Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

“Not in my time or yours, Ethel,” the elder said, not unkindly; perhaps she thought of a day long ago, before she was old herself.

“We are sold," the young girl went on; "we are as much sold as Turkish women; the only difference being that our masters may have but one Circassian at a time. No, there is no freedom for us. I wear my green ticket, and wait till my master comes. But every day as I think of our slavery, I revolt against it more. That poor wretch, that poor girl whom my brother is to marry, why did she not revolt and fly? I would, if I loved a man sufficiently, loved him better than the world, than wealth, than rank, than fine houses and titles, and I feel I love these best,,I would give up all to follow him. But what can I be with my name and my parents ? I belong to the world, like all the rest of my family. It is you who have bred us up; you who are answerable for us. Why are there no convents to which we can fly? You make a fine marriage for me; you provide me with a good husband, a kind soul, not very wise, but very kind; you make me what you call happy, and I would rather be at the plough like the women here."

“No, you wouldn't, Ethel,” replies the grandmother, dryly. “These are the fine speeches of school-girls. The showers of rain would spoil your complexion-you would be perfectly tired in an hour, and come back to luncheon-you belong to your belongings, my dear, and are not better than the rest of the world :-very good-looking, as you know perfectly well, and not very good-tempered. It is lucky that Kew is. Calm your temper, at least before marriage; such a prize does not fall to a pretty girl's lot every day. Why, you sent him away quite scared by your cruelty; and if he is not playing at roulette, or at billiards, I daresay he is thinking what a little termagant you are, and that he had best pause while it is yet time. Before I was married, your poor grandfather never knew I had a temper; of afterdays I say nothing; but trials are good for all of us, and he bore the like an angel."

Lady Kew, too, on this occasion at least, was admirably goodhumoured. She also when it was necessary could put a restraint on her temper, and having this match very much to heart, chose to coax and to soothe her granddaughter rather than to endeavour to scold and frighten her.

“Why do you desire this marriage so much, grandmamma ?” the girl asked. “My cousin is not very much in love,--at least I should fancy not,” she added, blushing. “I am bound to own Lord Kew is not in the least eager, and I think if you were to tell him to wait for five years, he would be quite willing. Why should you be so very anxious ? "

“Why, my dear? Because I think young ladies who want to go and work in the fields should make hay while the sun shines ; because I think it is high time that Kew should ranger himself; because I am sure he will make the best husband, and Ethel the prettiest Countess in England.” And the old lady, seldom exhibiting any signs of affection, looked at her granddaughter very fondly. From her Ethel looked up into the glass, which very likely repeated on its shining face the truth her elder had just uttered. Shall we quarrel with the girl for that dazzling reflection; for owning that charming truth, and submitting to the conscious triumph ? Give her her part of vanity, of youth, of desire to rule and be admired. Meanwhile Mr. Clive's drawings have been crackling in the fire-place at her feet, and the last spark of that combustion is twinkling out unheeded.

CHAPTER XXXIII.
LADY KEW AT THE CONGRESS.

X THEN Lady Kew heard that Madame d'Ivry was at Baden, and

V was informed at once of the French lady's graciousness towards the Newcome family, and of her fury against Lord Kew, the old Countess gave a loose to that energetic temper with which nature had gifted her; a temper which she tied up sometimes and kept from barking and biting; but which when unmuzzled was an animal of whom all her ladyship's family had a just apprehension. Not one of them but in his or her time had been wounded, lacerated, tumbled over, otherwise frightened or injured by this unruly brute. The cowards brought it sops and patted it; the prudent gave it a clear berth, and walked round so as not to meet it; but woe be to those of the family who had to bring the meal, and prepare the litter, and (to speak respectfully) share the kennel with Lady Kew's “ Black Dog !" Surely a fine furious temper, if accompanied with a certain magnanimity and bravery which often go together with it, is one of the most precious and fortunate gifts with which a gentleman or lady can be endowed. A person always ready to fight is certain of the greatest consideration amongst his or her family circle. The lazy grow tired of contending with him; the timid coax and flatter him; and as almost every one is timid or lazy, a bad-tempered man is sure to have his own way. It is he who commands, and all the others obey. If he is a gourmand he has what he likes for dinner; and the tastes of all the rest are subservient to him. She (we playfully transfer the gender, as a bad temper is of both sexes) has the place which she likes best in the drawing-room; nor do her parents, nor her brothers and sisters, venture to take her favourite chair. If she wants to go to a party, mamma will dress herself in spite of her headache; and papa, 'who hates those dreadful soirées, will go upstairs after dinner and put on his poor old white neckcloth, though he has been toiling at chambers all day, and must be there early in the morning—he will go out svith her, we say, and stay for the cotillon. If the family are taking their tour in the summer, it is she who ordains whither they shall go, and when they shall stop. If he comes home late, the dinner is kept for him, and not one dares to say a word though ever so hungry. If he is in a good lumour, how every one frisks about and is hapzy! How the servants jump up at his bell and run to wait upon him ! How they sit up patiently, and how eagerly they rush out to fetch cabs in the rain! Whereas for you and me, who have the tempers of angels, and never were known to be angry or to complain, nobody cares whether we are pleased or not. Our wives go to the milliner's and send us the bill, and we pay it; our John finishes reading the newspaper before he answers our bell and brings it to us; our sons loll in the arm-chair which we should like; fill the house with their young men, and smoke in the dining-room; our tailors fit us badly; our butchers give us the youngest mutton; our tradesmen dun us much more quickly than other people's, because they know we are goodnatured; and our servants go out whenever they like, and openly have their friends to supper in the kitchen. When Lady Kew said, Sic volo, sic jubeo, I promise you few persons of her ladyship's belongings stopped, before they did her biddings, to ask her reasons.

