, there, happiness of being useful to you.” and every where, according as they thought “How, ma'am ?" returned Lady Moreit would best suit me. Every body, all ton, rather drily. “I confess that I can't through my life, has always known my very well see what use you are likely to be happy, cheerful temper, and how I hated of to me in this matter." beyond all things on God's earth, to be These words were by no means very enbored and plagued. I believe there are couraging in themselves, but the commentsome people that don't mind it. Every ary which Mrs. Roberts' sharp glance caught body is not made alike, you know, it is from the eyes of Lady Forton, was less so folly to fancy it; and Sir Christopher Har- still, for they expressed both ridicule and rington deserves to be burnt for daring to pride with a degree of distinctness which torment me in this way.”
proved them to be very fine eyes indeed. These words, though uttered in the Had poor Mrs. Roberts been as free from sharpest possible key, fell like balm on the embarrassments at that moment as she had spirit of Mrs. Roberts, and seemed to render been six months or so before, she would the undertaking so delightfully easy, that probably have grown exceedingly red in she sat exhibiting her satisfaction by a the face as she looked and listened, and smile that became more bland and more would have made a sudden and indignant broad every moment, despite the increas- exit, notwithstanding the imposing rank ing asperity of the gay-hearted dowager. and station of her companions. But now,
During the first part of her ladyship's poor woman, she would as soon have speech, her ladyship's eyes had been fixed ihought of boxing their honorable ears, as of upon the tapestry portrait of her favorite manifesting in the very least degree her andog, which she was assiduously working in noyance. To Lady Forton indeed she did ena large frame that stood before her, but at deavor to turn a blind eye, but it never enlength condescending to raise her eyes to tered her head to attempt turning a deaf the person she addressed, and whose private ear to her more important cousin. business, by the way, she had utterly for Very judiciously changing her own asgotten, she perceived the strangely inappro- pect from gay to sentimental, she replied, priate expression of her countenance, and "I am not at all surprised to hear you say stopping short for a moment, staring at her so, Lady Moreton, for few things could ap
ith her needle suspended, and with rather pear less likely than that such an idea as I an alarming frown upon her brow, she have now called upon you to communicate, said,
should ever have entered my head. But “What in the world may you be smiling you are not aware, dear lady, I am quite and simpering at, I should like to know? sure that you are not aware, how deeply There is no accounting for difference of impressive your manner is, when you de tastes, my good madam, but my cousin scribe your own feelings! I saw, and I Sophy and myself, I believe, think this felt to my fingers' ends, the sort of heavy young lady's arrival rather a crying than a dragging weight which this unfortunate laughing matter.”
young lady's arrival had thrown upon you ; My dearest Lady Moreton !-my dear- and when I went home, I could not help est Lady Forton !” exclaimed the frighten- saying to myself, again and again, that it
was one of the most perverse and unlucky to have a companion in their studies. . We things that ever had happened; for that shall leave Paris on a tour to Baden-Baden ninety-nine people out of a hundred might in a very few days, after which we shall have had the very same thing happen to them, proceed to Italy; and if your ladyship will without caring three straws about it; while intrust your young relation to my care, I to your ladyship, it seemed positively like shall have much pleasure in undertaking putting an extinguisher upon the very the charge.” brightest candle in the world.”
Mrs. Roberts ceased, and the ladies The simile was a very happy one, and Moreton and Forton looked at each other Lady Moreton felt it to be so. She smiled, steadily for a minute or two. and nodded at her cousin, till the beautiful A twinge of feeling, not very strong inflaxen ringlets which depended from be- deed, but in which something, a little apneath her blond cap, danced, as it were, proaching to a conscientious doubt, made a with satisfaction.
part, caused this, unusual suspension of “ That is true, Sophy, isn't it, let who speech in the elder lady. The younger one will have said it ?" she observed, and then was silent, because she chose that her added, “ You could not have hit the truth cousin should speak first, and because, in better, my good friend, if you had been fact, she had no intention of pronouncing King Solomon, or the Queen of Sheba any opinion on the subject at all, unless she either. It is an extinguisher, and put out found it necessary to do so, in order to obI shall be, as sure as you sit there to say it, tain what she was quite determined should unless I can find some means of throwing it be the final result; such, indeed, being the away before I am turned to snuff. So invariable custom of the Lady Forton, who now you may go on, if you will, and you detested the burden of responsibility, almost need not be afraid to tell us whatever may as much as she liked having in all things have come into your head about it. her own way, and never interfered in any Whether it turns out to be wisdom or folly, Lady Moreton's arrangements, unless she it can't do any harm, if we choose to take perceived some reason to fear that they the trouble of listening to it.”
