Imágenes de páginas


market for a twelvemonth: and onward twenty or thirty years, and then come smaller parties, and im- imagine her then as Colonel Dashpromptu teas, and dinners, and all wood was at present; performing the reckless expenditures that wo- all expedient duties well, and digestmen abandon themselves to, when ing her dinner, and living within once you give them their head at all. her income, and caring very little When Colonel Dashwood pondered for anything beyond her own case, over these things, and saw that his and being very well thought of indaughters managed to be invited out deed by the world at large. and admired merely on the strength Was she upright? was she conof their own good looks, and one scientious ? No one living—no, inexpensive, semi-polemical 'At not herself-ever knew as much as Home' a year-I repeat it, I can that of Millicent Dashwood. Comquite believe he felt duly thankful mon sense and thorough selfishness for the nerves and views, and blessed and a cool temperament kept her, saving of money generally, that the as they keep hundreds like hersecond Mrs. Dashwood, together from ever infringing any law, the with her nice little fortune of so infringement of which should entail many thousand pounds, had brought penalty on herself

. She simply did to him.

not know the meaning of refined or But Jane and Milly saw in their fierce temptation, and consequently father's ready submission to his it was impossible for her to be wife's wishes only another cause of tempted beyond her power of resistrighteous detestation to their step

Jane's sensitive organization mother, another element of discord and utter deficiency of moral in their loveless, disunited home. strength made her whole life a series All the practical efforts of Mrs. of struggles and failures; of strug. Dashwood's religion, were, as far as gles against conditions and temptathey were concerned, deprivation of tions too strong for her; of surrenthe things they cared for. All ders to things which, even while Colonel Dashwood's philanthropy they conquered her, she had enough (and he

very philanthro- nobility of soul to revolt from and pical-took chairs at meetings, and despise. And Milly, like the true made long twaddling speeches little Pharisee that she was, already after the manner of his kind) was indulged in much secret thankfulput off, his children said, on the ness to Providence that she was not threshold of his own house, and as poor dear Jenny in her frequent never extended to them. As Esther short-comings, and spasmodic engot to know more of their home and deavours after impossible perfection. of their training, she wondered less The fact was, no real moral disciand less at the scanty affection be- pline in childhood had fitted Jane stowed by the Dashwood girls upon Dashwood either for the temptations the members of their own family, or the weariness of ordinary human and at the cool and systematic deceit life. Mrs. Dashwood, in accordance existing between every one of the with the traditions of her class, had entire household towards the rest. early talked a great deal to her stepUpon Milly, faulty though she was, daughters about their sins, and her bringing up had exercised a less spiritual helplessness, and need of powerful influence for bad than upon repentance and forgiveness; and Jane. Millicent Dashwood's, like Millicent, by the time she was eight her father's, was a temperament years old, had improved so much precisely fitted for extracting the upon her instructions as to be able greatest possible amount of personal to mourn, in the orthodox, casuistic gratification, and the very smallest argot, over all the iniquities of her of personal suffering, out of any childish days, and obtain little position of life in which she might prizes of tracts and picture cards as find herself placed. Her loves, her a recompense for the sensitiveness sympathies, her dislikes, were all of of her conscience. But Jane could the same moderate and prudent not play fast and loose with her own temperature. You could just look soul, even then. She could no more


And pro

you would

lament over unfelt sins than she and trust to their early-instilled uncould steal the almonds and raisins reasoning reverence for church and from the sideboard, and go to sleep Sunday, and their Bibles, to keep half an hour afterwards unhaunted them right in theology. by remorse, like Milly. Whatever bably her theory was as right as any she felt was real: and so, as she theory of education ever can be ; faithfully believed all that she was Esther's nature, at all events, had told in such matters, her conscience not developed badly under it. became really excited into precocious

"You would be better if you and unnatural sensitiveness. She thought less about yourself. altothought herself fallen and lost, and gether, Jane,' she would answer she preferred despairing hymns to when Miss Dashwood had been story books, and she heard mysteri- mourning over the decay of her ous calls and voices, and sustained repenting powers. 'I am not at all raptures and trances.

sure you don't at heart like the senAnd so I got used up in reli- sation of being wicked. Self-analygious feeling, as I am now in every- zation, as you call it, may be a very thing else,' she said to Esther, once. fine and useful exercise, but I can't 'I do things that I ought to repent help thinking that for, as I repented then, and I can't. just give up Airting with Arthur All the straining after repentance Peel, and not seek so many occabefore I really knew what wrong sions of falling, it would be more was seems to have exhausted my

to the purpose. repenting powers for life.'

