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if you cannot also come next month. Remember, I am still new to my business, and I shall have a houseful of people to entertain. I shall not mind it half so much if you can be with me.”
“You are to have the Heytesburys, and Emilie, and, above all, Adelaide ; surely with these you will not need any external help?"
" Ah, yes ! you have always been so kind to me, and I should feel so very grateful if you could come.”
Depend on it, if I can I will. Hans will be with you in any case, and you know he is as ever your faithful knight; suppose you take to flirting with him, in revenge for Colonel Home's exploits in that line ?"
I should not mind it with Mr. Carey.” “It would do you, and your husband too, a world of good if you were to try it with somebody more jealousy-provoking than poor Hans.” "
“ Do you think so? I fancy it would be rather a dangerous er. periment.”
“Not at all; a reprisal is quite fair."
“I don't agree with you; in reality, a man is not in the least more excusable than a woman; but when it comes to retaliation, as you propose, the woman is sure to suffer most, both in the deterioration of her finer feelings and in the opinion of the world.”
“ That sounds very fine, Laura. What is a woman to do if her husband makes love to every pretty woman he meets, and neglects her ?"
“Let her suffer quietly.
“ Affecting, but not philosophical. Mrs. Osborne was and is provokingly in love with her husband, who took all her homage as his due, and never troubled himself to pay it back in kind, until last spring, when she began a tender friendship with a splendid young Austriau, who was the rage in town; and Mr. Frank discovered that his wife was very charming, as soon as he found out that others thought her so, and that she was not displeased to see that they did.”
“Perhaps so. Of course every one must act as his or her own judgment dictates, but I could not enjoy such a position. I should imagine that any man of refined feeling would have his respect for his wife lowered by seeing her lend herself to such artifices."
“ You are as young as David Copperfield. Let your husband see you admired, and he will follow the lead of public opinion. Men are wonderfully like turkeys; shake a bright rag at them, and they follow in a herd. A woman never made a greater mistake than to fret and grow ugly over her wrongs, real or fanciful.”
Laura sighed unconsciously, and Miss Carey resumed:
“ It strikes me you are morbid, Laura ; you always were inclined that way. You are always sweet enough for me, but you are too quiet by half for so young a wife.”
“You don't like affectation, and liveliness in me would be nothing else. I am naturally quiet."
“Yes; but of late your quietness seems to me to be degenerating into moping. You must change all that. Your husband is universally liked and admired, and, were I his wife, I should take care not to be a foil to his brightness; I should set up a constellation on my own account."
“But if you were conscious of lacking energy and ability for such an achievement ?”
“ That you don't, if you choose to exert yourself. A woman of decently average ability can do what she pleases, if she gives her mind
You sit there blinding yourself over books when you might be much better occupied; a good novel is very well, or a new poem, so that one may be able to talk about it, but, except for a professed blue (which is a horrid animal), anything else is quite superfluous."
“ But if one loves reading
“ If one loves one's grandmother's great-aunt! It is well enough in its way. Take my advice, Laura; you can be as charming as anybody when you choose, and, were I you, pride would prompt me not to allow myself to be cast into the shade by a pert, made-up creature like Adelaide Lenox."
'Surely you think her beautiful ?”
Perhaps not; but I don't want to talk of her, but of you. I want to see you amend your ways, and be as gay in your gentle, elegant way as you used to be. And now I think you ought to go to bed, and apply my wisdom at your leisure. Good night, my dear, and don't let me see such a pale face to-morrow."
Next morning, at the breakfast-table, a large riding-party was organised to visit a show-place some five or six miles from Charlwood. Colonel Home came into his wife's dressing-room a few minutes before starting.
“ Take care of yourself to-day, Laura, and be fresh and bright for this evening. What do you mean to do with yourself all day ?”
“I scarcely know. Mrs. Charlton wants me to go and pay visits with her, but I shall not."
It would kill time as well as any other way. What a pity you cannot come to Hill Fort with us !"
Yes, I should have liked it. Hans Carey offered to drive me in the park phaeton.”
