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“ And so I am; age and youth are not designated by years alone, but depend on a thousand circumstances, which wither the one or nourish the other. For instance, look at General Montgomery, who ever feels that he is old ?"
“Oh!” said Lady Emily, with an expression of anxious concern, " do you not see a great change in my uncle ever since that fatal story at the Hall. Since we have left that dear place, he has never been himself."
" What fatal story ? do tell it me,” said Lord Mowbray; " for, though a vague report has reached me, I never heard it related distinctly,"
“Oh! you remember I began to tell it you at the Opera, just as Rosalinda came on the stage, and I stopped to look at her, when, on turning again round to speak to you, you were gone, and I have never since that moment see you.'
These words were common words; but there was that in the tone and manner in which they were pronounced which spoke volumes to Lord Mowbray. He looked in Lady Emily's face earnestly, her
eyes fell beneath his gaze; and she was painfully conscious that her colour went and came, betraying the emotion which his scrutiny excited. All farther conversation was put an end to by Lady Glassington rising to depart; but how much may a mere glance leave on the mind to be reflected and commented upon!
To me more dear, congenial to my heart,
The next morning, when Lady Emily prepared to rise, a beautiful bouquet was brought to her bed-side. " Oh the dear delicious
flowers," she said, inhaling their fragrance; "who can have made me this charming and most welcome present ? who brought it ?” calling her maid.
“ A little boy, your Ladyship.” “ Are you sure it is for me?”
“The boy said so, my Lady; besides, there is a card that you have not observed tied to the stalks."
Lady Emily looked at it. In a very illegible hand was written “ For Lady Emily Lorimer.” “ I cannot imagine who should so far have consulted my tastes,” she said, but her heart throbbed at the secret thought that it might be Lord Mowbray. It is necessary to be a woman, and a woman in love, and, moreover, a woman in love with flowers, to know all the witchery which resides in them. The full force of all these things was confessed by Lady Emily; and when the hour arrived at which she was to prepare for the ball, at Roehampton, she had recourse to these simple ornaments as her only decoration. The gown her sister had sent her in exchange for her own, could not compare with it in beauty or magnificence; but in its rich materials and perfect simplicity, there was a grace not less distinguished, than had it been covered with ornaments.
The General, however, when he looked at her with delighted eyes, demanded the reason why she had discarded her dress of the preceding evening; and she was obliged to relate the circumstance which had induced her to resign it. How the knowledge of this enhanced her loveliness in the General's estimation! and with what affectionate warmth he pressed her to his heart, and blessed her, as he said, “ Go, my precious girl! go, and in all the reflected beauty of your soul shining through your person; go, and enjoy the innocent triumph which awaits you. I grieve that I cannot accompany you; but, circumstanced as I am, you will understand, my Emily, that it is impossible.”
“It is a bitter disappointment to me that it should be so, but I only wish you to do whatever you feel to be best. Good, goodnight, dear uncle; good-night, Alpinia.”
Mrs. Neville was punctual to a moment, and away they drove; but the impatience of the latter made her stop the carriage many times before they reached Hyde Park Corner, to know what o'clock it was, lest, as she said, they should be too late.
They arrived, however, in good time, and entered the grounds by a gate which was metamorphosed into a triumphal arch, most brilliantly illuminated and decorated with yarious devices. The
lamps, the flowers, the train of servants in rich liveries, the crowds of guests in fancy costumes, formed a splendid scene.
The ball-room had been erected in the gardens, and was blazing with lights, and gay with a profusion of ornaments in the best taste. On entering, Lady Emily distinguished Lord Mowbray leaning against one of the pillars.
The moment he perceived her, with an eagerness of manner wholly unlike his usual demeanour, he came towards her: and, on Mrs. Neville's expressing her surprise at his being still in town, he said—“Business called me away, but pleasure detained me.
"Well, to be sure, that is charming--so you really tell the truth at last; but I never believed you when you said you were going; it is beyond belief how I can read characters; it is vastly diverting, vastly charming, quite charming, I assure you."
“You are an alarming person then, Mrs. Neville, to be intimate with; I shall take care in future how I venture to lay myself open to your animadversions.”
“What, have you any deadly secrets, then ?—Well, to be sure, I was always afraid there was some mystery or another about you. Now, to tell the truth, I don't like mysteries, except in story books, and even in them I always look at the last page first, Don't you think that's charming. Well, to be sure, I would always advise every body to do that in real life-turn to the last leaf of your story, provide for that, and all will be well. Ah! who do I see there?-Mr. Altamont, I vow! How do you do, my dear Mr. Altamont? Don't you agree with me in what I was saying just now ?”
“Most entirely, my dear Madam, I really thought I was talking myself.”
