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brought them to an open terrace, upon which the glorious moon shone down with unbroken lustre. The eyes of both were instantly withdrawn, and they walked to the end of the terrace in perfect silence. As they drew near to the sheltered walk that at this end, as at the other, led from the fine esplanade which, as a point de vue, formed the glory of the little domain, Constance turned round to see if the rest of the party were following, and perceiving two different groups approaching, felt disposed to wheel round in order to meet them; but the idea that her companion might construe this into conscious embarrassment at finding herself alone with him, checked her, and then it struck her that their not having spoken for so many minutes had something very awkward in it, and with a keenness of self-reproach, which almost amounted to scorn at her own weakness, she rallied her spirits and began to speak. Fitzosborne started. To say he was absent would be using a phrase scarcely germane to the matter, inasmuch as the lady at his side occupied his thoughts entirely; but he had not expected at that moment to hear her speakperhaps he did not wish it. There is always something exceedingly soothing, not to say tender, in the silence of young ladies and gentlemen when they walk together by moonlight, and if the sound of Constance's sweet voice roused him from a trance, it was one that suggested pleasanter feelings than any he had experienced in her presence since his arrival at Appleby.
What her first words were it would be difficult to say, for they were by no means uttered distinctly; but having determined to be conversible, she suddenly remembered that there was one subject on which she could speak to him with so much real interest as to render it probable that they might go on talking about it to the end of their walk. She inquired with affectionate earnestness for his cousin Mrs. Morley.
"Your remembering her thus kindly will give her great pleasure when she hears of it," he replied, "and that she shall do, Miss Ridley, with as little loss of time as possible. I know not how you managed to take such entire possession of a mind that of late years has seemed determined to look with indifference, if not with dislike, on all the human beings she encounters."
"Not on all, surely ?" replied Constance.
"You are aware, then, that you are an exception ?" said Fitzosborne.
"I am most happy to believe it," she returned; "but that was not the exception to which I alluded."
"No? Whom have you known admitted to her friendship, Miss Ridley?"
"Yourself, Mr. Fitzosborne," said Constance timidly, and terrified at the idea of saying a word that might sound too kindly.
Fitzosborne was on the point of replying, " O, I count for nothingI am an old friend, and a near relation;" but thinking better of it, he said, "Did she indeed ever name me to you?"
Now Constance instantly saw that this was very little better than a trap, set on purpose to discover if they had conversed together about him, and in what tone. He could hardly have asked a question which
she would less have liked to answer, especially as she at that moment recollected a certain interview with Mrs. Morley, in which she had not conducted herself with all the propriety and discretion which she could have desired. Was it possible that Mrs. Morley could have repeated this to him? Was it possible that the words he had just uttered had reference to this? The idea made her tremble from head to foot. "It would be a pleasure to me, Miss Ridley," he resumed, "to believe that Mrs. Morley had spoken of me to you, because I feel strongly persuaded that she would not speak of me unkindly. Will you give me this pleasure? Will you assure me that I have had the honour, the happiness of being remembered, when you have been conversing together?"
She made no reply. The air that evening was as still as if every leaf had gone to sleep, and that every zephyr stood silently looking on, afraid to move, lest they should be overheard. Constance felt such deep stillness to be most embarrassing, but dared not break it, lest her voice might betray somewhat of that which she was so stedfastly determined to conceal; she little guessed, poor girl, that her very breathing was audible in the profound silence of that most provokingly serene hour; but so it was- the heart of Constance was throbbing vehemently, and her heaving breast betrayed the fact to her compa
"Hark! I think they are calling to us from the terrace, Miss Ridley," said Fitzosborne, turning round towards the open space they had left; "shall we go to meet them ?"
Inexpressibly relieved, Constance turned too, and making a few rapid steps in advance, was soon within speaking distance of the rest of the party, and in another moment was among them.
On the following morning Penelope walked over to the Hill for the purpose of escorting her two sisters-in-law home.
