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“Oh, no. I'm awfully particular, you know, or I should have been snapped up long ago. I must have some money when I marry. You ladies are so extravagant in dress and wine nowadays, that a mere squire, who likes to keep his hounds and have a few good horses in his stables, has no chance to indulge his own little tastes if he has a penniless wife. And, do you know, cousin Bell, I always notice the penniless wives give themselves the most airs ! I take it they don't know the value of money, you know.”
“Oh, no ;" cried Bell. “Look at Linda, for instance, she doesn't give herself airs.”
Mrs. Polkely Seton was standing on the other side of the large room, with her hand on her husband's arm, talking to some elderly gentlemen, who all looked rich and complaisant. Linda's gown of the richest blue silk, draped with costly white lace, her fair soft neck and
arms sparkling with pearls and diamonds, were no apt illustration of economy; but her modest, kindly bearing, certainly proved the absence of airs.
“ By George,” said the captain, energetically, " that old Seton is a lucky dog; but then, you see, she's a Shrugg, and that sort of thing's nothing new to her. You wouldn't be puffed up, either, would you, if you married a fellow like me ?”
“No," she exclaimed with genuine mirth. "No, indeed, I shouldn't.”
“Well, I might do worse,” he added admiringly. “Tell you what, cousin Bell, you've got all the beauty of the family on your side of the house."
“We didn't get any from the Shruggs,” she retorted.
“Conceited little ape!” she said afterwards to Linda. “I daresay he thinks I would have him."
Emily Clayton was cruel enough to ask Bell
to be her bridesmaid, for the wedding was to come off almost immediately. But Bell thought there was no occasion to put herself to unnecessary pain, and absolutely declined; thereby gratifying Mr. Seton so much, that he bought her a handsome bracelet, to signify her complete restoration to his favour.
" I'm glad it is to your taste,” he said, as she exclaimed with girlish vehemence at its beauty. “Now go and practice like a good girl ; Mowlam will bring his flute to-night. We'll try a quartett if you please.”
Mr. Mowlam eulogized Bell's playing that evening very much; and Mrs. Burcham, who was also spending the evening in Hyde Park Gardens, smilingly nodded her approval too. Mr. Mowlam proposed having the pleasure of presenting Miss Shrugg with a bound copy of Beethoven's Sonatas, and Mrs. Burcham said it was a very nice idea of his. Mr. Seton meanwhile looked almost beaming as Bell blushingly uttered her thanks; but he resented his sister's
continual interference, and looked at her crossly for persisting in sharing the conversation. But he was downright angry when her carriage was announced, and she asked Mr. Mowlam to let her drive him as far as their ways lay together.
She went off downstairs on the old bachelor's arm, smirking at her brother, who followed savagely.
Linda softly clapped her hands, and danced lightly round a chair.
“Don't you see?” she cried ; "she means to have him herself. Oh, I am so glad; you will be free!”
“Free!” Bell exclaimed; “ do you think any one could make me marry unless I chose ? and now I shall never choose!”
The two girls exchanged deep sighs at what these last words implied; but Linda nevertheless doubted whether her sister would have dared to refuse a suitor backed by Mr. Seton.
WHILE Bell mused on broken hearts and base deceivers, and believed her hopes were blighted for ever and her affections withered, and the canker-worm of sorrow had taken deep, undying hold upon her heart,—as young people of both sexes like to fancy when Joan proves a Alirt, and John loves and rides away,—there was a truer and stronger contest between love and duty going on in another sister's heart up in wintry Yorkshire.
The new year had come, and the short days were colder and darker than were even the proverbially cold, dark days before Christmas. Clack folk looked dyspeptic and blue : the reaction after the festivities of Yule-tide was hard for their digestions and spirits to bear