“Well, charming, charming! that is beyond belief; but I must present you to my young friend, Lady Emily Lorimer--you will like one another, I can answer for that.”
A regular introduction took place, and Mr. Altamont of course joined their party. During the whole of Mrs. Neville's evolutions, Lord Mowbray attended Lady Emily's footsteps; and when, about midnight, a summons was given to the company to view the fire-works, he offered her the assistance of his arm to conduct her through the gardens. There is something so sociable in the acceptance of an arm—it facilitates conversation—it is, for the time being, an interchange of kindness-a tender of service from the one party, and an implied trust on the other, which is gratify
ing to both. In the present instance, however, it did not seem productive of much ease of intercourse : neither Lady Emily nor Lord Mowbray spoke; while, on the contrary, Mr. Altamont and Mrs. Neville never ceased talking. “Come," said the former, turning to Lord Mowbray, "you seem so very silent, that I think you must be tired of your post, however extraordinary it appears that such should be the case ;--so let us change partners awhile. You will keep Mrs. Neville in order. She is a great deal too lively for me; and I will venture to say, I will make Lady Emily laugh. Come, Lord Mowbray, do not be such a monopoliser. Lady Emily, do me the honour,” and be extended his arm to her.
“You forget, my dear Altamont, that Lady Emily might be the death of one of us, if she were to decide in favour of either. I am not sure that even your cloth would protect you; no, no, dull
may be, Lady Emily has accepted my arm, and it must be only at her especial desire that I can relinquish the honour she has conferred."
Mr. Altamont bowed, saying jocosely, “Oh, oh! is it so P” then, blowing his fingers, added, “ burnt children dread the fire-I shall know better another time how to address your Lordship.” And he whispered to Mrs. Neville, “This begins to look serious. But pray, my dear Madam, tell me since when has this hot flame been kindled ?
“Well, to be sure, it is beyond belief if it is kindled, for I declare I never heard of it; well, charming, charming! I vow and declare, there is nothing I should like better! She is a delightful creature, thoroughly good, that I can answer for-none of your flimsy fashionable dolls! With all the graces of refinement, she combines the every-day substantial qualities of head and heart within and without.”
" And be she what she may,” observed Mr. Altamont, “ Lord Mowbray is worthy of her.”
" He !Oh I don't know what he is so strange, so unequal, so mysterious! I told him just now I hated mysteries ; straight forward for me--well, to be sure, more mischief is done by your mysterious folks, than by any other set that go about. Do you know I have fancied there is something between him and the Rosalinda which
may prevent his being a marrying man; and I'd tear his eyes out, if I thought he intended to make that sweet girl Lady Emily unhappy. It is beyond belief, how I could hate him if I thought that were possible.”
“It is quite impossible, my dear Mrs. Neville, I am sure he never intended to make any thing, much less any body, unhappy in his life.”
May be so; but intentions are one thing, and actions are another."
Humph !" said Mr. Altamont, as if overcome with the heat and pressure of the crowd.
At that moment, they came up to Lady Frances, who was leaning on Lord Bellamont's arm, but turning her head and talking to a number of young men over her opposite shoulder. Her dress was splendid and glittering among the lights, and she herself was radiant in beauty. “Bless me!" cried Mrs. Neville, seizing hold of her petticoat, “what have you got here ? borrowed plumes, borrowed plumes ! Well, to be sure, it is beyond belief; so you wheedled Lady Emily out of her beautiful dress—the more shame for you; I never missed it from her, she is so lovely without it; but now I see it upon you, I remember all about it.”
" Come away,” whispered Lady Frances to Lord Bellamont, " let us avoid this horrible vulgar woman; I have steered clear of her hitherto."
" How very unlucky! but now I fear it is impossible," replied Lord Bellamont, " and there is the signal-rocket.”
Lady Emily now came forward, and her sister could not avoid standing close by her, although she would gladly have evaded the neighbourhood. Really, Emily,” said she at length," you look vastly well ; you cannot think how that white dress becomes you ; does she not, my Lord?” turning to Lord Bellamont,
The latter sighed, as he replied : “ Lady Emily is secure of one great point towards the perfection of all beauty, námely, the unconsciousness she evinces to her own charms."
“I am afraid I am as vain as most people,” said Lady Emily, laughing; “it is only because you do not know me thoroughly, that you invest me with so much undeserved humility.”
“Bless me!" rejoined Lady Frances, with ill disguised pettishness, "what a pity it is that you two are not to be linked together in the holy bands instead of myself ; I protest you are better suited to each other ; the one so complimentary and proper, the other so diffident and sincere.”
Lord Bellamont whispered something in her ear and looked distressed ; at this moment the fireworks began. They were of the most magnificent description known in this country, and the exclamations usually uttered on such occasions, expressive of admiration or amusement, were reiterated by the spectators. Lady Emily was