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in love over head and ears, and could not help it!
Miss Gr. And wish you me that for spite, or to please me?-I am in love, my dear; and nothing keeps me in countenance, but having company among the grave ones. Dearly do I love to find girls out. Why, I found out Lady L- before she would own a tittle of the matter. So prim !" And how can you think so, Charlotte? Who, I in love! No, indeed! No man has a place in my heart !"—Then I was resolved to have her secret out. I began with my roundabouts, and my supposes — A leer thus-I was both vexed and pleased with her archness-And then a suppose-Then came a blush- Why, Charlotte, I cannot but say, that if I were obliged to have the one man or the other" Then came a sigh, endeavoured in haste to be returned to the heart whence it came; and when it could not find its way back, to be cut into three halves, as the Irishman said; that is, into two half sighs, and a hem; and a "Get you gone, for an impertinent."As much as to say, "You have it!"-And when I found I had, and she owned it, why then I put my mad head to her grave one, and we had but one heart betwixt us.
Lady L. [Laughing.]-Out of breath, Charlotte, I hope.
Miss Gr. Not yet-How often have I kept watch and ward for her! Sometimes have I lent her my dressing-room for their love-meetings; yet, for the world, she would not marry without her papa's consent: no, but like the rest of us, she would suffer her affections to be engaged, without letting him know a syllable of the matter. Very true, Lady L-, what signifies looking serious?
Lady L. Strange creature!
Miss Gr. Once or twice did I change dresses with her. In short, I was a perfect Abigail to her in the affair. And let me tell you, two sisters, agreed to manage a love affair, have advantages over even a lady and her woman.
Lady L. Mad creature!
Miss Gr. All this I did for her without fee or reward; only from the dear delight of promoting the good work, and upon the Christian principle of, Do as you would be done by. Is not all this true, Lady L-? Deny it if you
Lady L. And have you done, Charlotte? Ah! my dear Miss Byron, you'll never do anything with this girl, except you hear all she has to say. And if you have a secret, 'tis better to let her know it at first. Charlotte is a generous girl, after all; but sometimes, as now, a very impertinent one
What could these ladies mean by this, I wonder? If they suspect me to love somebody, surely this is not the way that two such ladies, in generosity, should take; when they think I have no engagement; and know that the doubt
must lie on their brother's side, whom with all their roundabouts, as they call them, they cannot fathom.
I would give anything, methinks, to know if Sir Charles was ever in love.
Just then a rapping at the door made us suppose it was the Countess. It was. After compliments to Mrs Reeves and me, she embraced Lady L- very affectionately, and Miss Grandison kindly; asking the first after Lord L's health, and the other after her brother; he is the man of all men, Miss Grandison, said she, that I want to see. We shall be in town soon, for a month or two; and then you must make me known to one, whom everybody calls the best of men; as here, said she, coming up again to me, I have longed to be acquainted with one of the best of women.
Lady L. Miss Byron is, indeed, an excellent young woman. We do ourselves the honour of calling her sister.
Lady D. What an encouragement is that to be good! Even in this age, bad as it is, true merit will never want admirers. And let me say, that where beauty and goodness meet, as here, they adorn each other.
Agreeable Lady D- -! thought I; my heart will not suggest a thought in favour of your son; but I shall easily be in love with you. The heart hardly deserves praise, my Lucy, that is not fond of it from the worthy.
Her ladyship took Lady L aside, and said something to her. Lady L― answered with a No, as I suppose, to which Lady Dreplied, I am glad of that; adding, I am not afraid of saying anything to a person of Lady L's known prudence.
Ah! my Lucy! she asked Lady Ldare say, whether the acknowledged sisterhood extended to the brother, as a brother, or assomething else-And by her cheerful and condescending court to me afterwards, and to Mrs Reeves, was satisfied by Lady L-'s answer, I make no doubt, that there is room for Lord D———'s address, for anything on Sir Charles's part.
I will not be mean, Lucy! Greatly as I admire somebody, these excellent sisters shall not find me entangled in a hopeless passion.
Her ladyship took my hand, and led me to the window. I was brought to town, said she, on an extraordinary occasion, two days ago, and must set out on my return in the morning. I thought I would not miss the opportunity of paying my compliments to a young lady, of whom I had heard everybody speak with great commendation. I make no doubt but your good aunt Selby has-There she stopt.
My aunt has sent me up two of your ladyship's letters, and copies of her answers.