“ Yes; but that would be so stupid for you, a prosy fellow like Carey." “I am very fond of him.”
care; I shall be jealous. You must be fond of me only." “I don't think you care much about it, George.”
“Is the child going to have one of its jealous fits? If so, I shall go, for they are things I cannot abide; as it is, it is time I was off. And, Laura, do give that dress you wore last night to your maid. If I could ever think you anything approaching to plain, it would have been last evening. Even Adelaide, who is so good natured and ready to admire, said she wondered you made a fright of yourself by wearing that colour at night. I like to see my wife look pretty, and I wish
you would take a hint or two from Adelaide, who has such exquisite taste in dress.”
I do not know many women who would like to be told by their husbands to copy another woman in dress, manners, or deportment, more especially if that other woman seemed to engross more of the husband's attention and admiration than was at all desirable. Laura's heart swelled with something like resentment, and, turning impatiently away, she said:
“I am sick of hearing Adelaide quoted, and, for my part, I don't at all admire her, for she spoils her beauty by her constant grimacing, and I think her manners anything but ladylike-a mixture of the fast young country lady with the French grisette. I thought you had better taste than to admire her as you do.”
Colonel Home was quite astonished; such bitterness was so foreign to all he knew of Laura, that he looked and felt amazed.
"I did not know you could be so ill natured, Laura,” he said, at last.
“I begin to think you know very little about me,” was her reply.
“ It would seem so, indeed. However, the less I know of that portion of your nature the better for us both; I cannot bear a censorious, carping woman."
“ Yet I saw you convulsed with laughter when Adelaide was mimicking those two good, kind Miss Corytons.”
Amusing raillery is one thing, and bitter detraction is another. Adelaide always speaks kindly of you."
“ Please don't talk of her any more, George. I cannot bear to hear you praise her as you do."
you not endure that any woman should be admired but your. self? I bad no idea you were so vain.”
“ Oh! you do not at all understand me. Indeed, it is nothing like that.”
" What is it, then ?”
She turned from the window at which she was standing, and came over to him. He saw the colour rising in her transparent cheek till it mounted to her brow; but she raised her eyes to his, and looked steadily at him before she spoke.
“I will tell you the whole of it, George,” she said. _“I was unhappy at Thornicroft because of Miss Heathcote, and I was glad to come here in so far that your great intimacy with her might be interrupted, and now I am still more wretched here, for, much as I may try to fancy that my doubts are merely fanciful, I cannot manage to
“What can you mean? You are a perfect sphinx this morning."
“People are talking continually about your very exclusive attentions to Adelaide, and you may readily imagine my mortification and unhappiness at the thought that you could give occasion for such remarks. I say nothing
at all of the wound to my deeper feelings." “And is my wife a common gossip, ready and eager to listen to all the petty tattle and detraction by which empty-headed and malicious women try to pass the time ? To whom, pray, am I indebted for the kind interpretation put on my harmless intercourse with your step
mother's daughter-your almost sister? I am shocked at this want of delicacy and dignity in you, Laura. I had thought you above either conceiving the idea for yourself, or permitting any one to broach the subject to you."
The colonel, you may perceive, took a high moral ground at once ; and it must be acknowledged that, if skilfully and rapidly done, it is always well to turn the tables on one's adversary-the offensive pays better than the defensive ; and Laura, rebuked by the terrors of the marital displeasure, abashed, too, by that reproach of indelicacy and disloyalty to her lord, cast down her large shy eyes, and was silent. The gentleman, gradually gathering confidence and dignity as he proceeded, went on:
“Since you have broached the subject, I must insist on knowing of what you complain. It seems to me that the facts of the case are these : we are here in your father's house, and you resent my paying commonly polite attention to Adelaide."
“No, no, George ; any common attention I should not even have noticed.”
“ Very good! Do you, then, mean to imply that there is anything wrong in my intercourse with
half-sister ?" “She is not my half-sister.” “That's not the point at issue. Is it your opinion that I am in love. with Adelaide, or she with me ?”
