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In most cases, these passing troubles are rendered the subject of sweet and happy feelings, by the hopes of which they are the signal; by the increased tenderness of a husband, and all the little flattering solicitudes of mothers, sisters, and friends : but to Louisa they came strangely and unusually accompanied.
Lord William, singular in most things, was singular in this. Whimsical from an excess of fastidious refinement, he had a very great dislike to the venerable idea of a father of a family, as connected with himself; and he disliked particularly the thought of seeing his Louisa encumbered by mursery cares. Possibly he felt a little of the jealousy of selfish 'affection, and wished her attentions to be exclusively confined to himself. As for duties, he hated the very name—to the performance of any one thing, as a duty, he had never been accustomed; and he had, ever since he was born, been taught so exclusively to attend to his own welfare, and to regard that of no other living creature upon earth, that any thing in the shape of domestic cares was entirely beyond the circle of his ideas.
Then he had not the least love for children. His imagination had never delighted in the innumerable charms, the simplicity, the innocence, the drollery of infancy. For this, indeed, he may be pardoned ; it had not been his good fortune often to meet with such attractions; though he might, among his class, have found some of the rarest instances of childish beauty and promise that the world has ever seen. For the most part, he had only been accustomed to see certain elegantly dressed dolls appear at stated seasons, either with all the airs of pretty men and women, or, if they chanced to be children of natural taste and feeling, looking shy, stupid, and uneasy among their more showy companions. He had heard now and then a child cry, and thought it a most irritating noise. And he cherished, he knew not why, a most inveterate hatred to the whole host of governesses, nurses, and affectionate mothers, who, he supposed, spent their time in physicking their children, and plaguing their friends by discoursing of their perfections.
The beauty, the charming gayety, the malice, the naïveté the unexpected sayings and doings of an unspoiled and clever little child, were as unknown to him as the ways of the Chinese. He might have seen some faint representations of them in books, and the pictures of the old masters, and that was all.
With these notions, and not being at the head of his family, he had never considered it as incumbent upon him to provide for the continuance of his noble name by marriage. He had, therefore, merely gone through the ceremony with Louisa as a matter of propriety; of which, after considering the representations of Charles, he had candidly admitted the justice and necessity : but he endeavoured to forget, as far as possible, that he stood in this serious relation to her; and to look upon her and to treat her, rather as some fond idol of fancy than as the partner of his destiny-"for richer for poorer, for better for worse."
When, therefore, she began to fade in beauty, and to be wanting in energy and spirits, he was any thing but pleased, and he showed it. He never once alluded to those soft hopes which melted her in tender thoughts and reflections. He seemed incredulous of her feebleness and indisposition ; vexed when she could not go out with him as usual ; and without indulgence for the variableness of her spirits.
At length he found Wales stupid and intolerable, and proposed they should set out post for London.
Louisa was young and very inexperienced : her inexperience, for once, stood her friend. She did not know how these things went with others; and therefore was spared the pain of thinking the little wounds she received peculiar to her own case. She supposed it a common one-and that all young men were cross when their wives were languid ; and simply regretted all this, because she saw that she could not make her lover so happy as before.
Yet, at times, she longed for one to whom she might confide the thousand hopes, and joys, and fears, now busy about her heart. And she thought of her dear, dear Mary, with increased tenderness; of all that she would say and feel upon the occasion ; and felt the greatest wish to see her before she left the country.
She had written unceasingly to this dear sister ever since their separation, describing all the happiness she enjoyed but something more than letters seemed necessary to her present feelings, in which she anticipated all the sympathy of the fond and good Mary.
Lord William found her intently studying the road-book and map, and measuring distances with her delicate fingers.
“Well, Louisa ! What is this sudden fit of geography ?"
“I am making out our road to London. It must lie through Elmsly?"
“ And if it does lie through Elmsly?"
“Ay, true-I beg your pardon, Louisa, but, really, I had forgotten all about your sister-was there not one at Mr. Mildmay's when I used to be there? Oh, yes! she was very good-natured to me, I am sure-I am very unpardonably negligent at times—I really believe I have never inquired how many sisters you have.”
“ She is my only one,” said Louisa, in a low voice, "I never had any other. She has been to me more than a sis
ter-a mother-a teacher—a friend. I love her-ah, how dearly !-and her children !"
“Oh, to, be sure," said Lord William, whose heart little responded to such feelings. “I believe I love my sisters too when I think about them but it is a stupid sort of connexion. Children !-Your sister is married, then!”
“ Oh, yes! to a most excellent man! the best of men !"
" That is being rather in luck," said he, smiling. “Pray what may be the name of this best of his race ?-No very high compliment either, on second thoughts."
“Not quite so highly distinguished there. But what has all this to do with the map ?"
“ I thought I wished--that our way might be through Elmsly—that I might see my dear Mary and her children before I left the country.”
“ Nothing more easy-if you really care about it." The phrase sounded strangely to Louisa. 6 Nothing more easy, though our way should not lie through Elmsly. We can go out of the way-and you can spend an hour with your sister, while I visit the curiosities and antiquities of the place-such as they may chance to be.”