I am pleased with your frankness, my dear. It was that part of your character that engaged me. Young women, in these cases, are gene
rally either so affected, so starched, (as if they thought there were something shameful in a treaty of this kind,) or they are so awkward, that I have not patience with them. You have all the modesty-Indeed, my dear, your goodness of heart shines out in every feature of your face.
Your ladyship does me high honour.
I am pleased even with that acknowledgment. The discretion of a person is often most seen in minutenesses. Another would have made disqualifying speeches-But compliments made to the heart by one who is not accustomed to flatter; such compliments, I mean, as it would be culpable for a person not to be able to verify, should not be disclaimed. To say truth, my dear, I did not intend to mention one word of the matter to you, on this first visit. I only wanted to see you, and to converse with you a little, that I might make report accordingly to my son ; who, however, knows not that I should pay my compliments to you: but the moment I saw you, your aspect confirmed all that I had heard said in your favour; and seeing you also so much caressed by two ladies of character so established; and no less pleased with what I observed of Mr and Mrs Reeves [you are a family of good people] I was resolved to be as frank as you are, and as your aunt Selby has been-She is a good woman
Indeed, madam, she is
Accordingly, I have singled you out, in the face of everybody present.-You will have the discretion to caution them on this subject, till you have seen my son, (I am sure there can be no doubt on his side)—and till you know whether you shall approve of our proposals or not: and, without hesitation, I bespeak your good opinion of me till then. I am sure, my dear, we shall be very happy in each other. If you and my lord are happy, you and I must be so. But, when the knot is tied, I will be only your visitor, and that at your own invitation. I am thought to be a managing woman; managing women are not always the best to live with. You, I understand, are an excellent economist: [A glorious character in this age for a young woman! Persons of the highest quality ought not to think themselves above it.] One person's methods may differ from another's, yet both may be equally good, and reach the same end. My son has found the benefit of my economy; nevertheless, his wife shall not have cause to think, that, where she means well, I will prefer my methods to hers. If ever I give advice, it shall only be when you ask it; and then, if you do not take it, I will not be angry, but allow that, having weighed the matter well, you prefer your own judgment, on the best convictions. People who are to act for themselves, should be always left to judge for themselves, because they only are answerable for their own actions. You blush, my dear! I hope I don't oppress
you. I would not oppress a modesty so happily blended with frankness.
I was affected with her goodness. What an amiable frankness! O that all husbands' mothers were like your ladyship! said I.-What numbers of happy daughters-in-law would there then be, that now are not so!
Charming creature! said she. Proceed. I am glad I don't oppress you with my prate.
Oppress me, madam! You delight me ! Talk of a bad world !-I ought, I am sure, to think it a good one!—In every matronly lady I have met with a mother; in many young ladies, as those before us, sisters; in their brother, a protector. If your ladyship has not heard on what occasion, I shall be ready to acquaint you with it.
Sweet child! Charming frankness! I have seen, I have heard enough of you for my present purpose.-We will return to company.Such company as I find you in, is not to be had at all times. I will restore you to them.
But, madam, declining her leading hand-
Have you not, madam!-But your ladyship could not have received any letter from my aunt Selby-I wrote
I have not, my dear. I could not, as you say. But I shall find a letter from her, perhaps, on my return. You approve, I hope, of the proposal, if you shall have no objection to my son? My aunt, madam, will let you knowI will not have it otherwise than I wish it to be-Remember that I value you for the frankness you are praised for-A little female trifling to my son, if you will, in order to be assured of his value for you, (and men love not all halcyon courtships,) but none to me, my love. I'll assist you, and keep your counsel, in the first case, if it be necessary. He shall love you above all the women on earth, and convince you that he does, or he shall not call you his-But no female trifling to his mother, child! We women should always understand one another.
Because I would not be thought to be an insincere creature, a trifler, I think I ought to mention to your ladyship, that it would be a great, a very great, part of my happiness, to be deemed worthy of your friendship-without
Without what?-You do well, perhaps, to blush! Without what?
Without the relation-if you please.
I was confounded with her goodness, Lucy. Here, my dear, is another superior characterfancy her maiden-name was Grandison.
But I don't please. So no more of this. Let us join company. And, taking my hand with the goodness of a real mother; yet her brow a little overclouded; she made apologies to them for taking me aside; and said, she could trust to their prudence, she was sure, as they must needs guess at her view; and therefore she offered not to put a limit to their conjectures ; since
denial or evasion would but, in this case, as it generally did, defeat its own end, and strengthen what it aimed to weaken.
