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- Heartsease or Brother's Wife - 10/144 -

'If I had been lucky enough to have such a fate, I would have been a village school-mistress.'

'Not even a governess?'

'I should like the village children better; but, seriously, I would gladly get my own bread, and I did believe Georgina meant to wait to be of age and do the same.'

'But, Theodora, seriously! The loss of position.'

'I would ennoble the office.'

'With that head that looks as if it was born in the purple, you would ennoble anything, dear Theodora; but for ordinary--'

'All that is done in earnest towards Heaven and man ennobles and is ennobled.'

'True; but it needs a great soul and much indifference to creature comforts. Now, think of us, at our age, our relations' welcome worn out--'

'I thought you were desired to make Worthbourne your home.'

'Yes, there was no want of kindness there; but, my dear, if you could only imagine the dulness. It was as if the whole place had been potted and preserved in Sir Roger de Coverley's time. No neighbours, no club- books, no anything! One managed to vegetate through the morning by the help of being deputy to good Lady Bountiful; but oh! the evenings! Sir Antony always asleep after tea, and no one allowed to speak, lest he should be awakened, and the poor, imbecile son bringing out the draught-board, and playing with us all in turn. Fancy that, by way of enlivenment to poor Georgina after her nervous fever! I was quite alarmed about her,--her spirits seemed depressed for ever into apathy!'

'I should think them in more danger now.'

'Oh! her Finch is a manageable bird. Her life is in her own power, and she will have plenty of all that makes it agreeable. It is winning a home instead of working for it; that is the common sense view--'

'Winning it by the vow to love, honour, and obey, when she knows she cannot?'

'Oh, she may in the end. He is tame, and kind, and very much obliged. My dear Theodora, I could feel with you once; but one learns to see things in a different light as one lives on. After all, I have not done the thing.'

'If you did not promote it, you justify it.'

'May I not justify my sister to her friend?'

'I do no such thing. I do not justify Arthur. I own that he has acted wrongly; but-- No, I cannot compare the two cases. His was silly and bad enough, but it was a marriage, not a bargain.'

'Well, perhaps one may turn out as well as the other.'

'I am afraid so,' sighed Theodora.

'It has been a sad grief to you, so fond of your brother as you were.'

'Not that I see much harm in the girl,' continued Theodora; 'but--'

'But it is the loss of your brother! Do you know, I think it likely he may not be as much lost to you as if he had chosen a superior person. When the first fancy is over, such a young unformed thing as this cannot have by any means the influence that must belong to you. You will find him recurring to you as before.'

Meanwhile, Violet sat formal and forlorn in the drawing-room, and Lady Martindale tried to make conversation. Did she play, or draw? Matilda played, Caroline drew, she had been learning; and in horror of a request for music, she turned her eyes from the grand piano. Was she fond of flowers? O, yes! Of botany? Caroline was. A beautifully illustrated magazine of horticulture was laid before her, and somewhat relieved her, whilst the elder ladies talked about their fernery, in scientific terms, that sounded like an unknown tongue.

Perceiving that a book was wanted, she sprang up, begging to be told where to find it; but the answer made her fear she had been officious. 'No, my dear, thank you, do not trouble yourself.'

The bell was rung, and a message sent to ask Miss Piper for the book. A small, pale, meek lady glided in, found the place, and departed; while Violet felt more discomposed than ever, under the sense of being a conceited little upstart, sitting among the grand ladies, while such a person was ordered about.

Ease seemed to come back with the gentlemen. Lord Martindale took her into the great drawing-room, to show her Arthur's portrait, and the show of the house--Lady Martindale's likeness, in the character of Lalla Rookh--and John began to turn over prints for her, while Arthur devoted himself to his aunt, talking in the way that, in his schoolboy days, would have beguiled from her sovereigns and bank-notes. However, his civilities were less amiably received, and he met with nothing but hits in return. He hoped that her winter had not been dull.

Not with a person of so much resource as his sister. Solitude with her was a pleasure--it showed the value of a cultivated mind.

'She never used to be famous for that sort of thing,' said Arthur.

'Not as a child, but the best years for study come later. Education is scarcely begun at seventeen.'

'Young ladies would not thank you for that maxim.'

'Experience confirms me in it. A woman is nothing without a few years of grown-up girlhood before her marriage; and, what is more, no one can judge of her when she is fresh from the school-room. Raw material!'

Arthur laughed uneasily.

'There is Mrs. Hitchcock--you know her?'

'What, the lady that goes out with the hounds, and rides steeple- chases? I saw her ride through Whitford to-day, and she stared so hard into the carriage, that poor Violet pulled down her veil till we were out of the town.'

'Well, she was married out of a boarding-school, came here the meekest, shyest, little shrinking creature, always keeping her eyelids cast down, and colouring at a word.'

Arthur thought there was a vicious look at his bride's bending head, but he endured by the help of twisting the tassel of the sofa cushion, and with another laugh observed, 'that all the lady's shyness had been used up before he knew her.'

'Then there was Lord George Wilmot, who ran away with a farmer's daughter. She made quite a sensation; she was quite presentable, and very pretty and well-mannered--but such a temper! They used to be called George and the Dragon. Poor man! he had the most subdued air--'

'There was a son of his in the Light Dragoons--' began Arthur, hoping to lead away the conversation, 'a great heavy fellow.'

'Exactly so; it was the case with all of them. The Yorkshire farmer showed in all their ways, and poor Lord George was so ashamed of it, that it was positively painful to see him in company with his daughters. And yet the mother was thought ladylike.'

Arthur made a sudden observation on John's improved looks.

'Yes. Now that unhappy affair is over, we shall see him begin life afresh, and form new attachments. It is peculiarly important that he should be well married. Indeed, we see every reason to hope that--' And she looked significant and triumphant.

'Much obliged!' thought Arthur. 'Well! there's no use in letting oneself be a target for her, while she is in this temper. I'll go and see what I can make of her ladyship. What new scheme have they for John? Rickworth, eh?'

He was soon at his mother's side, congratulating her on John's recovery, and her looks were of real satisfaction. 'I am glad you think him better! He is much stronger, and we hope this may be the period when there is a change of constitution, and that we may yet see him a healthy man.'

'Has he been going out, or seeing more people of late?'

'No--still keeping in his rooms all the morning. He did drive one day to Rickworth with your father, otherwise he has been nowhere, only taking his solitary ride.'

'I never was more surprised than to see him at Winchester!'

'It was entirely his own proposal. You could not be more surprised than we were; but it has been of much benefit to him by giving his thoughts a new channel.'

'He likes her, too,' said Arthur.

'I assure you he speaks most favourably of her.'

'What did he say?' cried Arthur, eagerly.

'He said she was a lady in mind and manners, and of excellent principles, but he declared he would not tell us all he thought of her, lest we should be disappointed.'

'Are you?' said Arthur, with a bright, confident smile.

'By no means. He had not prepared me for so much beauty, and such peculiarly graceful movements. My drawing days are nearly past, or I should be making a study of her.'

'That's right, mother!' cried Arthur. 'What a picture she would make. Look at her now! The worst of it is, she has so many pretty ways, one does not know which to catch her in!'

Perhaps Lady Martindale caught her aunt's eye, for she began to qualify her praise. 'But, Arthur, excuse me, if I tell you all. There is nothing amiss in her manners, but they are quite unformed, and I should dread any contact with her family.'

Heartsease or Brother's Wife - 10/144

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