Imagens das páginas

two, returning to their conversations with the Lady Marys and Selinas, or amusing themselves by nibbling at the baits hung out by the insidious Misses Hammersmith.

What a dinner !-what a profusion of plate, and glass, and china !-what soups !-what fish!-what delicacies !-what metamorphoses ! Mrs. Carlton's French cook was a celebrated artist, who drove his cabriolet, and went to fancy balls-an artist worthy of the refined palates, and recondite knowledge of the subject, to which he ministered. How fine were the wines !-how faultless the cotelettes -how the gentlemen ate and drank !--and how the ladies sipped and Hirted !-how powdered footmen, in richly-laced dresses, glanced from chair to chair, with the silence, celerity, and grace of so many sylphs in livery, it is useless to relate.

Elaborate dinners have become, in this rich country of ours, such mere everyday affairs that, though they never will cease to be tiresome, they have long ceased to be remarkable; and there is nothing worth noting at this, but the strange feelings of discomfort with which so much splendour inspired our country girl. Dazzled with excess of light she certainly was-she felt as if she hardly knew where to look, or what to say!

The conversation, light and pithy, composed of those airy nothings that float upon the surface of polished society, and which are there tossed about with a grace so peculiar, were to her perfectly and utterly uninteresting. There was no conversation that could properly be called conversation; and not a single subject was discussed that could interest any human creature not belonging to that particular set. The mind of Louisa was cultivated, her taste delicate, her ima. gination of that poetic cast which approaches to genius-her sensibility for excellence and for beauty exquisite-but in proportion to her gifts, so was her present spiritless ennui. To her, the witty gossip, the hints, the allusions, were ut. terly unintelligible; she was in the habit of discoursing on matters of more general and lasting interest—a habit now laid under the ban of the whole world of fashion; and she found it impossible to take any part in what was going on. She was out of place, dull, and uneasy-nor can we wonder that Colonel Cadogan soon turned from the rural beauty to the brilliant Lady Mary, though Lady Mary had not a tolerable feature in her face. Thus, to Louisa's other reasons for being very uncomfortable, was added that desolate and awkward sensation of being remarkably silent, and visibly left out, when all the world is talking and laughing, admiring one another, and enjoying themselves.

The evening passed in music, chat, flirting, singing, and cards. Every one was very gay, or affected to be so. Every one took care of themselves, and no one took care of his neighbour. Was any one dull and sulky, he was at libertv

to enjoy his dulness-were any merry, to display their smiles; of this last class were all the young ladies, without exception. Happy beings! How can any one for an instant doubt but that creatures so complete, so amiable in their appearance, are exempt from human sorrow, anxiety, or infirmity, and are always the same sweet, smiling, amiable, enchanting divinities that they invariably appear in public !

It was nearly two o'clock before the evening was fairly over, and before Louisa, thoroughly wearied with the effort to rally her treacherous spirits, was allowed to go to her room, where, heated with unaccustomed hours, and languid with unaccustomed exertions, she closed at length in sleep the first day of her triumphs.


The second day opened upon a different scene.

She awoke to throw open her window, and inhale, with the greatest delight, the sweets of an early, dewy morning. Nature was breathing in all her purity through groves and over lawns, and upon the wide expanse of water which stretched beneath her view! The fresh breeze lifted her locks as she gazed, while her thoughts flew back to her own home-to her father, Mary, the children, Charles !-and she longed for them to share with her in the enjoyment of such a scene.

She was soon recalled from her agreeable reveries by the entrance of Mademoiselle Rosalie; and the cares of dress speedily dispersed her happy reflections.

Finished at length, to the satisfaction of the French lady, whose wearisome details she thought would never come to an end, she went down to the breakfastroom, to renew the disagreeable sensations of the evening-to feel lost, dull, dispirited, and a stranger, where every one else was happy and at ease--and to long for home.

Then came the morning lounge through Mrs. Carlton's splendid gardens, pheasantries, and conservatories; where Louisa silently followed a crowd of men and women, all merrily engaged chatting, rallying, laughing, and making jokes upon every object that presented itself.

It was the first raceday, and in due time the course sućceeded. But here it was worse and worse: the noise—the heat-the yariety of forms under which human vice and folly there strike the eyes of a stranger to such scenes, shocked her nerves and distressed her feelings; the hurry-the gayety, forced or natural, around her, found nothing responsive in her heart.

"How unfit," thought she, “ for such things am I! and why did my dear father send me here? Was I not a thousand, thousand times happier at home? What noise! what bustle! what senseless nothings! Ah, Charles ! how unlike our gay and happy days !”

The experiment of Mr. Mildmay seemed'in a fair way of succeeding.

The day was concluded by the ball.

We may rest assured that no pains had been spared, either by Mrs. Carlton or by Rosalie, to adorn Louisa for this most important occasion.

Once more the magnificent dress prepared by Miss Green, with its huge bows of riband and furbelows of pink satin, was contemptuously thrown aside. Once more was Louisa under the necessity of submitting to that painful sense of obligation, with which we receive benefits from any hands but of those whom we tenderly love. But remonstrance was, as usual, useless; and had it not-what girl of seventeen but would have found it difficult to resist the elegant and simple white gauze which Carsan had sent for the occasion ?