"Why are you come alone, my dear?" said old Mrs. Ridley, rather reproachfully. "Why did not Captain Markham come with you, and bring his guest with him? Your Mr. Fitzosborne is the most accomplished gentleman I have seen for many a day. Mrs. John Markham and I should have been pleased if he had done me the favour of calling this morning."
"I dare say he would have been very happy to do so, Mrs. Ridley, had he been here," replied Penelope, "but he set off early this morning for town, and my husband is gone the first half dozen miles with him, intending to return on foot."
"Set off for London, is he?" returned the old lady. 66 Upon my word, I am very sorry to hear it. I had hoped that we should see something more of him."
"And so you will, I dare say, my dear madam," said Penelope, smiling, "for, before he took leave of us, everything was settled for his becoming my mother's tenant at Laurel Hill.
AGREEABLE VISITORS-A PLEASANT EXCURSION THROUGH A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY.
THE next news of any consequence which reached Appleby was conveyed by the following letter:
"MY DEAR MADAM,
Having a few weeks to spare before we set off for another visit to the continent, (for which purpose, as we are to travel all through France, Switzerland, and Italy, Lady Ridley wishes to have a carriage expressly prepared for her,) I have prevailed on her to accompany me on a visit to you and Constance, as it will probably be two or three years before we shall return. Lady Ridley, who does infinite honour to the station to which I have had the satisfaction of raising her, is (like all other women of first-rate fashion and elegance) rather particular about her accommodation. You will, therefore, be kind enough to have the two best bed-rooms prepared for us, as well as rooms for her ladyship's own maid, footman, and groom. My fellow can sleep at the inn, if you have no room for him. "I am, my dear madam,
"Your affectionate grandson,
"A mighty pretty epistle, upon my word!" said Mrs. Ridley, taking off her spectacles with a flourish, and handing the letter across the breakfast table to Constance, without any farther comment.
"Foolish fellow!" said Constance, after having read the letter. "His lady seems to be managing all things with a tolerably high hand. But I hope, dear grandmamma, that you will not refuse to receive them. I should be sorry that James should leave the country for years, with anything like coolness between us."
"Then write them just as civil a letter as you like, my dear pet," said the old lady kindly. "He is a sad puppy, that brother of yours, my Constance, and such he ever has been, and such he ever will be. But that is no reason for vexing you, dearest and best !" With this license, and her own good will, Constance wrote to her brother in such terms as brought him, his lady and suite, to Appleby in the course of the following week.
It was not without an effort that the old lady persuaded herself to endure patiently the fuss and the finery which they brought with them; but Sir James was the brother of Constance, and Lady Ridley was the sister of Penelope, circumstances which enabled their hostess to conquer her inclination, sufficiently to ensure them a civil reception.
Never, perhaps, had there been a finer example seen of a strutting, vain, and silly coxcomb, subjugated to the tyranny of an artful and imperious wife. Sir James hardly dared, in his very boldest mo
ments, to assert as much independance as was necessary to the affirming that his name was Ridley, without permission asked and granted. In exact proportion as she had before marriage persuaded him to believe that she thought him wise, witty, and bewitching, she now took care to convince him that upon farther acquaintance she had discovered that he was precisely the reverse. Why he submitted to her as he did, it is impossible to say. The phenomenon, however, is by no means uncommon, a violent, headstrong, imperious, and unreasonable woman rarely failing to Jerryize her husband, unless he fortunately happens to be more violent, headstrong, imperious, and unreasonable himself.
At first, Mrs. Ridley was a good deal amused at watching the manœuvres by which a bully might be bullied; but by degrees she wearied of it. To say truth, she loved not her grandson sufficiently to make the slightest attempt at remonstrating with his very detestable wife; but ere many days had passed, she told Constance that she should certainly be driven to elope from her own house, before the number of weeks threatened were over, unless some method could be devised to vary the family group. The greatly disgusted old lady had already tried the experiment of having sundry dinner parties, greatly more for the purpose of keeping the impertinence of Lady Ridley a little in order, than from wishing to make her arrival the occasion of anything resembling a fête. But the scheme had altogether failed, from her newly-made ladyship's utter contempt of all her ci-devant country neighbours; a sentiment which was by far too powerful to permit them being any restraint upon her, their presence, in fact, rather eliciting than controlling her impertinence.