Is there no obtaining such a mother, thought I, without marrying Lord D-?-And should I refuse to see him, if an interview is desired, especially when Lady L has seemed to encourage the Countess to think, that Somebody has no thoughts-Indeed I don't desire that that Somebody should-If-I don't know what I was going to add to that if. But pray tell my grandmamma, that I hope her Harriet will never give her cause to lament her being entangled in a hopeless passion. No, indeed!
But, my Lucy, one silly question to you who have been a little entangled, and more happily disentangled: I catch myself of late in saying him, and he, and writing to you somebody, and such like words, instead of saying and writing boldly, as I used to do, Sir Charles, and Sir Charles Grandison; which would sound more respectfully, and yet am sure I want not respect. What is the meaning of this?-Is it a sign-Ah! my Lucy! you said you would keep a sharp look out; and did I not say I would upon myself? Surely I said truth: Surely you will think so, when you see such little silly things as these do not escape me. But when you think me too trifling, my dear, don't expose me. Don't read it out in the venerable circle. That to some may appear very weak and silly, which by others will be thought excusable, because natural. It would be wrong (as I yet never did it) to write separately to you. And what have I in my heart, were it to be laid open to all the world, that I should be-afraid-I was going to write, that I should be ashamed of? But I think I am a little ashamed, at times, for all that-Ab, Lucy! don't add," and so I ought."
Lady D- repeated her desire of being acquainted with Sir Charles. She has no daughter: so it was purely for the sake of his great character. She heard, she said, that he was the politest of brothers. That was always a good sign with her. He gives you, Miss Grandison, I am told, a great deal of his company.
Miss Grandison said, that her brother, she believed, was one of the busiest men in the kingdom, who was not engaged in public affairs; and yet the most of a family man. I endeavour, said she, to make home delightful to him. I never break in upon him when he is in his study, without leave; indeed I seldom ask it; for when he is inclined to give me his company, he sends his compliments to me, and requests, as a favour, from me, what I am always ready to consider as one done to me. And I see he loves me. He is not uneasy in my company: he comes for half an hour, and stays an hour-But don't set me into talking of him; for my heart always dilates, when I enter into the agreeable subject, and I know not where to stop.
Lady L. Charlotte is a happy girl. Miss Gr. And Lady L- is a happy woman; for he loves her as well as he loves me. Indeed he is so good as to say, (but I know it is to keep us from pulling caps,) that he knows not which he loves best: we have different qualities, he says; and he admires in each what the other has not.
Lady D. But what are his employments? What can he be so much busied in?
Miss Gr. A continual round of good offices. He has a ward. She has a large fortune. The attention he pays to her affairs takes up a good deal of his time. He is his own steward; and then he has a variety of other engagements, of which we ask him not one word; yet long to know something about them.-But this we are sure of, that, if he thinks anything will give us pleasure, we shall hear of it: if the contrary, he is as secret as the night.
Will nobody say one bad or one indifferent thing of this man, Lucy! There is no bearing these things! O, my dear, what a nobody is your poor Harriet!
Lady D. He is one of the handsomest men in England, they tell me.
Miss Gr. Sisters are not judges. They may be partial. His benignity of heart makes his face shine. Had I a lover but half as handsome as I think my brother, I should make no objection to him on account of the person.
Lady L. But he is the genteelest of men !What think you, sister Harriet? Har. "Sisters are not judges. They may be partial."
What meant Lady L
to apply to me? But I had been sometime silent. She could not mean anything: and both sisters complimented me on recognizing the relation. Lady D
asked me how long I should stay
I said, I believed not long. I had leave for three months. Those would be soon elapsed; and as my friends were so good as to be pleased with my company, I should rather choose to walk within than step out of my limits.
The Countess, with a nod of approbation, said, With good young people it will be always so: and this is more praiseworthy in Miss Byron, as she may do what she pleases.
Then taking me a little aside—I hope, my dear, you meant nothing contrary to my wishes, when you referred, in so doubtful a manner, to what you had written to your aunt? You don't answer me! This is a call upon your frankness. Women, when anything is depending, on which they have set their hearts, are impatient-Don't you know that?-They love not suspense.
It is painful to me, madam, to decline a proposal that would give me a relation to so excellent a lady-But
But what, my dear?-Let not maidenly affec
tation step in with its cold water. You are above it. Woman to woman, daughter to motherYou are above it.