Esther did not know then how She was mistaken in this, as her near poor Jane's heart her foolish constant fits of self-upbraiding passion lay. When she found what proved. Her temperament was too the girl's love for Arthur Peel acute a one for even Mrs. Dashwood's really was, she could never bring training to have wholly deadened her lips to say anything harsh or its capacities for suffering. But her strong-minded upon the subject repentances were still merely emo- again. tional, like those she had played at when she was a child: passionate revulsions of feeling bearing no fruit whatsoever beyond present

CHAPTER XXI. tears and speedy longings after re

FIFTY THOUSAND POUNDS. newed and stronger excitement.

Esther Fleming was the first per- One morning early, Miss Dashson she had known in whom her wood came round alone to ask feverish unsettled spirit could find Esther to walk with her. Milly had anything like repose. Esther was so gone to spend the day with some little excitable, so strong, so rarely friends of her own, and Jane felt a moved! Everything she said and strong inclination for a quiet country felt was so real, so unlike the senti- walk; besides, she added, she had ments developed in the Dashwood something very particular indeed, atmosphere. Religion with her had that she wished to talk to Miss been, as a little child, to learn her Fleming about; something concernlessons, to weed the garden, to mend ing which she desired especially to her clothes, to go to church, to obey. ask Miss Fleming's opinion. Miss Joan abhorred questioning * You must give me yours on children about their feelings; 'fos- something equally important to me,' tering their vanity, and training said Esther. I have had an invitathem to be hypocrites, as though tion this morning to a party at Mrs. that won't come fast enough with- Strangways for next Thursday, and out any assistance of ours.' She Aunt Thalia and I cannot decide held that the only way to train them whether I shall accept it or not.' was to bring them up in stern • Paul will be there,' said Jano, obedience to all natural law, moral laconically. 'I had a note from and physical, to make them tem- him this morning, to say that he perate, enduring, self-reliant, strong; will return to Bath next week.'

‘And is Mr. Chichester sure to be Your 'aunt is right, Esther; all at any party given by Mrs. Strang- the town is mentioning their names ways, Jane?'

together. I know, of course, that • Quite certain, Esther—under there is nothing in it; how can there some circumstances. There will be be? the very idea is preposterous; people at Mrs. Strangways' house on but still it makes me sick and mise Thursday whom Mr. Chichester rable even to hear his name spoken cares to meet.'

of with any other woman's. That's 'I am sure everybody seems to be what I want to talk to you about. taking up with Mrs. Strangways We'll not walk in the town, we'll now, cried Miss Whitty, who was go away through the park to the busily disrobing Mrs. Tudor's chan- common, where we shall meet nodeliers for an approaching tea-party. body, unless, indeed, we are lucky • Whom do you think I saw with enough to fall in with that ridingher this morning, Miss Dashwood ?'. party Miss Whitty told us of.' And

Oh! I am sure I don't know,' then Jane laughed rather bitanswered Jane, turning sharply terly. away.

The ordinary Dashwood idea of Why, Miss Lynesthe Miss a walk consisted in making the Lynes—the heiress, and Mrs. Strang- greatest number of turns that were ways, and Mr. Peel was with them, on possible, without being actually horseback. I was coming back from notorious, before the club-house, and my little early walk on the common, up and down the principal gangways and I knew who it was directly, of Bath; and Esther felt a good though I've not been introduced. deal relieved that for once they were Miss Lynes's face is so familiar to to go away into the country and me from her likeness to her uncle, be spared the manœuvring which Sir Samuel Lynes, whom I've played walking for two consecutive hours with scores and scores of times along three streets demands. It when I was a child.' (It was a was a clear, still day of late autumn; peculiarity of Miss Whitty's to have the air summer-like, but for its inplayed with everybody when she tense stillness and fragrance from was a child: knights, baronets, the dying woods; the colouring on poets-laureate, generals, dukes; the surrounding amphitheatre of nothing short of royalty stopped bills full of those tender hues of her.) And most surprised I was, russet-gold and delicate greys which dearest Mrs. Tudor, I can assure render some mornings in December you, to see Sir Samuel's niece in fairer than all the brightest days of such company.'