“ An hour! Oh, Lord William! What is an hour with such a darling sister ? But you are very good.”
“No I am not good at all. If you wish to stay longer, you can take your carriage and servants there ; and I can go to town in my britska, instead of cramming it with our men and women servants, as we had intended.”
Louisa's countenance fell.
The way in which he treated the whole affair ; the carelessness with which he spoke of her sister—that sister so unspeakably precious in her eyes! the facility with which a separate journey to town was arranged-arranged merely to spare him the ennui of spending a few hours in company with those she so tenderly loved; the indifference with which he proposed a separation-a separation apparently so perfectly immaterial to him, so infinitely painful to her.
Luckily, she was not much in the habit of analyzing or dwelling upon her feelings. She answered instinctively,
“Oh no! thank you, my lord. Don't let our plans be changed. Indulge me with an hour of my sister's company on the way—that is all."
“As you like best,” was his careless answer.
“ All I bargain for is—no delays upon the road-I detest them when I am once en train.”
They set out upon their journey.
Lord William, like other men, spoiled by early adulation and indulgence, was accustomed to consider himself a privileged person ; and one to whose slightest wish or convenience that of all others was of course to give way. Like the grand monarque, he expected that all around him should be in the undeviating enjoyment of good health; he had an especial dislike to any one belonging to him being sick, and requiring any of those attentions and indulgences which, in such cases, may justly be called necessaries. He was little accustomed to watch for or to perceive the signs of suffering or languor ; he disregarded, because he did not understand them.
In consequence of this temper, Louisa, too young and timid to complain, was hurried at the speed four horses could carry her, and often from fourteen to sixteen hours a day, upon the road to London.
Yet, jaded, fatigued, and half dead as she was, light beat her heart as the carriage entered Elmsly, and stopped at the well-known archway of the Red Lion Inn.
She had scarcely attention or civility enough in her power to acknowledge the low bows of the burly landlord, as he did every thing which it lay in the power of bows to do, to prove the deep reverence with which he now beheld the sister of Mrs. Phillips, transformed, as she was, into the Lady William Melville. She was too much in a hurry to be amused with, or even to observe, this civility. Her spirits were in a flutter that she could not control.
Lord William alighted at the inn. Louisa directed her servant to the well-known spot where her sister was to be found, and the carriage drove on.
It stopped at the little gate which opened upon a narrow shrubbery at the back of the house ; and forbidding the postillions to drive to the front entrance, she sprang out, and was through the narrow path and in the house in a moment.
No one was to be seen below; the ever-open door admitted her. It was that important day in small householdswashing-day; the servants were all engaged ; Mary must be up stairs : it was even so ; and to the nursery she flew.
Mary was watching her sleeping infants. Louisa opened the door softly, and looked into the little temple of domestic happiness.
The room was small, and the furniture simple to homeli
ness; but rendered agreeable and pleasing to the eye by the extreme cleanliness and order which pervaded every part. The walls were hung with Mary's many coloured drawings, with which she had endeavoured to enliven the eyes and excite the fancy of her little children ; there were tropical birds, and extraordinary beasts, and gaudy flowers, hanging unframed, by ribands, to the walls. Over the window a China-rose and honeysuckle were trained ; while a few trees shaded the room from the sun in the summer ; but it was now cold weather, and on the clean hearth a cheerful fire was crackling and blazing.
Two little rosy creatures, wrapped up in sieep and snug blankets, were slumbering in their beds; another, demure and gentle, was taking, with whispering words and earnest looks, a lesson in needlework from its kind and patient mother; the infant lay on Mary's lap, opening its large blue eyes, and gazing with that inquiring, yet loving look, with which a young child may be often seen endeavouring to peruse, as it were, its mother's face.
Louisa was on one knee in a moment, her fond arms clasped round Mary's neck; the next, she was smothering the baby with kisses.
The joy, the surprise of Mary, when her beloved sister was again in her arms! the affectionate inquiries! the hurried exclamations ! the smiles, the tears,--we pass over. The two sisters were soon by the nursery fire, a child in the lap of each, engaged in that sweet interchange of woman's confidence which belongs to that endearing connexion.
Many were Mary's expressions of admiration at the increased loveliness of Louisa, shaded as it was, though scarcely impaired, by the somewhat sickly delicacy which hung over her features. As for Louisa, she was in raptures with every thing ; with the health and beauty of the children; the comfort, the ease, the tranquillity around her; she had seen all this often before, but she had seen it unmarked : but now she felt it, as it were, in a new manner, contrasted with the sort of glare and effort in which she had been living.
They went down stairs, where the luncheon of house. hold bread, sweet butter, and plainly-dressed but excellent cold meat, was to Louisa's palled appetite a delightful change from the elaborate preparations of Lord William's French cook.
Mr. Phillips came in, and hearty and kind was his wel. come, and affectionate and anxious his look.
“Take care of yourself, sweet Lady William,” were his parting words, for Louisa's hour of leave was soon ex• pired. “Don't be persuaded into hurry, and dissipation, and late hours, and all the fine lady's nonsense. They may