Then, turning to the ladies, and to my cousins-You don't know, any of you, (we are by ourselves,) that Miss Byron's heart is engaged? Miss Grandison, let me apply to you: maiden ladies open their hearts to one another. Know you whether Miss Byron has yet seen the man to whom she wishes to give her hand? Her aunt Selby writes to me, that she has not.
Miss Gr. We young women, madam, often know least of our own hearts. We are almost as unwilling to find out ourselves, in certain cases, as to be found out by others. Speak, sister Harriet: answer for yourself.
Was not this grievous, Lucy? And yet what ailed me, that I could not speak without hesitation! But this lady's condescending goodness -Yet this wicked Sir Hargrave! His attempt, his cruel treatment of me, has made me quite another creature than I was.]
My aunt Selby, madam, wrote the truth. To say I wish not to marry for some time to come, may sound like an affectation, because I have ever honoured the state-But something has happened that has put me out of conceit with myself, and with men too.
Lady D. With all men, child?—I will allow for a great many things in a weak mind, that I will not in yours. I have had a hint or two about an insult, or I know not what, from Sir Hargrave Pollexfen, since I came to town; for I have asked after you, my dear: but what is that but a confirmation of your merits? What a disagreeable woman must she be, whom but one man in the world could like!
But excuse me, Miss Byron, I have said abundance of impertinent things: I have gone farther on this first visit than I intended. You must thank for this that ingenuous and open countenance, which confirms, at first sight, the character I had heard given by everybody who spoke of you. I shall see, perhaps, what your aunt Selby, to whom you refer, writes, when I get down. I shall soon be in town, as I said, for the rest of the winter; and then I will make myself mistress of your whole history from these ladies, and from yourself: and there shall end all my inquiries, and, I hope, all my solicitudes, on an article that is next my heart.-Meantime, adieu, my dear-Adieu.
She then, courtesying to all round, gave her hand to Mr Reeves, who led her to her chair; leaving us all full of her praises.
Miss Gr. Looking archly I say nothing as to her particular errand, because I would not be too curious; and because you ask me no questions, Harriet.
Lady L. This must do, Miss Byron: who would not wish for such a mother?
Har. Is the mother to be the principal inducement in such an article as this?
Miss Gr. Why, my dear, do you pretend in such an age of petits-maîtres, to live single, till you meet with a man who deserves you ?-But, Harriet, you must voluntarily open your heart to me. I have a good deal of curiosity; and, whenever you are disposed to gratify it, will not withdraw my attention.
Har. I will read to you this moment, if you please, ladies, as to my sisters, what Lady Dwrote to my aunt Selby; and what my aunt answered on the occasion.
Miss Gr. That's my best Harriet! I love to hear how and everything about these sort of matters. Lady L. These girls, Mrs Reeves, delight in love subjects: there is a kind of enthusiasm in these matters that runs away with them.
Miss Gr. Say you so, Lady L-? And pray had you ever any of this enthusiasm? And if you had, did matrimony cure you of it?— See, Harriet! My sister has not been married many months; yet how quietly she now talks of the enthusiasm of love to us maidens !-Ah! my dear Lady L-! women, I see, have their free-masonry, as well as men! Don't you think so, Mrs Reeves? A poor secret after all, I believe, on both sides, whispered the lively lady; but loud enough for every one to hear what she
Lady L-called her a mad girl. But let us be favoured, said she to me, with your communications.
I pulled out the letters. I read the two first paragraphs in my aunt's letter to me, entire; for they propose the matter, and nothing else.
What follows, said I, is full of love and care, and so forth; but here is one paragraph more 1 can read to you.
Miss Gr. As much reserve as you please, sister Harriet. I am learning how to deal with you.
Lady L. Why that, Charlotte? No fear that you will tell us more than you have a mind we should know. Regard not, therefore, this threatening, Miss Byron.
Har. To own the truth, I cannot read everything my aunt writes: but the Countess of D's proposal, and what relates to that, I will read, if you please.
Miss Gr. What you will-Read what you will. I find we are not at present so well acquainted, as we shall be hereafter.
What could Miss Grandison mean by that? I read the last paragraph but one, in which my aunt proposes my coming down; and that I will either encourage the Countess's proposal, or accept of Mr Orme; ending with the earnest desire of my friends to have me married.
I then gave into Miss Grandison's hands the Countess's first letter; and she read it out.