were not precisely such as she approved. “Heaven forbid I should do any harm, Then came the word in good time, which when I really wish to do nothing but good," invariably settled the question as she chose replied Mrs. Roberts, with a sort of grave that it should be settled. propriety of manner, that seemed to be Lady Forton's prodigiously large black speak attention and respect, whether what eyes were as far as possible from having no she were about to say were approved or not. speculation in them; in fact, they specula" It has occurred to me, Lady Moreton," ted in all sorts and manners of ways from she continued, “ that I might, without the morning to night; and now they were specslightest inconvenience to myself
, be of use ulating, or at any rate assisting her to specto you in this matter. As the mother of ulate on the meaning of the shadow of two daughters, just introduced into society, doubt, which the fair round face of her I have naturally laid aside all thoughts of cousin exhibited. The opinions of Lady amusement for myself, and am devoted Forton had seldom any of the alloy of wholly and solely to them. This being the doubt in them, and on the present occasion case, the having a third young person to they were so instantaneously and resolutely watch over, and take into company, would decided upon, that not all the compunctious be positively no evil at all. My introduc- meditations of all the aunts in the world tions here, and indeed at every court in could have sufficed to shake them for an Europe, are of the very best, and most influ- instant. Lady Forton hated the sight ential kind; and as it is our intention to of Bertha Harrington. She hated the show our children, before marriage shall sound of her voice. She hated her noisehave clipped their young wings, all that is less movements. She hated her well-debest worth seeing throughout the fashiona- scended name. She hated both her present ble world, we should really consider it rath- and her probable fortune-for she saw in er an advantage than otherwise, to have each and every item something that militated just such an addition to our party as your against her own well-being and consequence. niece, Miss Harrington. My girls are still, Lady Forton had been very beautiful; she in the most praiseworthy manner, pursuing was very handsome still, and she clung to this their various accomplishments, and it would fading remnant of former triumph with a de be an encouragement and pleasure to them, gree of tenacity that might fairly be compar
ed to that of a wretch, who felt himself sink-, have occurred to her so likely to bring the ing, and knew that if he sunk he must perish. affair to an immediate conclusion, as this No artist that ever lived, with all his acute mention of delay. Had she talked of resensibility to beauty, past, present, and fu-fusing the proposal altogether, her steadture, could have been more awake to the fast-minded cousin, Sophy, could have enperception of the latent loveliness of poor dured it with perfect composure, quite cerBertha's pale young face, than was this tain that a very few words from her, would heartless, unprincipled, faded old coquette; cause it to be accepted in defiance of pretand from the moment when the poor moth- ty nearly any obstacle that could possibly erless girl first encountered the broad, full, arise--but at this mention of delay she was acutely-examining eye of this amiable per- terrified. It affected her nerves, as the sonage, the period of her residence in the hearing preparations for applying the rack elegant atmosphere of her presence was might affect those of a prisoner who knew limited to the shortest possible time that himself, for a time, in the power of an enemight be found necessary for the process of my, though his ultimate release was sure; removing her.
and determined to avoid the only evil which It might have cost time, and it might still seemed to threaten her, she said, with have cost trouble, and it might have cost an air of ripe decision, which seemed to be the risk of many other disagreeable conse- the result of the most mature deliberation : quences besides, but the certainty of her “If you will take my advice, cousin, you ultimate success was in no degree weakened will not suffer any delay whatever to interby such considerations; and it was for this vene between the proposal of this plan, reason that Lady Forton was enabled to and the acceptance of it. Your piece is listen with so much composure to a propo- falling into habits of such pernicious illsal so every way agreeable.