May or June. * Then your surprise was very 'Bath is a beautiful place,' Esther ill-placed, Miss Whitty,' replied Mrs. remarked as they turned in the Tudor. A clothier's niece

upper park to look back across the "Oh, dear mim! an army agent's—' town. If I was condemned to live

'An army agent's, a clothier's, a in any city all my life, I think I tailor's niece, like Miss Lynes, may would choose this.' be well content that her fifty thou- *And I would sooner choose any sand pounds have brought her at all other in the inhabited world,' said into the society of gentlemen and Miss Dashwood. 'I hate, I detest, ladies. Mr. Peel means to marry I loathe Bath-Bath, and its people the young woman, I hear, and, con- too.' sidering the family of ruined spend- The people you have spent all thrifts he belongs to, 'tis about the your life among, Jane?' best thing for him to do.'

* The people I have spent all my Esther saw that Miss Dashwood life among, Esther. Leaving out writhed visibly under Mrs. Tudor's papa and Milly, I shouldn't shed a last words, and began to talk of tear at all the people I know in Bath other things as soon as they left the being swallowed up by an earthhouse; but Jane, of her own will, quake at this moment.' recurred at once to the theme of 'The riding party on the common Arthur Peel and Miss Lynes. excepted, of course.'

[ocr errors]

* Arthur Peel excepted; the other would never be happy unless you two might share the general fate, did respect him.' for any wish of mine to the contrary. 'Shall I tell you what I think of Not that either of them have injured that style of moral sentiment, me, or have it in their power to

Esther? I think, like all copy-book injure me,' she added quickly. things, it means nothing whatever. • Mrs. Strangways detests me, but No pretty little axioms can fit everyas to poor Miss Lynes, with her body; good and bad, passionate and great fat white lymphatic face, I phlegmatic, alike. Respect and shouldn't think it was in her to like esteem may be necessary elements or dislike anyone; and I am sure I to some people's love; they are not could never have the slightest feeling to mine. I can love without either.' of either kind towards her.'

'I spoke of happiness, Jane.' 'And are you sure that Mrs. * And love is happiness. When I Strangways does detest you, Jane? am married to Arthur, I shall be She is always wanting you to be happy, whatever he is, whatever he with her; she is dreadfully affec- has been. It is just the one subject tionate to you in her manner. What in which reason does not enter, you can you have ever done to make her see, Miss Fleming. I suppose you detest you as you say she does ?' allow that?'

‘Not any one particular action, '1-I don't think I know much perhaps. It is not one great pal- about very passionate love,' said pable injury, but a series of small Esther; and recollecting her numerivalries, that make dear friends like rous remarkably cool judgments upon Mrs. Strangways and me detest each the defects in Oliver's character, the other. I am a dozen years younger truth was borne in upon her, not than she is -men ask me to dance without a sense of shame, that Jane's oftener than they do her. She can attachment, hopeless and misplaced look back upon scores of times when though it might be, had yet stronger my vanity has been gratified at the vitality, more of the genuine eleexpense of hers. Paul Chichester, ment of love in it than hers. 'I who would not under any condi. don't think I know much about tions pay her attention, became my passionate love, except what I have friend the first day he saw me. Are heard, and read in books. I think, not these sufficient reasons for her now, that I could always reason, to hate me?'

whatever I might feel.' *And yet she always wishes you 'And pray to Heaven that you to be with her.'

may always feel so!' cried Miss Oh, yes, she has got to the point Dashwood. Pray that you may where rival aid has to be called in. never love any human being better A humiliating point that, Esther, than yourself; above all, that you eh? I wonder when I am thirty may never commit the desperate whether I shall be what Mrs. Strang- folly of staking your hopes of ways is now?'

happiness upon the miserable chance God forbid, Jane,' said Esther. of any man's heart being as stable 'I hope you will be happily married,

as your own.' and caring nothing for balls and * Have you done that, Jane ?' parties long before then.'

