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valued as her dearest possession; but lady Louisa's words had robbed her of this last resource, and she experienced, for the first time, the painful and humiliating feeling of self-condemnation.
Early in life cut off from all her natural connexions, Geraldine had acquired from necessity a degree of self-possession and firmness of character not usual at her age. Soon wiping the tears from her eyes, , she at once determined on the course to pursue. Lady Louisa had left a painful impression on her mind, and revived certain anxious doubts and misgivings which had never wholly left her. There was one person in the house who alone could confirm or dispel these impressions, and to that person she resolved, without delay, to apply. She was prevented from the necessity of seeking her, by the appearance, at this moment, of the woman in question.
This was Katherine Lawless, an ancient gentlewoman, whom I shall take this op
portunity of introducing to the reader. She might be said to be of the class well known in Ireland by the name of “ould followers,” and enjoyed a sort of sinecure place in the Southwell family, which she contrived to render not absolutely insignicant, by censuring freely, and exercising a great control over, the conduct of the other domestics, Katherine Lawless (or, as she was more respectfully styled, Mrs. Lawless) had been originally the nurse, and afterwards the attendant, of Geraldine's mother, in whose service she had afterwards lived three years, as the nurse of Geraldine herself, and had finally been transferred to the household of lady Louisa Southwell, at the period that the little girl was consigned wholly to her ladyship's
The particulars of the death of Geraldine's parents, which was said to have taken place within so short à period of each other, and the cause of sir Charles and lady Louisa's adoption of the little orphan, were circumstances well known, but wever alluded to, by Katherine Lawless. This silence was the more extraordinary, when we consider the pretensions to rank and antiquity she claimed for “ the family," and the pleasure she took in talking of all the other branches of it. Perhaps she thought Geraldine too young to be trusted with the secret, as she never seemed to remember that her darling child was grown a year older since the time she was, at seven years of age, sent from her hospitable home at Meadowscourt, to the almost as hospitable care of Mrs. Melmoth.
-“ What ails my darling ?” exclaimed Lawless, observing the traces of tears on Geraldine's eyes: “ has any of them been after vexing my jewel ?”
“ It is something in which you can relieve me, Katherine,” answered Geraldine; “ for which reason I am desirous of some serious conversation with you."
The light blue eyes of Katherine Lawless rolled with a look of wild inquiry at this exordium, while an expression of ear
nest and eager solicitude was visible in her furrowed face.
Geraldine, now she had obtained her wish, felt at a loss how to begin. She strengthened herself with recalling to mind how often she had anticipated and earnestly desired this now-dreaded explanation. She mentally repeated lady Louisa's painfully-remembered words.—“ It is impossible you can be thoroughly sensible of what momentous importance, in your individual instance, is the observance of the strictest discretion and decorum.” These seemed to allude to some fatally-remembered error on her side of the family, which must ever put her own propriety of conduct in doubt, and to which she might, perhaps with truth, ascribe several petty slights and mortifications she received in private from Miss Southwell.—“My good Lawless,” at length she said, “ if I have been weeping, it was because I could not forbear reflecting on my singular, my unexampled situation. I am of good family
and fortune, yet I live among my relations as among strangers, and never hear my lost parents mentioned or lamented. After having the misfortune to lose those parents, instead of being permitted to pass my childhood with my friends and relatives, I was sent, after four years nurture at Meadowscourt, to a school in another kingdom, from which period I knew nothing of home but occasional letters, and I was kept there, at a distance from my family connexions, for nearly twelve years. Katherine, you nursed not only me, but my mother. I could now bear to hear, and wish to be acquainted with, every particular relating to her. Do, nurse Lawless,” continued Geraldine, putting one lovely arm round her neck, and speaking with that caressing tone and manner which, in her, was generally irresistible, * tell me the true story of the family:I have longed-oh, how anxiously longed, to hear it !” She paused, terrified at the effect of G 5