humor and idleness, that, in my judgment, And every way agreeable it assuredly every hour is of importance. You are not was—for it was likely to remove the hated aware what habit is to a mind of that class. object soon, and far, and lastingly-yes, Mrs. Roberts has shown herself a woman of lastingly—for it would evidently be the in- great good sense in considering, when makterest of the Roberts family to keep her; ing this proposal, the very great advantage to and who knew better than Lady Forton the her own daughters of having a companion enormous strength of this argument? in their studies. I really do not see how
So the Lady Forton waited patiently for you can justify it to yourself to keep this the Lady Moreton to speak, equally certain miserable, melancholy, idle girl here for a that whether she said yes or no, Bertha single hour longer, when you have the powHarrington would very speedily disappear. er of placing her with cheerful young
“I am sure it is very obliging of you, Mrs. ladies, who will soon cure both her melanRoberts, very obliging indeed,” said Lady choly and her idleness by their example. Moreton, at length; “and I really do Of course, you must do as you like, my dear not see any reason why we should not cousin, but I really have said thus much think about it. That, you know, can't from a sense of duty." do any harm to either of us in any way. “It is just like yourself, cousin Sophy," Wise people, I have heard, always do think replied Lady Moreton, looking excessively about things before they reject, as well as comforted; “ and I do not believe there is before they accept an offer. And I see no a woman in the world so well calculated in reason,
I am sure, why my cousin and I every way to give advice as you are. So should not set ourselves to think a little then, my dear, good Mrs. Roberts, I will about what you have been so obliging as to venture to say at once that you are quite propose. There is no great hurry, I imagine. welcome to have Bertha, by way of a trial, if We need not decide to-day, nor to-morrow you like it. I had better say trial, you either, I suppose? It is a sort of thing that know, cousin Sophy, because that always of course you know one ought be very cau- leaves one the power to change if desirable, tious about."
and it may be better too in the writing It may be doubted whether amidst all about it to Sir Christopher.” the numerous variety of sayings and doings .“ There can be no objection to your callwhich might have entered Lady Moreton's ing it a trial if you like it," replied Lady For head on the subject of banding over the ton, with a quiet little smile," and I don't guardianship of her niece to a family of per- think Sir. Christopher is the least likely to fect strangers, any thing could possibly be troublesome to you by his over anxiety."
“No, indeed! good-for-nothing, imperti- | heard me say the other day, that her father nent man," returned the countess; “I don't allowed her five hundred a-year. You may believe he cares a straw about her. Not just take it and make the most of it-only one quarter as much as you do, my dear, taking care, if you please, that the girl is kind Sophy; but, nevertheless, you know not left without having money enough in it will be necessary for us to write some her pocket to dress herself decently. You thing."
must let her have one hundred out of the “There will be no great difficulty in do- five for that, if you please to remember, ing that,” replied Lady Forton, “ and I and
is and I and as for the other four hundred, you may should therefore say that your best plan set up a coach-and-six with it, if you like; would be to fix the day and hour of the and never alarm yourself or your family young lady's departure immediately." with any fears that I should wish to pilfer
To say that Mrs. Roberts was pleased, is any part of it.” a very weak phrase by which to describe And here Lady Moreton laughed a little, her sensations, and yet she was not allo- and Lady Forton laughed a little, too; and gether satisfied. A disagreeable doubt had Mrs. Roberts hardly knew whether to be crossed her brain as to the terms on which most glad or most sorry that she had said this unwelcome niece was to be disposed any thing about the money at all. Howof, and the Lady Forton seemed to 'be ever, this doubtful state of mind was very driving on at so vehement a pace towards speedily changed to self-congratulation and the conclusion of the affair, that she felt self-applause, when, having taken her leave, there was no time to be lost in making it with the understanding that Miss Harringunderstood that the advantage of the com- ton was to come to her before dinner on the panionship to her daughters was not quite following day, she once more found herself the only remuneration she expected for sitting opposite to her two anxious daughtaking the troublesome young lady off their ters in the carriage that was to convey her hands. Nevertheless, it went to her very and her news to her admiring husband. heart to do any thing likely to check the rapid progress of an affair which she so anxiously wished to conclude, and it was The two young ladies, who had been therefore with evident reluctance that she pretty sufficiently frightened by their mamsaid:
ma's confidential revelations relative to the “We shall be quite ready to receive the state of her debts and resources, hailed her, poor, dear, melancholy young lady, when and the information she brought, with a ever it suits you to send her ; but Sir Chris- great deal of charming young enthusiasm, topher must of course be aware, that the and listened with more than patience to her father of a large family, though certainly a narrative of all the difficulties she encounman of very good fortune, would not be tered, and the admirably skilful manner in justified in making such an arrangement as which she had contrived to conquer them. this without a proper remuneration." To her husband the manner of her commu
“Good gracious me, Mrs. Robins !” ex- nication was different. It did not accord claimed Lady Moreton, you really with her notions of well-ordered domestic suppose that we meant to ask you and your arrangements that the slow intellect of an husband to take in my niece, and Sir elderly gentleman, in the always awkward, Christopher Harrington's daughter upon and often invidious position of master of the charity? I should like to know how such family, should be made acquainted with all an idea as that could have ever entered the minor maneuvrings by which the ark
of his conjugal and paternal felicity was “No, indeed, your ladyship, it never did kept afloat. enter my head," replied the frightened * All that is necessary for your father to Mrs. Roberts. “I only thought that in all know he shall hear from me, girls," she matters of business, it was best to let every said, “so take care not to allude before him thing be quite clearly understood.” to any thing I am telling you now. He
“Oh dear, yes, ma'am-quite right-would neither make head nor tail of it, and perfectly right beyond all doubt that if I should be bothered to death with quesyou fancied there was any danger you tions that might lead to answers which should guard against it. But all this is could do nothing but mischief.” nonsense and folly,” added her ladyship, The young ladies promised discretion, with sudden impatience, “I think you and then retired to their own room to cog
your head ?”