Have I not done it? you should • Married-to whom?'

say. Am I not giving up the best Esther hesitated. Miss Dash- years of my life, giving up all other wood's position as nominally en- prospects or hopes; am I not ready gaged to one man, and uncondi- to sacrifice everything-my own tionally in love with another, made soul if it would help him—to Arthur the question a rather difficult one Peel! and how does he return it to answer.

all? Don't speak, please, don't say ‘Married to whom? repeated anything; I can bear to say these Jane. "Speak out, Esther, I want things, but not to hear them said. to have your opinion.'

Does Arthur really love me, Esther? 'I hope you will be married to a He must do that;' she turned her man you can respect, Jane. You face, white and excited, to Esther;

[ocr errors]

'he must do that,' she repeated and see Arthur, and write to him as passionately. "Men are not like much as I choose. And Mr. Peel women, of course: they require himself is regarded as so perfectly excitement, amusement, a thousand free, that all the world set him down things that look like infidelity, yet as about to marry Miss Lynes.' are not really so. Arthur's whole ‘But if I were in your place I life is spent in committing actions don't think I should like such perthat make me miserable, and still, fect liberty as that.' at heart, I know he loves me. Why, *You wouldn't care if you knew, just think how long our engagement as I do, that all these reports are has been going on-three years! utterly malignant and preposIt makes me old to think of it.' terous,' exclaimed Miss Dashwood.

* Engagement! I never knew be- * Arthur marry Miss Lynes! with fore that there was anything like an his fastidious tastes and admiration engagement in the case,' said Esther, of refinement! I should like you with a feeling of more interest in to see her, Esther; I should only Jane's love affairs than she had ever like you once to see her! You known before. “Do you mean me to wouldn't be so desperately sure of think that you are actually engaged her becoming my rival, if you did.' to be married to Mr. Peel?

Miss Dashwood's wish was desWell, yes. I don't see the good tined to be accomplished. Almost of making any more half-confi- while the words were yet on her dences. In our way, Arthur and I lips, a sharp turn in the path are engaged.'

brought them in full sight of three "Oh, Jane! and I have laughed at people on horseback, who had just you about it, and said such things turned into the upper park from the about Mr. Peel! How I wish you common, and Esther recognised inhad told me all from the first !' stantly that two of the three were

'Never mind,' cried Miss Dash- Mrs. Strangways and Mr. Peel. wood, with rather a forced laugh. 'A most extraordinary coinci*You need not take it so dreadfully dence, as your friend Miss Whitty au sérieur. I said we were engaged

Esther. Please talk in one way, and our way would not away to me, and let us have the be yours, Esther. I amuse myself manner of being unconcerned as pretty well, as you see, in this odious

we pass. Mrs. Strangways and that life of ours at Bath, and I dare say —that other person will be hoping Arthur pines no more than other to see me look annoyed: but they young Guardsmen pine in London.

will be disappointed. Do look at Whatever you have said is not half the heiress's figure! Arthur likes so bad as what people in general say delicate mignon lines—must not of both of us.'

that waist be fearfully seductive to But people in general don't know him?' that you are engaged to each other, Miss Dashwood tried hard to I suppose.

make her manner natural, and pro‘Not now. My little attentions bably succeeded well enough to to Paul have drawn others as well prevent Mrs. Strangways and that as papa on the wrong scent, as I —that other person from detecting meant them to do. Very good- the effort; but Arthur Peel knew, natured of Paul to help me out so long before they reached her, what well, wasn't it?'

kind of feelings were masked by 'I don't know, Jane. I am dense Jane's smiling face and ringing in such matters. I don't quite

I don't quite laugh. He felt horribly ill at ease understand the advantage of it.' himself. Women can carry off such

'It is very simple. Papa thinks a situation readily enough : indeed, I I am safe, and does not watch me. have known some of them, who are Mrs. Dashwood thinks some one is never so thoroughly natural, and in really going to be fool enough to their element, as when they have to take me off her hands, and abstains play one lover off against another, occasionally from bullying me. doling out equal hope to both, and Between them I get my freedom, utter despair to neither. But

would say,

« AnteriorContinuar »