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The General shook his head—“Dearest, you have yet to learn that, nine times out of ten, sensual indulgence closes the heart to all natural affections; particularly when it acts upon persons in a low sphere of life, who, having never been used to luxury, are, as it were, more completely sunk and lost in the abyss which it opens beneath their feet. In those who move in the highest spheres, the end is the same, but the process is at least slower, and less discernible; the circle of their attachments may extend even to all their own relations, or to those persons who minister immediately to their daily comforts and diversions; such as to the servants who attend them, the charities which cost them no trouble and which bring in a return of praise. But even to these gentler souls, designed by nature for better things, self-indulgence, though of more gradual process and less visible degradation, is not less certain in its ultimate effect. Acting upon one in Rose's condition of life, you cannot but suppose the poison has been rapid, and its fatal power irreparable. It may please God, when misery and want shall stare this unhappy girl in the face, as doubtless they will do, that then she may repent; but I see no prospect of it till then. You must for the present dismiss that unworthy Rose from your thoughts. She is no longer a fitting companion for my Emily, even in thought.”
That gentle being wept in silence for some little time, but recovering her composure as quickly as she could, said, “ I am sure you are in the right, my dear uncle; I will endeavour to obey you, but you know the heart is a wayward child;" while a faint smile irradiated the tear which stood in her eye. .
“ It is enough, dearest ; we will dismiss the painful subject.”
At that moment, the door opened, and Lady Frances was announced. " What! so early, Frances, my Queen! why really London works wonders, if it conjures you out of your bed at so matinal an hour."
“ I wished to find you alone, my dear uncle ; for I have tidings to announce, which I think will give you pleasure.”
66. I am delighted to hear any thing which
gives you pleasure, my dear, as you well know, and have always proved ; and without pretending to any skill in necromancy, I can see by your manner that of such nature is the intelligence which you have now to impart.”
“ Well, my dear uncle! what if I should tell you that a—a certain gentleman will probably present himself ere long, to request your consent to making me his wife ?"
Already, Frances !” said the General; and he turned very pale, and his countenance changed.
“ Nay, now uncle ! I pray you do not look so grave. I assure you this is no sentimental, whining love story that I am come to interest you about; neither do I wish to claim your indulgence for any low or even unequal marriage.”
“Oh, I never suspected that !” interrupted the General.
She went on: “ No, no, you must be convinced that never was my turn !” and she drew herself up “ It is the Marquis of Bellamont, son to the Duke of Godolphin, who solicits my hand; and as there does not exist one circumstance qui blesse les bienséances, you know it must be all right, and the world must approve.
І hope, therefore, I may feel sure of obtaining your kind consent ?”
“ There certainly is not,” said the General,
any thing, as you observe, against the marriage—at least, there is no apparent reason against it. And yet, that very world whose approbation you seem to ground such consequence upon, and to rely on for every chance of happiness, may condemn this projected alliance. Oh, my dear Frances ! prepare yourself for a dreadful disappointment.”
Disappointment, uncle !” echoed Lady Frances, reddening with a mingled sentiment of fear and anger; “ how so? My age, my rank, my education, my fortune, every point is on a par with Lord Bellamont. Propriety, dignity, and a prospect of happiness, I confess, seem to me to attend this proposal. How then can I fear a disappointment ?"
“ Frances, in this world nothing is certain. Speak not so proudly, unhappy girl! It is for your wretched uncle to hurl you from this height of security and greatness, and to tell you that you have no fortune left."
Surely, sir, you are jesting! Why it is but yesterday that I told Lord Bellamont, I had thirty thousand pounds in the funds !"
“You hud! my dear niece, and your unfortunate uncle has been the means of making you lose every penny of it."
Here, while Lady Frances sat in mute astonishment and dismay, the General explained to her that, allured by the tempting, plausible reasoning of his legal advisers, he had been induced to give into the speculations of the times, which had brought thousands to ruin ; and that, in the earnest hope of increasing the fortune of his nieces, he had in fact dissipated them entirely. “But,” he added, “I had this circumstance to plead in extenuation of my folly, of my guilt, if you will; which is, that I secured to you, as I thought, a sum equivalent to that I played with, on my own estate; and thus, as I conceived, screened you from all possible danger of losing in the transaction.”
“Oh! then,” eagerly exclaimed Lady Fran