Imágenes de páginas

of Mrs. Dallocourt's resolute attempts to make Miss Dobson talk -Miss Dobson originated!

It was during a waltz which Matilda was not dancing. She had left the seat to which she had been conducted by her last partner, because she felt a draught, and had directed her steps towards a sofa near the fire, to which by a curious coincidence, Mrs. Dallocourt, coming from an opposite direction, was then making her way. The two ladies sat down together.

"It seems to me--" began Miss Dobson.

Mrs. Dallocourt looked quickly at her, and dissembled with considerable difficulty the astonishment which those words had occasioned. What could possibly seem to Miss Dobson? what brilliant inspiration could have seized her? what luminous idea could have inspired her? what could have induced that tranquil tongue, that tongue which so loved repose, which so scorned the labour of chit-chat, thus unsolicited to give its utterances to society? The lady of the cottage, bewildered by her own achievement, could scarcely believe in its reality. Was she indeed reaping the fruits of her hard night's work? and were her painstaking endeavours to be rewarded with a crown of success? Yes, there could be no

doubt about it; the great and mighty idea just conceived in Miss Dobson's brain would, in all human probability, have been lost to the world, had it not been for that persevering labour. Mrs. Dallocourt's soul cried out, "Hurrah!" while she constrained her silent lips to smile a conventional smile.

"It seems to me," said Miss Dobson-and as though disturbed by a consciousness of uncalled-for communicativeness she played uneasily with the rings upon her fingers" It seems to me," she said, "that you and I sit very often together."

After that-after that brilliant colloquial effort things went on swimmingly. The two ladies were all but inseparable during the remainder of the evening, and Mrs. Dallocourt told her son, the next day, that she considered Matilda Dobson an eminently agreeable and well-informed girl.

"Do you really?" cried Leonard, astonishment depicted upon every feature; "do you really, though? But she is so unconscionably dull!"

"She is a dark diamond," answered Mrs. Dallocourt. "I assure you, Leonard, she is a dark diamond."

"A preciously dark one," responded Leonard; "so dark, that one would have to look at her through strong barnacles and magnify. ing glass into the bargain, to discover that she was a diamond at all. I danced three dances with her, and I never found it out." "There is a great deal of modest reserve about her. It is better for a young lady to be too reserved, than too forward," remarked

Mrs. Dallocourt, dogmatically; and Leonard remained silent, listening for what was to come next. Whenever his mother gave utterance to a wise saw, or a time-honoured maxim, he knew it to be a sure sign that something more startling was coming; so he made no answer to that observation respecting the manners of young ladies, but waited for what was to follow.

It came in the shape of an announcement from Mrs. Dallocourt, that she had invited Miss Dobson, with her aunt and cousins, to coffee and conversation at the cottage ornée, upon an early day in the ensuing week.

"We must ask a few people to meet them," said she; “and I think, that with the aid of music and charades we shall be able to pass a very pleasant evening, although our rooms are too small for dancing. I really hope, Leonard, you will do your utmost to make yourself agreeable to Miss Dobson, as well as to overcome any prejudice you may entertain respecting her. It may be more to your future advantage than you appear to have the slightest idea." And then she unfolded to him the notable scheme which had been brewing in her brain for the last three months.

In those lofty chateaux en Espagne by the construction of which the Royal Arms had been so greatly hindered in obtaining their background, Leonard figured as Squire Dobson's son-in-law, as master of Loughborogh Grange, as a Justice of the Peace for the county, as an M.P., as a popular orator, as goodness knows what besides; the chateaux towered story above story, till their battlements were lost in view; and Leonard, listening to the destiny he was requested to accomplish, felt overpowered by the consciousness of his insufficiency.

"You expect more from me than I have ever given you cause to do," he said at length, after having repeatedly expressed his disapprobation, and having been as often out-argued by his mother. "I am a goose, and you would make me a swan. I don't at all object to being a goose-not a bit of it-I am perfectly contented with that character, and if I may one day be considered a good goose my highest ambition will be satisfied; but it is too bad of you to try and make me a swan.'

[ocr errors]

"Ce ne'est que le premier pas qui coûte," cried Mrs. Dallocourt, resorting to a foreign language in despair at the insufficiency of her own. "When once you have married Matilda Dobson the rest will be as easy as A B C."

"Leonard did not see it; but this downright mention of Maltilda Dobson brought his thoughts from the distant future to the consideration of the future that was at hand.

"Even if I wanted to marry her," said he, "I am sure I don't know how I should set about it. It strikes me she would be a very

difficult person to make love to; and then, you know, there's her father. I tell you what it is, mother: you'll set your foot in it before you have done. You will send me to that flounder too often."

