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the lawn; faster yet as she reached the lobby-door, which she had left ajar an hour before, and sat down panting upon a little bench within, to recover her breath before she went any further. She was still sitting on this bench, when the fourth peal of thunder shook the low roof above her head, and the rain dropped from the starless sky with such a rushing impetus, that it seemed as if a huge trap-door had been opened in the heavens, and a celestial ocean let down to flood the earth.
"I think my lady, will be nicely caught," muttered Mrs. Walter Powell.
She threw her cloak aside upon the lobby bench, and went through a passage leading to the hall. One of the servants was shutting the halldoor.
“Have you shut the drawing-room windows, Wilson ?" she asked.
No, ma'am; I am afraid Mrs. Mellish is out in the rain. Jarvis is getting ready to go and look for her, with a lantern and the gig-um
** "Then Jarviş can stop where he is; Mrs, Mellish came in half-anhour ago. You may shut all the windows, and close the house for the night."
A quarter past ten, ma'am, by the dining-room clock.".. : The man locked the hall-door, and put up an immense iron bar, which worked with some rather complicated machinery, and had a bell hanging at one end of it, for the frustration of all, burglarious and designing
ruffians. iba s
From the ball the man went to the drawing-room, where he carefully fastened the long range of windows; from the drawing-room to the lobby; and from the lobby to the dining-room, where he locked the half glass-door opening into the garden. This being done, all communication between the house and the garden was securely, cut off.
“He shall know of her goings-on at any rate," thought Mrs. Powell, as she dogged the footsteps of the servant to see that he did his work. The Mellish household did not take very kindly to this deputy mistress; and when the footman went back to the servants' hall, he informed his colleagues that she was pryin? and pokin' about sharper than hever, and watchin' of a feller like a hold 'ouse-cat.: Mr. Wilson was a Cockney, and bad been rewly imported into the establishment.
When the ensign's widow had seen the last bolt driven home to its socket, and the last key turned in its lock, she went back to the drawing. room and seated herself at the lamp-lit table, with some delicate morsel of old maidish fancy-work, which seemed to be the converse of Penelope's embroidery, as it appeared to advance at night, and retrograde by day. She had hastily smoothed her hair and rearranged her dress, and she looked as uncomfortably neat as when she came down to breakfast in the fresh primness of her matutinal toilette.
She had been sitting at her work for about ten minutes when John Mellish entered the room, emerging weary but triumphant from his struggle with the simple rules of multiplication and subtraction. Mr. Mellish had evidently suffered severely in the contest. His thick brown hair was tumbled into a rough mass that stood nearly upright upon his head, his cravat was untied, and his shirt-collar thrown open for the relief of his capacious throat; and these and many other marks of the struggle he bore upon him when he entered the drawing-room.
“I've broken loose from school at last, Mrs. Powell," he said, flinging his big frame upon one of the sofas, to the imminent peril of the German spring-cushions ; “I've broken away before the flag dropped, for Langley would have liked to keep me there till midnight. He followed me to the door of this room with fourteen bushels of oats that was down in the cornchandler's
's account and was not down in the book he keeps to check the cornchandler. Why the doose don't he put it down in his book and make it right then, I ask, instead of bothering me? What's the good of his keeping an account to check the cornchandler if he don't make his account the same as the cornchandler's ? But it's all over!” he added, with a great sigh of relief, “it's all over; and all I can say is, I hope the new trainer isn't honest.”
“Do you know much of the new trainer, Mr. Mellish ?” asked Mrs. Powell blandly; rather as if she wished to amuse her employer by the exertion of her conversational powers than for the gratification of any mundane curiosity.
“Doosed little,” answered John indifferently. “I haven't even seen the fellow yet; but John Pastern recommended him, and he's sure to be all right; besides, Aurora knows the man : he was in her father's service once."
“Oh, indeed !” said Mrs. Powell, giving the two insignificant words a significant little jerk; “ob, indeed! Mrs. Mellish knows him, does she? Then of course he's a trustworthy person. He's a remarkably handsome young
man." “Remarkably handsome, is he?” said Mr. Mellish, with a careless laugh. “Then I suppose all the maids will be falling in love with him, and neglecting their work to look out of the windows that open on to the stable-yard, hey? That's the sort of thing when a man has a handsome groom, aint it? Susan and Sarah, and all the rest of 'em, take to cleaning the windows and wearing new ribbons in their caps ?"
“I don't know any thing about that, Mr. Mellish," answered the ensign's widow, simpering over her work as if the question they were discussing was so very far away that it was impossible for her to be serious about it; “ but my experience has thrown me into a very large number of families.” (She said this with perfect truth, as she had cccupied so many situations that her enemies had come to declare she was unable to remain in any one household above a twelvemonth, by reason of her employer's discovery of her real nature.) “I have occupied positions
of trust and confidence,” continued Mrs. Powell," and I regret to say that I have seen much domestic misery arise from the employment of handsome servants, whose appearance and manners are superior to their station. Mr. Conyers is not at all the sort of person I should like to see in a household in which I had the charge of young ladies.”
A sick, half-shuddering faintness crept through John's herculean frame as Mrs. Powell expressed herself thus; so vague a feeling that he scarcely knew whether it was mental or physical, any better than be knew what it was that he disliked in this speech of the ensign's widow. The feeling was as transient as it was vague.
John's honest blue eyes looked wonderingly round the room.
“ Where's Aurora ?” he said ; “gone to bed ?”