Her beautiful hair, arranged with Rosalie's best skillRosalie, who, like the inimitable Rousseau, demonstrated the perfection of art by the extreme of its apparent simplicity-flowers of softest hue and sweetest odour, front Mrs. Carlton's conservatory, on her bosom-and delicacy, softness, and sensibility speaking in every line of her beautiful countenance-it may be doubted whether a more charming creature ever entered an assembly of the kind.

Accustomed, as most of the company had been, to a sight of the rarest beauties that the island can boast, every one was perfectly amazed; and the murmurs of applause which succeeded her entrance, convinced her patroness at once of her success.

Mrs. Carlton was really a very good-natured woman. It is true she had quite a passion for assembling lions, which she called patronising merit; but she felt a very genuine pleasure when the merit which she so brought forward succeeded. She was unaffectedly pleased at the admiration which her young friend excited, and walked smiling up the room-that crowning success of womankind, a brilliant marriage, dancing in gay perspective before her imagination.

The hand of Louisa, as far as dancing went, was, it is certain, warmly solicited and disputed-and flattery was lavished at her feet in a way which she felt, and felt justly, to be rather a humiliation. Had her rank in society been less equivocal, she would have probably found her admirers more reserved in their expressions of admiration. A certain surprise to find one so elegant and charming derived from a

sphere they were accustomed to regard with contempt, mingled with the firm persuasion that admiration in any form from them must, of course, be acceptable to her might be detected in their manner; and Louisa, without accounting for it to herself, had the feeling and good sense to dislike all this.

Besides, her heart was an absolute stranger to mere personal vanity. Simple admiration, apart from sentiment, interested her not. She was formed for earnest devotion, not for transient and varying conquests for love, not for coquetry.

“Lord William Melville solicits an introduction to Miss Mildmay,” said Mrs. Carlton, with an air of excessive satisfaction; and a gentleman was seen to advance, on whom the eyes of half the young ladies in the room were instantly fixed. And why? He was neither remarkably handsome, nor remarkably well-shaped, nor remarkably tall, nor remarkably the reverse of any of these things. He was only distinguished by the simplicity of his extreme elegance, and by the total absence of that dandied, unnatural, constrained air and manner which, in some degree or other, infects most of our young men of fashion.

He addressed Louisa with the most easy politeness, danced idly and without effort, and, when the dance was over, he continued to sit by her, and engaged her in conversation, not on thosc fashionable themes to which she was totally inadequate, but on subjects of general interest, which her talents and natural good taste calculated her to discuss as well as any one; only marking his admiration, as he did 80, by an expression of the eye, as it rested upon her, the meaning, however, of which, could not easily be mistaken; and which Louisa, like most women in such circumstances, seemed, by some natural instinct, to feel, rather than exactly to see. · She thought that he seemed to synipathize with, as well as to adınire her, and was speedily attracted by that charm, all-powerful to a feeling character, of being understood.

There was something, too, so gently protecting with the manner in which he just assumed, that she had danced more than enough; and onght to take no further part in the various quadrilles, waltzes, gallopades, and mazourkas that were going on.

The solitude of the crowd was at once dispelled; and when the evening concluded, Louisa-the unpractised Louisa - when she placed her hand upon his arm, after he had folded her shawl with more than ordinary care around her, in her simplicity believed that she had actually found a friend.,

Miss Mildmay went to bed that night with very agreeable feelings. She began to think good company, crowded race

balls, and charming ball dresses, very pleasant things; and that there was something peculiarly engaging in the elegant nonchalance of men of fashion.

She slept sweetly; and Eve herself, upon the first morning that she ever knew, presented not a more heavenly countenance of peace and tender feeling, than did this innocent young creature, as she rose from her pillow on the following day—the sweet hope whispering at her heart that the enchanter of the evening would appear again.

The officious cares of Rosalie were now no longer impatiently, and somewhat ungratefully, received. Thrice and again the Psyche was consulted; for even though she had not an expectation of seeing Lord William, who did not make one of the party at Dangerfield, yet so simple and innocent was she, in this the dawn of her first love, that the mere hope that could he see her he would find her charming, was sufficient to stimulate her interest in those minute details which she had hitherto found so insufferably irksome.

He was not present at breakfast; yet his influence might be said still to hover over, and, in a manner, to protect and animate Louisa. His attentions, and evident admiration, had served to raise her, not only in her own esteem, but in that of the whole assembled society; composed, for the chief part, of those modest characters, who rarely presume to form an opinion of their own; and who are guided in all things, small and great, either by the unquestionable precedents of fashion, or by the authority of those few daring characters who, like Lord William, venture to have an opinion of their own-so far, at least, as regards what pleases themselves.

No longer treated as a pretty, insignificant, country girl, whom nobody knew-this admired of the “ admired of all beholders" immediately took a certain definite place in the world of ton. And she herself, raised in her own opinion, and liberated, as it were, from that depressing weight which bears most heavily upon the most delicate minds, had more spirits, and more dignity; and appeared for the first time to have the air of really belonging to the company with which she was accidentally associated.

She no longer listened with heedless indifference to the arrangements for the day-to make one in Mrs. Carlton's carriage; for that course which, but a few hours before, she had found so utterly disagreeable, was now her most anxious desire, and her heart beat fast as she heard the invitation given.

The course was crowded as on the preceding day, and with an equally mixed multitude.

Long lines of showy equipages, of every description, filled with fine ladies; and crowds of fine gentlemen, upon their fine horses, followed by their dandy grooms on horses still

« AnteriorContinuar »