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Desborough warned me, with the agonizing solicitude a parent can only knowwarned me against the dangerous character of sir Charles Southwell. But what will not a woman hope who loves ? I anticipated every thing from the apparently-ingenuous disposition and fine understanding of my lover. Could I foresee that so many good qualities should be rendered utterly nugatory by a total want of principle? for sir Charles certainly possesses liberality, spirit, and one of the sweetest tempers ever man was blessed with.”
“ Who shall dare hope for happiness in marriage, if you have missed it ?” Geraldine replied. May I never be tempted by another sir Charles to risk my present tranquil felicity! How far preferable to be possessed of an independent will—to associate myself to the charities of my
beloved, my respected friend-like her, to devote a part of my fortune to doing good, H 2
and to find my reward in the gratitude and affection I inspire!"
Lady Louisa smiled, sighed, and shook her head; then, in a more lively tone, resumed“ No, no, my little friend, I do not aim to be the foundress of a nunnery; nor have I, on account of my own indi. vidual disappointment, despaired of domestic happiness; for many is the match I have promoted. Nay, don't start—it is in a sphere a little below yours, yet far above those commonly considered the only subjects for benevolence. struggling, professional young men—how many well - brought-up, but portionless young women, might, were the dread of actual difficulties removed, ratify engagements formed in happier days, before time and adversity have chilled the genial current of affection! It has been my pleasure to remove such difficulties. In Ireland a small sum will often do it. That vain, silly creature, Olivia Pendennis, gives
me some uneasiness: I once had hopes Mr. Kilmory would have taken a liking to her ; but I verily believe the men are as much frightened by her folly as attracted by her coquetry. The creature is a flippant idiot; but she has beauty, and beauty-beauty, from the Castle to the cottage, has ever been the object of sir Charles's pursuit. You will perhaps imagine that jealousy dictates my fears; but it is many years since I have suffered the tortures of that heart-corroding passion. The calm contempt into which my feelings towards him have subsided does not, however, exonerate me from the duty of watching over the young females thrown within the sphere of my influence.”
Here the conversation ended; and Geraldine, though flattered by the demi-confidence reposed in her by lady Louisa, experienced an inexplicable feeling of disappointment that it had not been more complete. The discourse had suddenly changed, she knew not exactly how, from H 3
the subject of Montfort's departure, to lady Louisa's secret wrongs.
Geraldine would rather her ladyship had been more explicit on the former topic; but she had reason afterwards to believe that, little as lady Louisa had said upon it, she would hereafter be still more guarded. She observed her ladyship receiving letters that she conjectured to be from Montfort, and concluded, from the increased reserve of lady Louisa, that the turn his affairs had taken demanded increased circumspection and caution. The friendship with which she treated her could not, however, but be highly gratifying to Geraldine. She felt as if life was invested with an additional interest, and, în contemplating the workings of this extraordinary character, expe. rienced how much more attachment depends upon the qualities of the heart and mind than on similarity of age.
To return to the scene in which we left Miss Southwell presiding, and where Cobham Pendennis, labouring to acquire those graces that he trusted would please his mistress, might literally be said to realize the expression, “ moved, native awkwardness, on two left legs.” In executing the Lancer's set, a paper dropped out of his pocket, which lay on the floor unobserved till the quadrille was over, and then was picked up by Miss O'Reilly. Some persons would have thought there was nothing to be done with such a document but to return it, on the first opportunity, to its rightful owner; but such scrupulosity never entered into the catalogue of Miss Dora O'Reilly's virtues. Delighted, on the contrary, to have found a moment's amusement for Miss Southwell, she locked herself in with her friend, and hastily proceeded to unfold the paper. It proved to be an unfinished letter, addressed to a friend. “ Come now, we will see what he says of us all,” said Miss O'Reilly.