The old lady was in despair, and though, upon mature deliberation, she came to the conclusion, that running away from her own house would be objectionable, she gave Constance to understand that she had serious thoughts of being taken ill, and confining herself entirely to her room. But fortune brought her relief when she least expected it. One morning as she was sitting, according to invariable custom, in her own particular chair, in the drawing-room, with her grandson, pretending to read the newspaper, on one side of her, and her granddaughter meekly at work on the other, while Lady Ridley, in the very richest possible morning dress that satin and lace could compose, sat precisely in the middle of a large sofa opposite to her, she began to put her threatened scheme into execution, by saying that she feared she was going to have a bad headache.
"I dare say you are, ma'am," said Lady Ridley, knitting her brows into a terrible frown as she looked towards her husband. "Sir James always makes such an intolerable crackling with the newspaper, that it is next to impossible that any one should escape having headache. For heaven's sake, do put it down, Sir James. What a horrible bore it is, when a man is so full of awkward tricks that he cannot turn over a paper without making a noise like the rumbling of an earthquake !" Sir James got up, laid the paper on a table, and walked towards the
Pray, Sir James," said his lady, "don't make that horrible
creaking with your boots. It is excessively odd, that, let men choose what shoemaker they will, their shoes always will creak if-if-" "If what, my dear?" demanded the imprudent baronet.
"You had always better let me alone, Sir James, when I try from politeness to put a restraint upon myself," said her ladyship, adjusting her bracelets, and affecting to laugh a little.
"I am sure, my dear, I have never any objection to doing that," he replied, looking at her askance, as if afraid of the effect of his bold innuendo. And with reason too, for with a brow that seemed mimicking the awful front of thundering Jove, she exclaimed, "Then, for heaven's sake, why do you not take yourself off, and out of my way, altogether? Without exception, Sir James, you are the greatest-"
Ere she could finish the sentence, the door opened, and Mr. Fitzosborne entered. People talk of the power of oil thrown upon troubled water. But this is nonsense, for whoever saw the experiment made? Where, then, can I find a simile to illustrate the effect produced upon Lady Ridley by the entrance of this gentleman? Perhaps it was most like passing, as by the touch of a magician's wand, from storm to sunshine. The frown of the wife vanished, and a young-lady-like smile of blandishment took its place. "Oh! Mr. Fitzosborne !" she exclaimed, "how excessively glad I am to see you! A London face in the country is like a peach at Christmas!" Mr. Fitzosborne bowed to her, and bowed to Sir James, and bowed to the old lady, but it was Constance only that he distinctly saw, for the glance he had sent round as he entered, to ascertain who was present, had shown him such a sudden flush of emotion on the fair pale face whose expression he had thought so icy cold when last they met, that for a moment he was perfectly incapable of seeing anything else. Constance, however, resumed the tranquillity of her aspect almost as suddenly as it had been disturbed, and then Fitzosborne returned the cordial greeting of the old lady, and all the civilities of the baronet and his lady in the most amiable manner possible.
"And so you have really taken mamma's house, Mr. Fitzosborne ?" said Lady Ridley, looking at him with very evident satisfaction.
Upon my word, we are the luckiest creatures in the world, in having you for a neighbour during the period of rustication. I hope and trust you mean to be excessively sociable, for, upon my honour, I am as near dying of ennui as it is well possible to be. For goodness sake, let us have some rides together."
"I shall be most happy to explore the beautiful environs of my new dwelling, with a guide so familiar to them," he replied, " and there is no mode of seeing so favourable as riding. Are you a horsewoman, Miss Ridley?"
"Not unless she is strangely altered since last year," said Lady Ridley, laughing. "At least not what I call a horse-woman. Have you still got that queer little cob of a pony, Constance, that you used to scramble over the hills with ?"
"O yes," replied Constance, "I have never yet mounted any other."
"Voyez vous!" said her ladyship, turning to Fitzosborne.