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66. Good Heavens ! exclaimed I, for what rea
Why, she had observed, she said, that nothing deadened the pleasure which married people take in one another's company so much as too frequent and too long interviews, in the power of either to command at pleasure; that it was the height of vulgarity, to be always running after one another, and allow no place to be sacred from mutual intrusion ; and that, from girlhood, she had always been accustomed to have an apartment so entirely her own, that her father, when alive, and afterwards her brother, had always refrained from breaking in upon her retirement. She hoped, therefore, I would not be offended if she requested to be allowed the same privilege, notwithstanding our nearer connection. It leaves my mind,' she said, 'a power of expanding itself with a freedom upon whatever engages me, for which I am always the better; and then you know, she added, "our meetings after these little absences in solitude are always the pleasanter.'
“Though I own I did not much relish this proposal, and thought it was not exactly the custom of married people, or that there was any vulgarity in a husband and wife wishing to be together, yet she talked of the matter so prettily, and made the proposal with so much sentiment and delicacy, that I could not help admiring her.
“You assented, of course ? ' said I.
"• Why what could I do? I did not like to be held up to her aristocratic relations as a vulgar husband,
and they, as well as she, assured me that what was proposed was always the custom in very high families ; that the higher the parties, the more their independence of one another, and that nothing so much denoted superior quality and fashion as this domestic rule. I trust, therefore, you do not blame me?'
“ I assured him I pitied more than blamed him, and hoped for better things.
" He said he hoped so too, but found he had been doing so for twelve months in vain; in short, • She treats me,' said he, like a vassal. She has already become indifferent to my wishes and plans of domestic comfort, in the enjoyment of her society upon a more retired scale than suits her taste. She is, as you see, of a very superior mould, and commanding though cold temperament; which, added to an internal contempt for my mean origin, leads her perpetually abroad, dispensing with me as a companion; or if, and whenever, at home, she requires to be surrounded by her whole clan, who all look up to her, and down upon me, though fond enough of the good quarters they always find provided for them.'
«« « Neither my fortune nor my sense of independence will stand this, and yet I am so wanting in true spirit that I know not how to break from under it. Alas! every way your caution as to unequal marriages is now brought home to me. Lady Cherubina herself is not the wife I thought she would be, or whom I ought to have chosen ; and as to her cousins and dear friends, they remind me of Penelope's suitors. But
her ladyship, unfortunately, is no more Penelope than I Ulysses.'
"Meantime,'added he, I have not a friend in the world to open myself to but you, and I hailed your arrival as that of an ally, who would at least give me good counsel, if he could not actually deliver me.'
“ • It were easier,' I replied, seeing him pause, to give advice, than to take it. And I could and would give it but for one objection, strong, perhaps insuperable.'
666 At least let me know it.'
“«Yourself. For with Lady Macbeth, of her husband, I may say,
“I fear thy nature ;
To take the nearest way.""
“ Discharge these saucy menials, whether your own or Lady Cherubina's. I would almost say discharge Lady Cherubina herself, rather than live in such disgraceful thraldom.'
“ This, and the warmth with which I said it, had an effect not unexpected on my too easy friend. He started, turned pale, and exclaimed, “You are too bold; you know not what you say.'
«• I know it so perfectly,' said I, that nothing short of being prepared and ready to go the whole length of it will ever release you from your chains.'
• Perhaps,' rejoined he— perhaps (I am not sure) I might screw myself up to the dismissal of servants, who think they have only a mistress, not a master.
Perhaps I might even be able to close my doors on these suitors, as I call them, who presume to despise me—but lady Cherubina! Impossible! Nay, I know not what you mean by the rash word
have used.' 6. You may suppose,' replied I, 'that by discharging (begging her's and your pardon for the phrase), I could not intend the same thing as in regard to your other tormentors; but I did mean that you ought to be prepared to meet and brave the utmost resentment she could show, if, after an appeal to her reason, she is so much devoted to family consequence, and so little to duty, as to deny you your just rights. I suppose,' added I, “it is her pride only you have to contend with, not her tenderness. No tears; no faintings; no complaints of tyranny on your part.'
“Little chance of it,' said he, smiling rather bitterly at the thought.
“Then, if necessary, be as proud as herself. Nature and the law place the staff in your hands; do not throw it away.'
666 What if she should leave me?' asked he.
66. Let her! She will soon return. At any rate it is better than to live with her and be trampled upon by the suitors. By the way, an excellent comparison that of yours.'
“ He was silent, as if revolving what I had advised, and at last said he would think of it; but added, shaking his head,
“ Periculosæ plenum opus aleæ tractas."*
* "A labour vast, Doubtful the dye and dire the cast."
“ I agreed, and only repeated,“ be firm, and all will be well.'
666 God send it,' said he, and unlocking the door, we concluded our conference.
“ The picture I have given of the first day I passed with poor Bostock was so exact a prototype of all the rest, that I need not describe another. We had a few more consultations, but without coming to any deter- mination, and he always pleaded, not unreasonably, that while the cousins were on the spot, there was no possibility of beginning the reform. Meantime the slight went on; lady Cherubina was occupied by any thing but her husband; the guests had it all their own way; and, seeing little opportunity of my doing any good to my friend, who seemed more and more a cypher in his own house, I gladly shortened my stay at Beaumanoir to visit Sedley, as I had promised.”