« “ Then I shall go too. The place is as dull as a dungeon without her,” said Mr. Mellish, with agreeable candour. “Perhaps you'll be good enough to make me a glass of brandy-and-water before I go, Mrs. Powell, for I've got the cold shivers after those accounts.” He rose to ring the bell; but before he had gone three
from the sofa, an impatient knocking at the closed outer shutters of one of the windows arrested his footsteps.
“Who, in mercy's name, is that?” he exclaimed, staring at the direction from which the noise came, but not attempting to respond to the summons.
Mrs. Powell looked up to listen with a face expressive of nothing but innocent wonder.
The knocking was repeated more loudly and impatiently than before.
“It must be one of the servants,” muttered John; “ but why doesn't he go round to the back of the house? I can't keep the poor devil out upon such a night as this, though,” he added good-naturedly, unfastening the window as spoke. The sashes opened inwards, the Venetian shutters outwards. He pushed these shutters open, and looked out into the darkness and the rain.
Aurora, shivering in her drenched garments, stood a few paces from him, with the rain beating down straight and heavily upon her head.
Even in that obscurity her husband recognised her.
“My darling,” he cried, "is it you? You out at such a time, and on such a night! Come in, for mercy's sake; you must be drenched to the skin."
She came into the room; the wet hanging in her muslin dress streamed out upon the carpet on which she trod, and the folds of her lace shawl clung tightly about her figure.
“Why did you let them shut the windows ?” she said, turning to Mrs. Powell, who had risen, and was looking the picture of ladylike uneasiness and sympathy. “You knew that I was in the garden."
“ Yes, but I thought you had returned, my dear Mrs. Mellish,” said the ensign's widow, busying herself with Aurora's wet shawl, which she
attempted to remove, but which Mrs. Mellish plucked impatiently away from her. “I saw you go out, certainly; and I saw you leave the lawn in the direction of the north lodge; but I thought you had returned some time since."
The colour faded out of John Mellish's face. “The north lodge !” he said. “Have you been to the north lodge?"
“I have been in the direction of the north lodge,” Aurora answered, with a sneering emphasis upon the words. “Your information is perfectly correct, Mrs. Powell, though I did not know you had done me the honour of watching my actions."
Mr. Mellish did not appear to hear this. He looked from his wife to his wife's companion with a half-bewildered expression,-an expression of newly-awakened doubt, of dim, struggling perplexity,--that was very painful to see.
"The north lodge!” he repeated; “what were you doing at the north lodge, Aurora ?”
“Do you wish me to stand here in my wet clothes while I tell you?" asked Mrs. Mellish, her great black eyes blazing up with indignant pride. “If you want an explanation for Mrs. Powell's satisfaction, I can give it here; if only for your own, it will do as well upstairs."
She swept towards the door, trailing her wet shawl after her, but not less queenly, even in her dripping garments (Semiramide and Cleopatra may have been out in wet weather); but at the door she paused and looked back at him.
“I shall want you to take me to London to-morrow, Mr. Mellish," she said. Then with one haughty toss of her beautiful head, and one bright flash of her glorious eyes, which seemed to say, “Slave, obey and tremble!” she disappeared, leaving Mr. Mellish to follow her, meekly, wonderingly, fearfully; with terrible doubts and anxieties creeping, like venomous living creatures, stealthily into his heart.
I PURPOSE to write the History of a Wedding from the date of its appointment down to the time of the happy couple's leaving. I shall recount the errors which, for a few months, tend to alienate the loyal members of the so-called House of Rejoicing. I shall trace the course of that domestic convulsion which terminates the long engagement between two young persons, say, of the middle class, and whose parents' incomes range from six hundred to fifteen hundred pounds a year. - I shall relate how, during the unsettlement of these troublous times, the authority of Paterfamilias and the security of his property are wholly negatived by a liberty of discussion and of individual and united action on the part of the females of the house never before known, how, from the auspicious union of Edwin and Angelina springs a chance of display of which the annals of the families furnish no example, and of which the women of those families are determined to take every advantage; how Materfamilias, perhaps, from a state of ignominious vassalage, rapidly rises to the place of umpire among domestic powers; how her husband's opulence and her maternal glory grow, for the occasion, inversely; how, by an unwise and resolute adherence to conventionality, is gradually established an amount of credit, fruitful of grumbles, which in the housekeeping of any former age would have seemed incredible; how a gigantic commerce gives birth to a milliner's bill, compared with which every other milliner’s bill, ancient or modern, sinks into insignificance; how Angelina Smith, after months of courtship, is at length united to Edwin Brown, not merely by legal bonds, but by the more or less dissoluble ties of interest and affection.
Nor will it be less my duty faithfully to record disasters, mingled with triumphs, and great domestic follies far more humiliating than any disaster. It will be seen that even what we justly account our chief blessings are not without alloy. It will be seen that, in consequence partly of an unwise love of display, and partly of an unwise neglect of common sense, the affectation of wealth and the supposed increase of social importance produce, together with little good, some evils from which poor and rude societies are free. It will be seen how the male kind, cursed by the domination of extravagance over moderation, and of conventionality over reason, remain, indeed, members of a household, but vanquished and insignificant members, adding no strength to the body fanatic, and reproachfully pointed at by all who fear or envy the greatness of Fashion.
- Yet, unless I greatly deceive myself, the general effect of this chequered narrative will scarcely excite thankfulness in lovers’ minds, or hope in the breasts of fathers. For the history of weddings in our country during the last twenty years is, certainly, not the history of physical, of reasonable, and of intellectual improvement. Those ladies who,