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LOVE STRATEGIES—AND WORSE. WHILE the young people were engaged in the passionate prattle of love, and making more ado about their private affections than a whole House of Commons about the welfare of an empire on which the sun never sets—while Miss Dacre bathed her alabaster mind in the fountains of sweet verse, with no car, apparently, for the foolish discourse of her neighbours-Lady Grovelly still remained seated at the window. All that while she remained there, and for every shade drawn by the evening over her face, another was added by her own reflections. It is not for me to say how she got her information-where the little bird (if any) was bred, or to what species it belonged, which whispered her, as well as dear Adelaide, that her son had an appointment this evening with Leeson's daughter. Ask Jones how it is that his wife always knows, when he comes down dressed, with a ticket for a Masonic dinner in his hand, that he is not going to that dinner?—by what instinct she repairs, at the first glance at his well-dressed head, to the drawer where her opera-glass is kept, to find it not? It is a mighty mystery, and, in practical experience, has floored the astutest intellects of every age.
For there was really not much discovered as to Herbert's relations with his little neighbour ; no mere philosopher and observer of human nature could have detected anything in their conversation and manner, when they met at Brierly House or elsewhere, to indicate the existence of more than a protecting kindness on one side, and flattered friendship on the other. Not that either party took pains to conceal the sentiment under any veil thicker than the veil of decorum ; but whatever trepidation Charlotte happened to betray was no more than might have been expected in a young lady to whom her superiors behaved with such kind condescension, while, if Herbert appeared sometimes to treat her with high deferential courtesy, any gentleman would have done as much to set a lady at her ease,
No 2, Vol 1.
to soothe a too-awkward sense of her inferior station. But mammas who are not philosophers, who are furnished with enough knowledge of human nature for their purposes without observation, and who have mysterious little birds in their bosoms into the bargain, behold these matters with a different eye, and hear much undelivered discourse.
Lotty wants to hear, one day after dinner, about that delightful singer, Mario, that the papers so enthusiastically praise, and whom Miss Dacre has just mentioned in a kind of frosty ecstasy, like strawberry-ice; and thereupon young Grovelly seizes upon the opera of “Lucia di Lammermoor," of all things, and goes through the story, singing Mario's bits in a voice little inferior to his, and a sensibility (he dwells much on the great tenor's sensibility) not at all inferior. Now, I remember his saying, only a year before, that he was tired of seeing the mere name of "Lucia" on the bills ! Therefore, to me, who happened to be present, the whole thing appeared a simple display of the young man's vocal accomplishments; and in my heart I said (for I had a great liking for Lotty myself)
"Well, before I'd labour to dazzle a poor country girl with such a tremendous exhibition of my talents ---!" and so on.
Not that Miss Leeson seemed much embarrassed-she was very quiet indeed ; operating on an apple with her knife in such a fantastic manner that, at one moment, I cherished a demoniac expectation that, by the time he had exhausted his resources in one art, she would reward him with a specimen of more countrybred skill, in the shape of a carven pomaceous pig. IIowever, this did not occur; but I had the gratification of observing that Grovelly became insufferably dull and stupid as soon as he had finished his display.
Now that we know so much of the facts of the case, it seems more than probable that the ladies drew a large general inference from this scene; but that doesn't account for their prophetic souls divining this secret meeting, nor for the inroad of uneasy reflections which agitated Lady Grovelly (and her ladyship's slipper) all through the dusk of the summer evening. Lights had been brought in ; but even light was too disturbing for her thoughts, and the candles were accordingly relegated to the farther end of the apartment, while the window was allowed to remain open, and the breezes still came sighing in.
At length madame was startled from her reverie by precisely the most welcome of all sounds to her, under the circumstances: the mingled voices of Adelaide and Herbert in gay conversation. A moment more, and the young people strolled up the lawn and in at the window-Adelaide leaning on Herbert's arm, and making a most charming picture of herself, with her scarf tied over her hat and held under her chin, her brilliant teeth displayed like her pearls on a gala night, and her eyes full of animation. It was only on particular occasions that Adelaide looked like that. In fact, though I have since seen her under trying circumstances -at water-parties, at pic-nics in moonlit abbeys, when thirty-two and unmarried—I never beheld her so fascinating except once; and that was while she was talking with that battered old peer, Lord Cubee, in a balcony at Mrs. Smith of Smithtown's soirées. As for Grovelly, he, too, came on in a free, insouciant frame of mind-his hat slouched, brigand-like, over his forehead, and his dexter-hand thrust into his pocket; and as the sound of their mingled voices gladdened my lady's ear, so their appearance in this wise gave light to her eyes, and relief to her maternal heart.
"And where," she said, " have you two been vagabondizing ?"
“Botanizing !" exclaimed my lady, looking perfectly innocent of a fact generally known and accepted, that “botanizing," when two young people of opposite sex are concerned, is an equivalent for "love-making." In that sense the word pleased madame mightily, surprised as she appeared; but as for Adelaide, she hardly knew how to take it, or whether to be angry or pleased.
"Oh, I speak literally--we speak literally, don't we, Adelaide ?" said the young man, laughing, as he beheld the ladies exchanging glances—the one of inquiry, the other of ignorance. “Meeting me by the brook-bridge, lounging home "
Miss Dacre interrupted him. “Slouching home, Herbert. You must not be permitted to take these liberties with the language."
“Well, slouching, if you please !-by the brook-bridge, slouching home * In maiden meditation, fancy-free !"
A bold stroke of Miss Dacre's, and not a judicious one. But perhaps she felt some resentment at her cousin's entering into explanations in this bantering tone. However, Herbert was carried away by some sudden revulsion of gaiety, and disposed of the interruption by a simple
* Be quiet, Adelaide! It is only right that mamma should know all about it! Well, this maiden meeting me at the bridge, ma'am, took me forth with to see a foundling verbena of hers, which she discovered, a mere slip of vegetation, heartlessly exposed by the gardener on a gravel walk; which she had planted in a comfortable corner ; which she had nourished with fond and anxious care; and which she talked about with such enthusiasm, such charming tenderness, that I was fain to spread my handkerchief on the ground, and kneel to inspect and admire. Adelaide had no handkerchief ; and I am afraid she must have soiled her dress !"
“ That's all, aunt!" said Adelaide, with mock demureness. " And very pretty too!"
"Ah yes! youth and beauty, tenderness and flowers ! But that isn't all. Shall I tell my mother what we said about the stars, Adelaide ?"
* Shall I tell my aunt how rude you were when I did speak to you on the bridge, Herbert ?"
There was the slightest droop of Adelaide's eyelids, the slightest tremble in her voice. He must have been very naughty indeed, surely!
My lady, who had been well pleased with the conversation so far, on the whole, had here an opportunity to throw in an artfully-conceived remark.
" I'll hear no tales that ought not to be told out of school!” said she. " Then Herbert mustn't be rude!"
" And Adelaide must be forbidden to say pretty things. If she does not wish them to be repeated, she should not make such charming comparisons as that between her star-eyed flower, living by kindness alone, and blooming content in a secluded home-nook, and the cold, solitary, unmated star !"
Now this observation, which created a slight sensation of awkwardness in Lady Grovelly, could only be taken by her niece either as downright rudeness or innocent badinage; just as she understood whether Herbert had imagined a drift in her discourse, or whether he regarded it as merely poetical and general. To put the case in another point of view, she had to be hurt or amnsed accordingly as she had