University of Virginia Library


Page 134


“But this was what I knew had come to pass,
When, answ'ring with your vacant no, and yes,
You fed upon your thoughts and mark'd me not.”

My dear Lady Anne,” said Mrs. Meredith to her
niece, as they were one morning sitting together,
“you seem to have taken a wonderful liking to that
knotting” (Lady Anne had become, as our friend
Rivington has it, “thrifty in the knotting amusement”)—“where
in the world did you learn it?”

“Mrs. Linwood taught me.”

“So I should think. It is as monotonous as
she is.”

“Oh, aunt, I find it charming! It is the very
perfection of existence to have an occupation like
this for your fingers, while your heart and mind
are left free to rove to the end of the world, or,
what is better still, to be at the service of some
agreeable companion you may chance to have beside

Chacun à son gout!” said Mrs. Meredith,
taking up a book, with a vexing consciousness that
she was not the “agreeable companion” preferred
to her niece's maiden meditations. Lady Anne
had not spoken five words for the hour they had
been sitting together. As the morning was rainy


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the ladies were like to remain uninterrupted; and
it was too tempting an opportunity for Mrs. Meredith
to make an attack she had long been meditating,
to be foregone; so she put aside her book and
her vexation, and said in a voice sufficiently untoned
for an old diplomatist, “You seem quite
fond of the Linwoods, my love?”

“I am, aunt.”

“You find the choleric, peevish, egotistical old
man charming?”

“Indeed, I do sincerely think him a delightful
old gentleman.”

“And that living manifestation of all the mediocrities,
his patient consort?”

“The most amiable woman in the world.”

“And their lofty, capricious daughter, now silent
and infolded in her own sublimities, like a worshipped
idol on its pedestal, and now gracious as a
new-made queen?”

“And always captivating and gentle, aunt.” Mrs.
Meredith threw up her hands and eyes: “I mean
almost always gentle as a woman should be. For
my part, I do not fancy perpetual sunshine. I am
much of a certain English sea-captain's way of
thinking, who, after being becalmed in the sunny
waters of France, sailed away in one of his own
northeasters and thick fogs, and thanked Heaven
he was out of that d—d sunshine.”

“Your illustration is a fortunate one, Lady Anne;
I congratulate you on your peculiar taste. But


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for this gusty variety in the temper of your friend,
your long evenings with that little family coterie
would be rather of the becalmed order.”

“The evenings never seem long to me,” replied
Lady Anne, her face dimpling with recollected

“How in the world do you kill time?”

“Oh, the old gentleman, and Mrs. Archer, and
Isabella and her mother, play whist.”

“And you sit by and look on?—this is inscrutable,
that you, my dear child, who are so admired,
courted, worshipped, should be content to play so
obscure a part. If there were a young man in the
case—if that son of Mr. Linwood were at home—
by-the-way, they seem to make themselves exceedingly
comfortable while he is in durance—
yes, if the juice of `that little western flower' were
on your eyelids, I could understand why you
should thus `madly dote.' ”

Lady Anne laughed and shook her head, as if to
say, “Puzzle it out if you can.”

Mrs. Meredith was displeased; but like many
persons who have self-command and good taste,
she chose to show her angry feelings in the light
of gentle emotions. Her voice faltered, and her
eyes filled with tears (her eyes, it may be remembered,
were fine, the prototypes of her son's brilliant
orbs). “I ought, my dear girl,” she said, “to be
satisfied if you are; but I have so set my heart
upon you, the only child of my dear lamented


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brother. I had hoped that Jasper and I should
make our home attractive to you; that we might
have, at least, a portion of your affection.”

“My dear aunt!” exclaimed Lady Anne, throwing
down her knotting, “I—I—” do love you dearly,
she was on the point of adding, but she was too
honest to indulge her good-nature at the expense
of truth, and she said, “I feel your kindness to me
—I should be most ungrateful if I did not.”

“Grateful, undoubtedly, you are; and so you
would have been to any faithful guardian; but the
heart asks something more. You manifest neither
to me nor to Jasper more than the affection of a
common relative. Whatever place I may take in
the scale of your friends, your cousin is certainly
no common person.”

“No, indeed, that he is not,” said Lady Anne,
charmed that she could sooth her aunt and speak
sincerely. “Jasper is by far the most agreeable
gentleman you have introduced to me here. He
is a little abstracted now and then; but when he
knows what he is saying, he is perfectly delightful.
I told Isabella Linwood last evening that it was a
mystery to me—une veritable merveille—that she
had never fallen in love with Jasper.”

“What did she say?” asked Mrs. Meredith,
eagerly, and off her guard.

“I do not remember. I believe she said nothing.”

“A provoking, inscrutable person she is,” thought
Mrs. Meredith; and then made a remark which she


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meant to be what the lawyers call leading:
“There was a report before we came of an attachment
between Jasper and Miss Linwood.”

“Bless me! was there?”

“Why are you surprised?”

“For the best reason in the world, aunt—neither
seems to fancy the other. As for Isabella, whenever
I praise cousin Jasper, she is either quite silent,
or turns the conversation, as if she did not
like to appear to disagree with me.”

“Ah, my young lady,” thought the aunt, “you
do not see quite through a millstone.”

Jasper at this moment entered. “Come here,
cousin,” said Lady Anne; and when he had approached,
she added, in a playful voice, putting her
hand (the prettiest hand in the world) on his arm,
“Were you ever in love with—” her mischievous
pause nearly suspended the pulsations of Meredith's
heart, “with—don't be scared—the most loveable
person in the world?”

He had recovered himself. “If I never have
been,” he replied, seizing her hand and kissing it,
“I shall soon be—irretrievably.”

The past, the future, rushed upon him, and overpowered
his self-command. He turned from Lady
Anne and left the apartment. “Oh, Jasper! Jasper!”
cried Lady Anne, blushing, laughing, and
springing after him, “stop one minute—you did
not understand me.” But before she reached the
stairs, the outer door closed after Meredith. Mrs.


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Meredith clasped her hands. Jasper was won—
Lady Anne must of course be!—and she seemed
to herself to have reached the summit of her Pisgah,
and thence to descry the promised land for
which she had come to the wilderness. That
“there is many a slip between the cup and the
lip” is a proverb somewhat musty; but it pithily
indicates the sudden mutations to which poor
humanity is liable.