If, which very seldom happens, there are two such imperious and domineering spirits in a family, unpleasantries of course will arise from their contentions; or if, out of doors, the family Bajazet meets with some other violent Turk, dreadful battles ensue, all the allies on either side are brought in, and the surrounding neighbours perforce engaged in the quarrel. This was unluckily the case in the present instance. Lady Kew, unaccustomed to have her will questioned at home, liked to impose it abroad. She judged the persons around her with great freedom of speech. Her opinions were quoted, as people's sayings will be; and if she made bitter speeches, depend on it they lost nothing in the carrying. She was furious against Madame la Duchesse d'Ivry, and exploded in various companies whenever that lady's name was mentioned. “Why was she not with her husband ? Why was the poor old Duke left to his gout, and this woman trailing through the country with her vagabond court of billiard-markers at her heels? She to call herself Mary Queen of Scots, forsooth!-well, she merited the title in some respects, though she had not murdered her husband as yet. Ah! I should like to be Queen Elizabeth if the Duchess is Queen of Scots !” said the old lady, shaking her old fist. And these sentiments being uttered in public, upon the promenade, to mutual friends, of course the Duchess had the benefit of Lady Kew's. remarks a few minutes after they were uttered; and her grace, and the distinguished princes, counts, and noblemen in her court, designated as billiard-markers by the old Countess, returned the latter's compliments with pretty speeches of their own. Scandals were dug up respecting her ladyship, so old that one would have thought them forgotten these forty years,--so old that they happened before most of the Newcomes now extant were born, and surely, therefore, are out of the province of this contemporary biography. Lady Kew was indignant with her daughter (there were some moments when any conduct of her friends did not meet her ladyship's approbation) even for the scant civility with which Lady Ann had received the Duchess's advances, “Leave a card upon her !-yes, send a card by one of your footmen; but go in to see her, because she was at the window and saw you drive up! Are you mad, Ann? That was the very reason you should not have come out of your carriage. But you are so weak and goodnatured, that if a highwayman stopped you, you would say, "Thank you, sir,' as you gave him your purse: yes, and if Mrs. Macheath caled on you afterwards, you would return the visit!”

Even had these speeches been made about the Duchess, and some of them not addressed to her, things might have gone on pretty well. If we quarrelled with all the people who abuse us behind our backs, and began to tear their eyes out as soon as we set ours on them, what a life it would be, and when should we have any quiet? Backbiting is all fair in society. Abuse me, and I will abuse you; but let us be friends when we meet. Have not we all entered a dozen rooms, and been sure, from the countenances of the amiable persons present, that they had been discussing our little peculiarities, perhaps as we were on the stairs? Was our visit, therefore, the less agreeable? Did we quarrel and say hard words to one another's faces ? No-we wait until some of our dear friends take their leave, and then comes our turn. My back is at my neighbour's service; as soon as that is turned let him make what faces he thinks proper; but when we meet we grin and shake hands like well-bred folk, to whom clean linen is not more necessary than a clean sweet-looking countenance, and a nicely gotup smile, for company.

Here was Lady Kew's mistake. She wanted, for some reason, to drive Madame d'Ivry out of Baden, and thought there were no better means of effecting this object than by using the high hand, and practising those frowns upon the Duchess which had scared away so many other persons. But the Queen of Scots was resolute, too, and her band of courtiers fought stoutly round about her. Some of them could not pay their bills, and could not retreat; others had courage, and did not choose to fly. Instead of coaxing and soothing Madame d'Ivry, Madame de Kew thought by a brisk attack to rout and dislodge her. She began on almost the very first occasion when the ladies met. “I was so sorry to hear that Monsieur le Duc was ill at Bagnères, Madame la Duchesse," the old lady began on their very first meeting, after the usual salutations had taken place. '

“Madame la Comtesse is very kind to interest herself in Monsieur d'Ivry's health. Monsieur le Duc at his age is not disposed to travel. You, dear Miladi, are more happy in being always able to retain the gout des voyages !".

« AnteriorContinuar »