She gave it me back, and thanked me. Were all women, said she, capable of acting thus frankly, the sex would leave affectation to the men-monkeys. Remember, Harriet, that your
openness of heart is one of the graces for which I principally admire you.
Lady L. O the rogue! Take care of her, Miss Byron! She tells you this, to get out of you all
Har. Miss Grandison may easily obtain her end, madam. She need only tell me what she best likes I should be; and I must try to be that.
Miss Gr. Good girl! And take this along with you; that when you convince me, that you will not hide, I will convince you, that I will not seek. But what is next?
I then gave into her hand the copy of my aunt Selby's answer.
Miss Gr. May I read it all?
Har. If you please: the fondness of my aunt, and the partiality of———
Miss Gr. Away, away, Harriet !—No affectation, child!
She read it out. Both sisters praised the heart of the dear and thrice indulgent writer; and called her their aunt Selby.
I then gave Miss Grandison the Countess's second letter. They were no less pleased with that than with the first.
Miss Gr. But now your opinion of the proposal, child? Will you trust us with that? Have you a copy of what you wrote ?
Har. I kept a copy only of what immediately respected the proposal; and that, because it was possible I might want to have recourse to it, as my aunt might, or might not, write farther about it. I took it out of my pocket-book, and gave it to her to read.
Thank you, child, said she: I should have no curiosity if I did not love you.
She read it out. It was the paragraph that begins with, "You will, upon the strength of what I have said," &c.-ending with, "Such is my meaning."-Luckily, I had not transcribed the concluding sentence of that paragraph; having been ashamed of the odd words, hope of your hope.
Lady L. But why should that be your meaning, my dear?
Har. I added, I remember, that I was pained by the teazings of these men, one after another; that I never took delight in the airy adulation; and was now the more pained, because of the vile attempt of Sir Hargrave, which had given me a surfeit of the sex.
Miss Gr. A temporary surfeit! it is over, I hope, by this time. But, my dear—And yet, as I owe to your generosity the communication, I would not take occasion from it to teaze you
Har. Miss Grandison will oblige me, say what she pleases.
Miss Gr. As you intend to marry-As your friends are very desirous that you should-As Lady D is an excellent woman-As her son is, as men go, a tolerable man-As he is a peer of the realm; which is something in the scale, though it is not of weight, singly considered
As his estate is very considerable-As you may have your own terms-As you like not any one of your numerous admirers:-All these as's considered, why, why, in the name of goodness, should you give so flat a denial? Yet have not seen the gentleman, and therefore can have no dislike either to his sense or his person? I wish, my dear, you would give such a reason for your denial, a denial so strongly expressed, as one would imagine such a woman as the Countess of Dwould be satisfied with, from such a one as Miss Byron.
Lady L. Perhaps, now that Miss Byron has seen what a lady the Countess of DisMiss Gr. And now that she has overcome the temporary surfeit
Lady L. She will change her mind.
[Are you not, my dear aunt Selby, are you not, my Lucy, distressed for me at this place? I was at the time greatly so for myself.
Har. My mind has been disturbed by Sir Hargrave's violence; and by apprehensions of fatal mischiefs that might too probably have followed the generous protection given me : wonder not, therefore, ladies, if I am unable, on a sudden, to give such reasons for having refused to listen to Lady D's proposal, as you require; although, at the same time, I find not in my heart the least inclination to encourage it.
Miss Gr. You have had your difficulties of late, my Harriet, to contend with: and those you must look upon as a tax to be paid by a merit so conspicuous. Even in this slighter case, as you love to oblige, I can pity you for the situation you are likely to be in, betwixt the refused son and the deserving mother. But when you consider, that the plagues of the discreet proceed from other people, those of the indiscreet from themselves, you will sit down with a just compliment to yourself, and be content. You see I can be grave now and then, child.
Har. May I deserve to be called prudent and discreet! On that condition I am willing to incur the penalty.
Lady L. Come, come; that is out of the question, my dear: so you are contented of course, or in the way to be so.
The ladies took their leave, and seemed pleased with their visit.
It is now, my dear friends, somehow or other, become necessary, I think, to let you minutely into my situation, that you may advise, caution, and instruct me-For, I protest, I am in a sort of wilderness.-Pray, my Lucy, tell me-But it cannot be from love: so I don't care-Yet to lie under such a weight of obligation; and to find myself so much surpassed by these ladies
-Yet it is not from envy, surely: that is a very bad passion. I hope my bosom has not a place in it for such a mean self-tormentor. Can it