« ПредишнаНапред »
the former, who still continued to call her by the endearing title of chere maman.
Lady Hungerford had only been a fortnight from the Park, where she had passed three days with its inmates, when it was thus my fortune to be introduced to her notice by Lord Castleton. Judge my feelings, when, with the grace and frankness that belonged to her, far away from that haughty air of protection which many in the same situation would have exhibited, she said,
“I know more of Mr. De Clifford than perhaps he thinks, for I have lately seen his friends, Mr. and Miss Hastings, who talked of him with much esteem.”
I own this flushed my cheek, and I could only answer they were too good.
“Nay,” said Lady Hungerford, “ that is but a cold reception of their recollection, especially as they accompanied it with many kind particulars ; which, however, I shall not tell you, for fear the philosophy which they say belongs to you should be put to the test."
She said this archly, and with a smile, and Granville, who was watching us, and saw it, whispered me, after she was separated from us by other company—“The smile of that lady is worth a million."
What this meant I did not know, but from the account I have given of Lady Hungerford, the
result of after-acquaintance, it will be easily understood.
In fact, is was my great good fortune to find favour with this elegant lady; for, some days afterwards, Lord Castleton told me he had been speaking to her about me, “when,” said he," she observed that at our dinner party she liked manner, which was quiet, yet collected; modest, yet with no mauvaise honte; that you seemed a youth of promise ; and that as to your present unacquaintance with les usages, which I told her gave you serious alarm, that would soon mend with observation, and, as she was pleased to say, my tutorage; to which I could not help replying, that her own instruction would be far more efficacious."
At this, Lord Castleton said, she smiled, and observed that Granville, since our dinner party, had told her so much about me, that she was almost inclined to undertake it.
“I tell you all this,” said Lord Castleton, “to give you the encouragement you say you want, to put you more at your ease in the circles in which you are to move, and to which you have been hitherto a stranger-a fault which, as Lady Hungerford says, will very soon mend, particularly if she should really choose to patronize you, as she has done by more than one young man.
For, give me leave to tell you," added he, “ that no female in England or France has it more in her power to bring forward youths unknown to fame,' to a respectable, and even a distinguished place in society, if they are fit for it.”
Lord Castleton concluded with telling me that I had been also much obliged to the Hastings family for their mention of me to his niece, and advised me to present myself to her that very morning.
“She will, I dare say, see you,” said he; “ and if she does, though very penetrating in observation, do not be afraid of her, and above all, do not act, nor affect either to set off your acquirements, or veil what you may think your
deficiencies. Be what you are, natural and unaffected; you will find your account in it.”
I thanked Lord Castleton quite as much for this as for any of his other favours, for I was really much impressed with Lady Hungerford, and gladly obeyed his suggestion to call upon her that morning. I went, therefore, immediately to Berkeley Square, was let in, and found her in her boudoir, so occupied with a book, that at first she did not hear me announced. The book I saw, on her putting it down, was Shakspeare, and the play Cymbeline.
The boudoir breathed nothing but elegance, and from an abundant supply of beautiful flowers, all the freshness of spring. She seemed herself a magnificent rose. Marbles, alabasters, mirrors,
pendules, and well-bound books, surrounded her; every thing was récherché.
But it was her dress—though only a morning one, so inimitably put on, and so gracefully adapted to the airiness of her shape, and the unaffected, I had almost said, the careless grace of her movements-that most fixed me. This dress, or rather the grace
with which it was worn, were I to try a hundred years, I never could describe. Luckily, it has been done inimitably already, by one who must have drawn it from the Lady Hungerford of his time, aided by the charm of his own imagination:
“ Give me a look, give me a face,
That strike mine eye but not my heart.”
She received me with that genuine politeness, equally removed from ceremony and familiarity, which, from putting you at your ease, has been called artificial good-nature, but here the goodnature seemed innate.
“I am obliged to you, Mr. De Clifford,” said she, “ for this visit, for, exclusive of Lord Castleton being so interested about you, you are the friend of those dear friends of mine, the Hastings, and also of another old friend, Mr. Granville, for whom I have great respect; nay, I also have had the honour of knowing, and being in my girlhood very much afraid of, that ' potent, grave, and reverend signor,' Mr. Fothergill, when he was the inmate of Lord Castleton, and who, I believe, was your tutor. Thus, then, you must think yourself any thing but an absolute stranger.”
This seemed charmingly frank, and I returned my acknowledgments as well as I could, and said something about condescension, when she stopt me short, and said with animation,
« Condescension is a word which I neither like nor admit, except on high days and holidays, or at court, where every thing is sophisticated. Now, I have been told that you are any thing but sophisticated—that Nature is your goddess-and that, at present at least, you are not able to call either persons or things but by their right names. this to me is a phenomenon which I seldom see,