Laura blushed crimson.
“ You may well look confused,” said her husband. “A girl not yet: nineteen must have a peculiar turn of thought if she cannot see herhusband behave civilly to any young and pretty woman without at once imagining the foundation of a course for the Divorce Court. I am disappointed in you, Laura."
“ You have gone widely beyond the truth, George. In the first place, but for Emilie I should not have felt more now than I have often done. I cannot but see that you always pay more attention to any woman in the room than your wife; but to that
have always accustomed me since we were married; but Emilie expressed great concern at the unreserved intimacy between you and her sister, and she said that other people had also been remarking on it. And, in the next place, if I thought you capable of what you say, I probably should be silent on the subject."
“I wish to Heaven you had exercised the same discretion now. Α. jealous wife is an awful nuisance, and one that I cannot endure. If you meant nothing, why did you speak ?”
“I understood my own meaning perfectly when I began, but you bave confused me.'
“ Yes, I dare say; because you have been feeding your wrath on imaginary wrongs, and fancying yourself a victim.”
"You need not fear my condemning you on imaginary grounds, George.”
“Then you will not condemn me at all.”
“You must know that it is bitter pain to me to think you in fault."
“ I should rather think it pleasant to you.” VOL. LX.
“ You are surely not serious now?"
“In one thing I am serious, and I beg you will attend to me, Laura. I will not have this constant iteration of your absurd vagaries; you must feel that your encouraging idle and gossiping tongues in bearing false witness against me is, to the last degree, unworthy of a true wife. Once for all, let there be an end to this."
Forgive me this once, if I am wrong, George.” “Oh! I am not angry; it is all too ridiculous. Don't speak of it again, that's all I ask. Here, now, like children who have been naughty, let us kiss and be friends."
And, with a Now, do be a sensible girl, Laura !” he sealed a hollow truce, and left his wife divided between the strengthening conviction that her idol was but of a very spurious divinity after all, and the more enlivening idea that possibly Emilie had been solely actuated by a wish to annoy and mortify her.
“I know,” she thought, “ that I am sadly imaginative, and if one dwells continually on one subject, one is sure to magnify every trifle. I will try to be more reasonable in future. I will think the best instead of the worst."
Poor little wife! she had, in truth, but little cause to upbraid herself. She must have been deaf and blind had she not seen and heard what her husband took so little pains to disguise from her. She watched the equestrian party ride off under the drooping branches of the limes, and then she took up the book she had relinquished on her husband's entrance, and tried to reoccupy herself with it. But, although her eyes were fixed on the printed page, and she would fain have given her attention to it, thought was too busy with her, and she relinquished the vain attempt. She sat long alone, trying to reason against her growing depression, endeavouring to recal and dwell on all the evidences of her husband's affection, and seeking to cast the mementoes of his indifference into oblivion. She did not spare herself, and earnestly sought to discover the root of those faults which her husband disliked in her. Alas! those faults were such as death alone would amend in Laura. She felt too keenly, loved too absorbingly, and suffered her feelings and her love to be too visible. If people will wear their hearts upon their sleeves, the daws will as surely come to peck at them. By-and-by she rose up with a heavy sigb, tied on her hat, and avoiding the drawing-room, lest Mrs. Charlton might detain her, she made her way by a back hall into the grounds. Shunning the open and frequented portions of these, she penetrated into a wild mass of shrubbery behind the house, and, lured on by the sweet soft air, she opened gate after gate, and clambered over rustic stiles till she was far beyond the limits of her father's grounds; she crushed through matted copses where grew clumps of gigantic fungi in a thousand gay autumn colours, and great clusters of bilberries, with the dull softness of their blue boom yet upon them. Laura knew all these places well. Many a time in bygone days the soft cushiony moss had yielded to her step; many a bygone autumn had she gathered the fir-cones from the sward covered with brown fir-needles; many a time had she stretched, at the risk of falling in, down the steep bank of that rapid watercourse, to reach the long green satin-like ribbons of the hart's-tongue