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treatment of whatever disorder happens to be paramount at the time, furnishes him with excitement; while as for meditation, there is that grand problem of his, how to combine the treatment, most equally, of the greatest number of disorders. So, then, looking across the peaceful landscape, you behold Sir Thomas Grovelly in Sir Thomas's chambers.
But the ladies: they have most interest for us. The elder lady-that is to say, Sir Thomas's lady—is of noble blood, too-nobler in point of antiquity than that of her lord—and she is always surrounded by a consciousness of that fact, visible to all observers. Indeed, this intangible self-assertion appeared so strongly when Sir Thomas first brought her home, that his man took instant offence at her man in consequence; and, before many days had elapsed, fought it out with him in the servants:-hall. My lady, however-whatever may be said of Sir Thomas
appears to have had neither health nor intellect forfeited, in anticipation, by the follies of her forefathers. She is a tall, handsome, robust woman, with large dark eyes, sometimes bewitchingly frank, sometimes inscrutably cold and glittering ; with an imperious mouth, which yet can smile a smile that floods her whole face with sweetness, especially when she permits her eyes to remain so sober and frank, like little islands of rest and shade in a sunshiny lake. Then she has the broad, low forehead of the old Greek women, where now an imperial crown seemed to sit, and now invited every wind in the neighbourhood to kiss it. A dangerous woman in her time--a true sorceress and trapper of men, by no means herself to be trapped. And there she reclines, by an open window in the rear of the house-calm, elegant, with an almost Egyptian dignity and repose ; and she looks lazily out on her flower-garden ; and her miraculous little foot (at forty-four) is extended, and the half-shed slipper balances at the point of her delicate toes.
But for a specimen of thorough breeding, turn to the younger lady. There is nothing about her which you would call beautiful ; for it almost seems as if Nature, having endeavoured to give her fine aristocratic features, had rather overshot the mark, and had put too much of them into the compass of a human face. She is fair—of the genuine fairness of race: of our mighty Northern raceand that is the best point about her. She has a grand high nose--dangerously near the limits of grandeur. Her mouth is wide and straight, her lips thin as the scarlet thread she works with, and her teeth form a true white bow within themall faultless up to the faultiness of waxwork. For every one of these features demands your whole admiration, which, indeed, you willingly give ; but, taken together, they make rather a hash of it, so to speak. Her eyes are full, and blue, and cold as sapphires. Look when you will, the spark is not there. They disdain to sparkle. You may find the bright drop of dew in the daisy, and in the cyes of most ordinary young persons ; but it never appears on your conservatory camellia, and never in the eyes of Adelaide Dacre. Nothing here, if you please, between calm and storm! Is it love? Is it hate? Then I had rather not be the man to be loved or hated.
However, up to the present moment, no passion was ever seen to invade the young lady's eyes. No—nor any emotion; and, certainly, as she bends over that elaborate altar-cloth, now nearly completed for presentation to her favourite church in town, no sign of emotion is visible about her.
But does none exist? Is all so very placid here in the bosoms of these womenso very serene and undisturbed? Well, no. Observe this young man who comes sauntering in, in a loose shooting-jacket, and who throws himself, with so curious a mixture of abstraction and impatience, on a sofa in the darker end of the apartment. The ladies appear to take little notice him, though their eyes do rest languidly upon his recumbent figure for a moment, as they ask him whether it is not very warm out of doors, and whether it is not much cooler in that room than in the library. The young man does not appear to be very much interested in these questions, nor they in his answer ; but, the fact is, their hearts and heads are full of him. They think of little beside him. Their imaginings compass him about, going or coming, sleeping or waking, in such wise that if they were tangible, and each no stronger than the web of the silkworm, he would find himself very prettily enmeshed. But pray do not misunderstand my application of the word. They would not cross him for their lives; for one is his mother, and the other his cousin, and the lady whom he ought to marry in the natural course of things.
It is true, not a syllable has been breathed on the subject, and it would come as quite a surprising piece of intelligence to one of the parties; for the idea of such a marriage has never yet entered the head of Herbert Grovelly. Lady Grovelly, however, after many, many hours of reflection, has settled the whole matter, resolved all difficulties, arranged how the declaration is to come about, fixed the year and month of the marriage, planned the bride's trousseau, and even rehearsed the marriage ceremony. And Adelaide ? She also has decided the question in Herbert's favour; and though the two women have never exchanged a word on the subject, they perfectly understand each other, and, in a thousand agreeable little ways, work together towards the desirable end. Herbert is an only son; Adelaide is an orphan, an heiress (though not a very big one), and Sir Thomas's ward. What could be more desirable? And how much better to arrange these alliances in a pleasant, family way, than to render them open to such disturbances as often arise from becoming connected with a host of new people ?
Such being the case, the complacency with which these ladies viewed the affair was well deserved ; but our deserts are not all regarded in this world, and lately the ladies have experienced some disturbance. They experience it strongly at this moment, for all their placid demeanour; and even since Herbert has entered the room both are filled with a certain vague suspicion, and instinctively know that they share the feeling.