itate, tête-à-tête, on the possible advantages, that sort, you know, which can hardly be and probable plagues of having a girl to classed as clothes. There is something take about with them.
so horrid in the very sound of presents of “Her being a girl of birth and fashion clothes, that I would almost rather go naked must certainly be an advantage, you know," than accept any thing of the sort. This, observed Agatha, “and, on the whole, I however, is all idle talk, Maria, for we suppose it is quite as well that she should know nothing on earth of this intimate not be a beauty."
new friend, but that she is no beauty, and “Yes, Agatha, we may thank Heaven looks as solemn as an owl. And it is quite for that,” replied her sister Maria, " for of nonsense to attempt guessing whether she all the tiresome things I can fancy, the has any generosity of character or not. But having to take about a beauty miss, in there is a consideration, Maria, that is a leading strings, must be the worst ! We great deal inore to the purpose, and that is, must take care, however, to make her dress whether we shall be able to coax mamma herself well, because there is something into making papa increase our allowance." creditable in that.; and as she is such a “Dear knows you are right there, Agamere child, I think it will be neither more tha! And I, for one, shall never know nor less than our duty to make her lay out any real comfort till it is done,” replied her money profitably.”
Maria, solemnly. “I don't at all mean to “I quite agree with you,” replied Agatha. say that we have any reason to complain of Only fancy that brat having a hundred-a mamma about getting dresses for us, and I year to spend on her dress! We must must say that I think she has managed exnever, you know, attempt the same style of ceedingly well, considering how very close things; we must keep to the graceful, be- papa seems to keep his money. But that is coming, fanciful line, and make her spend altogether a different thing from finding her money in rich solid dresses, fine furs, one's dresses one's self. And then you see you know, and great broad lace; and as that mamma gets into such dreadful scrapes we are, thank Heaven! beyond contradic- about paying for the things! Poor dear tion, a monstrous deal better-looking than soul! I don't mean to say she can help it, she will ever be, we may trust the men for but don't you think it would be a great deal finding out that looking elegant and look better for her, and iake a monstrous deal ing rich, is not always the same thing." of anxiety off her mind, if we had an al
"Oh yes ! you are quite right," cried lowance, that was really an allowance, for Maria, gaily, "I am not in the least alarm- dress ; for thirty pounds a-year in Paris, or ed about her hundred a-year for dress ; be- any where else where one has to go out, is sides, if she is not absolutely a brute, she a positive joke, you know." must make us presents sometimes. I don't “ A joke? To be sure it is a joke, and mean that I want any body to give me mamma knows that as well as we do. But dresses or bonnets, I am sure I should I by no means feel certain that she would quite hate it. I like to choose my own like to make any alteration," replied Agathings myself. Nobody knows what suits tha; “mamma is extremely clever, we all me so well as I do my own self-nobody, if know that, and clever people always do they really wished it ever so much, could like to keep the management of every thing ever understand about complexion, and in their own hands. This is quite natural, eyes, and general effect, as one does one's and I dare say in her situation I might, self. What this girl ought to do is, to give very likely, do the same thing myself. So us a trinket or two now and then. The I make no complaints on that score, though merest child knows the difference between I might like well enough to have it allered. a good brooch or bracelet, and a shabby But what I do complain of, Maria, is one, and that is the only kind of present i mamma's deceiving herself into believing should ever think of accepting.".
that the abominable heavy bills of Marle“I quite agree with you," again said the moiselle Amabel are chiefly for us. It is sensible Agatha, in an accent which con- no such thing. It is positively no such veyed authority. “There never can be thing. Mamma's turbans, with the birds any thing unladylike in accepting things of and the gold lace--and then her velvet that kind, but I should be exceedingly sorry things, and all the rest of it, run away with to find myself driven to wish-even to wish ten times as much as our light trumpery
-for wearing apparel, unless it was a dancing dresses." scarf or a shawl perhaps, or something of “I have no doubt you are right, Agatha,