He was not prepared for the vehement burst of passion which answered his careless, half-laughing rejoinder. Speaking partly in jest himself, hardly realising that there was anything serious in the matter, he was taken by surprise by the working features, the fervid words, which showed how really and truly his mother was in earnest. There were tears in Mrs. Dallocourt's eyes as she deprecated the ridicule he had cast upon her proposal.


"It was not for this," she cried, "it was not to be laughed at as a simpleton, and to be talked about flounders and fairy-tale nonsense that I have laid awake night after night, thinking of nothing in the world but you, and watching for an opportunity to advance your interests. You must be ungrateful indeed, Leonard, you thus scoff at my most cherished wishes without even taking the trouble of considering them seriously. Heaven knows I have no desire to be counted amongst those who would recklessly pursue their own ends regardless of the feelings and predilections of others; and if you can lay your hand upon your heart and declare in all honour and sincerity that such is your dislike to Matilda Dobson, and such your distaste for that modest reserve which appears to be her second nature-I might almost say her first-if, I say, you can lay your hand upon your heart, and conscientiously declare that such is the effect of these things upon you, that you feel an inward conviction that the match I propose would be an unhappy one, then I will say no more about it; I will close my lips upon that subject for ever, and resign myself to the disappointment in silence. But I tell you plainly that the disappointment would be very great; and I do think that I have a right to expect that in the first place you will think upon the matter gravely, and not mix up subjects which are of the greatest importance with absurd talk about fishermen and rubbish."

Whenever Mrs. Dallocourt, as upon the present occasion, was driven by excessive excitement to attempt oratorical flights, the sublime was apt to become merged in the ridiculous, the stronger elements to be marred by the influx of the weaker; and her picture of Leonard laying his hand upon his heart by way of a suitable preliminary to an energetic denunciation of Miss Dobson's dulness, lacked the grandeur of conception and the dignity of delineation which might have delighted a lover of heroics. But, nevertheless, Leonard was much moved. He knew the love his mother bore for him, he saw how her heart was set upon the fulfil. ment of this project for his advancement, and he would have been

sorry to occasion her an unnecessary pang. He felt that to lay his hand upon his heart, be it to say one thing or another, was an achievement hopelessly beyond him, at all events, for that time; but he could at least soothe the pertubed spirit and excited feeling which his raillery had unintentionally wounded.

"I promise you, my dear mother," said he, "that I will take the subject into my serious consideration. I still protest against being expected to develope into a swell statesman; but as for this marriage that you propose, it is quite another matter. I have no particular hatred of Miss Dobson that I know of; and it is quite possible that she may be, as you say, a diamond, although an uncommonly dingy one. But, you see, a fellow can't make his mind up all at once about such an affair as a wife; and I must have time for reflection. Meanwhile I won't say another word about that flounder."

And so the little storm was quieted; and Mrs. Dallocourt, leaving her son to the reflection he had spoken of, betook herself to culinary regions, and commenced a confabulati on with her cook. Barbara," said she to that functionary, "I intend to have a soirée musicale."


Barbara marvelled exceedingly, and went up into clouds of mystification. Was this thing, with the outlandish name, that her mistress intended to have, a new viand or a new machine? If the latter, then Barbara resolved to set her face steadfastly against it. But before she could utter a single word, Elise, who from some unseen corner above had overhead her mother's announcement, came swiftly bounding down the stairs and volunteered to act as interpreter. "It means a party," she explained; "and we shall have some jellies and custards.'

[ocr errors]

Then Barbara returned to terra firma, and her doubts and mis. givings vanished.



Author of "Belphagor, a Paraphrase," &c., &c.

THE Vivisector went to his bed,

When his horrible work was o'er,
And slept a heavy, stupified sleep,
Such as ne'er he had slept before,
And dreamed a wild and terrible dream
That troubled his heart full sore.
Yes there, as vivid as if awake,
He saw before him spread

On a table his mangled victims half dead,
Insulated needles in every head,

Or muscles exposed a-nigh the heart,

Or the spinal marrow laid bare in some part, Whilst a wail of impotent anguish rose

From the creatures writhing in mortal throes.

Round the table flocking came

Men with faces hard and cold,

Men of Science (so called) and fame,

Friends of his, he knew each by name;
But he seemed to see them all to-night
In a new and horribly-ghastly light;

For somehow or other quite changed were they
As though transfigured the retrograde way;
Their gloating eyes,

As if on a prize,

Were fixed on the form of a whining hound,

The which for vivisection was bound

To the torture-trough, unable to stir,

Whilst nerve and muscle apart they might tear. What matter? he was but a wretched "cur," And they were men of science!

Their stolid faces no pity shew;

Their hearts no mercy feel;

They sit like men carved out of stone,

Or fashioned of polished steel.

« AnteriorContinuar »