Now, if you will remove your gaze from Brierly House, leaving my lady with her slipper still dangling on her delicate toes, Adelaide still idling over the altarcloth, Herbert still tossing his heels on the sofa, with occasional pauses, during which he is absolutely breathless, while, by a strange coincidence, the ladies are then breathless too-if you turn away your eyes from this picture, and
them over the landscape to the Mill, there we may discover the source of the two ladies' uneasiness.
The Mill is a handsome house enough ; but whereas the Grovelly mansion is all richness and elegance, like Adelaide's Brussels veil, the Mill is only a tolerably expensive neatness, like Charlotte Leeson's frock of Indian muslin. Lotty Leeson is the daughter of the house, and the mistress of it, though now she is but eighteen, and very like a child. And not to trouble you, at present, with other details than that her father is an exceedingly simple-minded cattle-farmer, behold her! behold Lotty, surrounded by her walking-dresses, in a terrible
dilemma as to what she shall wear. That is what she is doing, while Mr. Grovelly is tossing on the sofa, and the two great ladies are occupied with a little fidgety suspicion. I hope you perceive the connexion in all this.
Lotty is going for a walk presently-only for a walk-and yet it appears to be a serious undertaking. The time for starting is rigorously fixed for an hour and five minutes from the present moment—as if it were an execution, or a bridal, and not merely a walk-and here we have the little maid, as anxiously divided about the necessary preparations as if she contemplated a journey of a thousand miles, and was forbidden to carry luggage. Well, a person going to be executed starts on a longer journey than that, without luggage—on the journey of death. The bride at the altar also (I am sorry for this association of persons, but I didn't originate it) she begins a new journey of life under similar circumstances ; but, as this is not a bridal, and not an execution, but only a walk - ?
But stay. After all, much depends on circumstances; and it is impossible to overlook the strong and various emotions which our little maid so evidently suffers. I do believe there is a bridal in the case, and an execution! See how, while in the very act of choosing between two bonnets, a luminous mist seems to come between her vision and those objects, and how, dropping them, she drops into a chair, and folds her hands upon her lap, and gazes, with a dreamy, beatified gaze, into the luminous mist, which is full of enchantments. You know how much a certain Sultan beheld in a single moment, with his head in a bucket of water. At least as many magic pictures, and infinitely more happy ones, rise into our Lotty's vision and fade away. In them is the whole story of a happy love, and a happy wedded life. I cannot tell you what touching pictures there are amongst them; for there are many noodles abroad, of both sexes, and many hypocrites and slanderers of human nature, who would call the child indelicate, and immodest, and I don't know what, all if, for instance, I revealed that in one of these pictures Lotty beheld herself folded in the arms of a Man, and bending with him over a little fat face in a cradle. Well, I don't care, she did ; and fifty other pictures, equally domestic, equally felicitous, equally indelicate; and all your protestations will not persuade me, Mademoiselle, that your head has not been in the bucket too.'
A longing smile, half sweet, half sad, and altogether unconscious, plays over Charlotte's face, as her imagination paints these “ interiors" on the gauzy summer air; tears tremble under her eyelids, and her lips move as if they themselves would rather break the spell and have done with it, since it was all unreal. They would say, “Oh, no!" but they do say, “Oh, Herbert !" It is all the same; the enchantment is over, the smile vanishes, the tears fall cold over her freezing cheeks, and there is nothing to be done but to dress, and walk-to execution.
For, in few words, this is how the case stands. This evening is appointed for Charlotte's final answer to Herbert's question, “Will you marry me?" and she is going to say, “No!"
She has argued the whole question out to herself, in a heart-breaking manner. That he loved her was not to be doubted; this she frankly acknowledged a hundred times. And did she really-really, you know—love him? Ah, who could doubt that? What nonsense it was to ask herself the question! But then, all this while their affection had been kept perfectly secret. They had met in secret, they had corresponded in secret ; it was clear from the beginning that their love could never bear the light, and Herbert must have felt that as well as she ; and now what did
he propose ? A secret marriage ; for it was well understood between them that Lady Grovelly would no sooner sanction their union, than she would sanction what sometimes appeared a natural alternative-their mutual suicide. And then were they not very young ?-young enough to wait for many a year yet, if need be ? He was scarcely turned of twenty-one, she little more than eighteen.
It was true it had been arranged that he was to make a long Continental tour next season, and then in Italy or France she would be sure to lose him!
And Lady Grovelly had always been so kind to her-inviting her often to spend a day at Brierly House when her father (a great favourite with Laly Grovelly) was away on his business, and making her so many pretty presents ! How ever could she, Charlotte, face that lady, with the imputation of having taken advantage of her kindness to steal away her son! What would her father think of such conduct? What would the village say? It would never do. She had been foolish to encourage her love for Herbert-foolish to listen to his love for her. And yet! But never mind. “No” should be the word, and firmly said. Better to suffer once than suffer always; better to suffer for him than with him; and—there's a great deal of comfort in a broken heart. That last reflection, however, is mine, not Miss Leeson's. She, poor little dear, had merely a dim consciousness of the fact-a consciousness she shrank from encouraging, though, in truth, it was the only solace she had left.
So the question is settled ; and nothing—nothing in the world, she says, as she shakes her weary head at the apple-trees without-shall ever alter her determination. She only wishes it all over, and she lain down to have one last good cry in the dark, and a long sleep.
Meanwhile time passes, and she must soon set forth upon that via dolorosa, at the end of which she is to murder her dearest hopes, and bury them. This is an important ceremony; and thus it is that our little maid, who is sensitive and impressionable to the last degree, has so much difficulty about choosing her dress. She would like, for her love's sake, to look very pretty ; especially as that is natural to her. But to look pretty, and to feel so very sad! There is a difficulty in that which only a moment's reflection magnifies into monstrous proportions. And, then, is it quite in character to break a lover's heart, and one's own, in such an engaging little bonnet as that which she supports on the tips of her fingers ? In imagination, Lotty sees her chin faltering above the pretty new strings, as she says "No," and thinks it will not do. Besides, what insincerity-what coquetry, or worse—would appear in the endeavour to engage her lover's admiration at the moment when she declared against him? Who knows? He might think it a trick! Ah, that puts the question out of doubt at once. And yet, what harm is there in trying to look nice? If they are never, never to meet again, that is a reason why he should carry away with him as pretty an image of her as possible, at the last. On the other hand, a sad, sober dress would be most appropriate ; but Ilerbert might imagine it a little trick toom-planned to work upon his feelings - to seduce him to overbear a resolution sbe never meant to keep.
Such trivial pros and cons can occupy Lotty's mind, for all its perturbation and distress. Were she a thoroughbred lady, like Miss Dacre, they would never have occurred to her ; but she is not.
At length Charlotte decides, and is ready to take that walk. With the best intentions in the world, she has made herself very pretty; and her tears are opor;
and as her passions are all at war together in her heart, not one is left to give life to her face. She slips out of the house, and the procession has commenced.
Look! Almost at the same moment, Miss Dacre abandons the altar-clothquietly. The suspicion we wot of has been growing and growing-increased by every glance at the young man on the sofa, until it has taken root like a superstition. To resolve it, she glides from the room, takes her hat and scarf, catches up a book, and sails out, stately and noiseless as a Greek brigantine. Lady Grovelly, anticipating her intention, watches for Adelaide's appearance at a wicket, opposite the window, and at the end of the grounds; and, presently, beholds her sail through it, with much apparent satisfaction. Indeed, as Miss Dacre turns towards the house for a moment, my la:ly unconsciously nods approval.
You may now observe that the two young ladies—the one with her book, the other with her beating heart—are slowly approaching the same spot; and, just as Lotty enters the Brierly plantation from the south end, Adelaide enters it from the north. Not the least curiosity is apparent in Miss Dacre's demeanourshe is a mere saunterer, evidently; and yet Lotty, whose glances pierce through and through the plantation on every side, fails to catch a glimpse of her; and that though they have passed and repassed each other several times.
Miss Dacre may have observed that Lotty always lingers longest at a little break in the plantation, whence several young trees have lately been removed ; and perhaps the young lady derives inferences from the circumstance. However that may be,' she presently seats herself, with becoming deliberation, behind a tolerably thick clump of vnderwood in the neighbourhood of the small clearing ; and, opening her book, legins to read. It is a good book; and is very well known as the “ Christian Year."
Enter Herbertsuddenly. Lotty starts and trembles, as if she were a poor little snared partridge, an:l this the eager poacher who was about to take her by the neck, and kill and eat her. And, like the little bird, she does not attempt to flutter
away, but remains still, and trembles. The other young lady, who cannot be unconscious of Herbert's approach, peruses the “ Christian Year” undisturbed.
The young man, then, has not been tossing and fidgeting all the afternoon for nothing, it seems. It is a pity though, perhaps, that he allowed his thoughts to appear so plainly in his demeanour, thus enabling his female folk to divine that he was to meet Someone this evening, as they had discovered he had met her before.
“Well, dear Lotty!" says he, taking possession of her hand. “Well, dear Herbert !" says she, resigning it.
And, notwithstanding all resolutions to the contrary, when he bowed his head to kiss her, she lifted her face to kiss him.
Of course there was a little pause after that, during which their eyes and hands exchanged salutations, answering to our “ How do you do, to-day?" and "How charming you look !" and “How long it seems since last we met !" with other sentiments more tender yet, but which are not set down in our common colloquial formula. Lotty herself would have been well content to have kept up the conversation in this wise till sundown—that is to say, till parting time; and I am persuaded that thus she might have disburdened herself of her resolution, urged all her arguments in its favour, answered all her lover's against it—without any passage of words between them. And I am very sure she would have come out of the struggle victorious—in that case.