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Title: The Watsons: By Jane Austen, Concluded by L. Oulton
Author: Austen, Jane, Oulton, L.
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Watsons: By Jane Austen, Concluded by L. Oulton" ***

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CONCLUDED BY L. OULTON ***

THE WATSONS

BY

JANE AUSTEN
AUTHOR OF "PRIDE AND PREJUDICE,"
"SENSE AND SENSIBILITY," ETC.

CONCLUDED
BY
L. OULTON

[Illustration: Logo]

D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
NEW YORK :: :: :: MCMXXIII



COPYRIGHT, 1923, BY
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



PREFACE


This work was left by its author, a fragment without a name, in so
elementary a state as not even to be divided into chapters, and some
obscurities and inaccuracies of expression may be observed in it which
the author would probably have corrected. The original manuscript
is the property of my sister, Miss Austen, by whose permission it
is now published. I have called it _The Watsons_, for the sake of
having a title by which to designate it. Two questions may be asked
concerning it. When was it written? And, why was it never finished?
I was unable to answer the first question, so long as I had only the
internal evidence of the style to guide me. I felt satisfied, indeed,
that it did not belong to that early class of her writings which are
mentioned at page 46 of the _Memoir_, but rather bore marks of her
more mature style, though it had never been subjected to the filing
and polishing process by which she was accustomed to impart a high
finish to her published works. At last, on a close inspection of the
original manuscript, the water-marks of 1803 and 1804 were found in
the paper on which it was written. It is therefore probable that it
was composed at Bath, before she ceased to reside there in 1805. This
would place the date a few years later than the composition, but
earlier than the publication of _Sense and Sensibility_, and _Pride
and Prejudice_. To the second question, why was it never finished?
I can give no satisfactory answer. I think it will be generally
admitted that there is much in it which promised well; that some of
the characters are drawn with her wonted vigour, and some with a
delicate discrimination peculiarly her own; and that it is rich in her
especial power of telling the story, and bringing out the characters
by conversation rather than by description. It could not have been
broken up for the purpose of using the materials in another fabric;
for, with the exception of Mrs. Robert Watson, in whom a resemblance
to the future Mrs. Elton is very discernible, it would not be easy to
trace much resemblance between this and any of her subsequent works.
She must have felt some regret at leaving Tom Musgrave's character
incomplete; yet he never appears elsewhere. My own idea is, but it is
only a guess, that the author became aware of the evil of having placed
her heroine too low, in such a position of poverty and obscurity as,
though not necessarily connected with vulgarity, has a sad tendency to
degenerate into it; and, therefore, like a singer who has begun on too
low a note, she discontinued the strain. It was an error of which she
was likely to become more sensible, as she grew older and saw more of
Society; certainly she never repeated it by placing the heroine of any
subsequent work under circumstances likely to be unfavourable to the
refinement of a lady.

J. E. AUSTEN LEIGH



THE WATSONS



CHAPTER I


The first winter assembly in the town of D----, in Surrey, was to be
held on Tuesday, October 13th, and it was generally expected to be
a very good one. A long list of county families was confidently run
over as sure of attending, and sanguine hopes were entertained that
the Osbornes themselves would be there. The Edwards' invitation to
the Watsons followed, as a matter of course. The Edwards were people
of fortune, who lived in the town and kept their coach. The Watsons
inhabited a village about three miles distant, were poor and had no
close carriage; and ever since there had been balls in the place, the
former were accustomed to invite the latter to dress, dine, and sleep
at their house on every monthly return throughout the winter. On the
present occasion, as only two of Mr. Watson's children were at home,
and one was always necessary as companion to himself, for he was sickly
and had lost his wife, one only could profit by the kindness of their
friends. Miss Emma Watson, who was very recently returned to her family
from the care of an aunt who had brought her up, was to make her first
public appearance in the neighbourhood; and her eldest sister, whose
delight in a ball was not lessened by a ten years' enjoyment, had some
merit in cheerfully undertaking to drive her and all her finery in the
old chair to D---- on the important morning.

As they splashed along the dirty lane Miss Watson thus instructed and
cautioned her inexperienced sister.

"I daresay it will be a very good ball, and among so many officers
you will hardly want partners. You will find Mrs. Edwards' maid very
willing to help you, and I would advise you to ask Mary Edwards'
opinion if you are at all at a loss, for she has a very good taste. If
Mr. Edwards does not lose his money at cards you will stay as late as
you can wish for; if he does he will hurry you home perhaps--but you
are sure of some comfortable soup. I hope you will be in good looks. I
should not be surprised if you were to be thought one of the prettiest
girls in the room, there is a great deal in novelty. Perhaps Tom
Musgrave may take notice of you, but I would advise you by all means
not to give him any encouragement. He generally pays attention to every
new girl, but he is a great flirt, and never means anything serious."

"I think I have heard you speak of him before," said Emma. "Who is he?"

"A young man of very good fortune, quite independent, and remarkably
agreeable, an universal favourite wherever he goes. Most of the girls
hereabouts are in love with him, or have been. I believe I am the only
one among them that have escaped with a whole heart; and yet I was the
first he paid attention to when he came into this country six years
ago; and very great attention did he pay me. Some people say that he
has never seemed to like any girl so well since, though he is always
behaving in a particular way to one or another."

"And how came _your_ heart to be the only cold one?" asked Emma,
smiling.

"There was a reason for that," replied Miss Watson, changing colour.
"I have not been very well used among them, Emma. I hope you will have
better luck."

"Dear sister, I beg your pardon, if I have unthinkingly given you pain."

"When we first knew Tom Musgrave," continued Miss Watson, without
seeming to hear her, "I was very much attached to a young man of the
name of Purvis, a particular friend of Robert's, who used to be with us
a great deal. Everybody thought it would have been a match."

A sigh accompanied these words, which Emma respected in silence. But
her sister, after a short pause, went on.

"You will naturally ask why it did not take place, and why he is
married to another woman, while I am still single. But you must ask
him--not me--you must ask Penelope. Yes, Emma, Penelope was at the
bottom of it all. She thinks everything fair for a husband. I trusted
her: she set him against me, with a view of gaining him herself, and
it ended in his discontinuing his visits, and, soon after, marrying
somebody else. Penelope makes light of her conduct, but _I_ think such
treachery very bad. It has been the ruin of my happiness. I shall never
love any man as I loved Purvis. I do not think Tom Musgrave should be
named with him in the same day."

"You quite shock me by what you say of Penelope," said Emma. "Could a
sister do such a thing? Rivalry, treachery between sisters! I shall
be afraid of being acquainted with her. But I hope it was not so;
appearances were against her."

"You do not know Penelope. There is nothing she would not do to get
married. She would as good as tell you so herself. Do not trust her
with any secrets of your own, take warning by me, do not trust her; she
has her good qualities, but she has no faith, no honour, no scruples,
if she can promote her own advantage. I wish with all my heart she was
well married. I declare I had rather have her well married than myself."

"Than yourself! Yes, I can suppose so. A heart wounded like yours can
have little inclination for matrimony."

"Not much, indeed--but you know we must marry."

"I could do very well single for my own part."

"A little company, and a pleasant ball now and then, would be enough
for me, if one could be young for ever; but my father cannot provide
for us, and it is very bad to grow old and be poor and laughed at. I
have lost Purvis, it is true; but very few people marry their first
loves. I should not refuse a man because he was not Purvis. Not that I
can ever quite forgive Penelope."

Emma shook her head in acquiescence.

"Penelope, however, has had her troubles," continued Miss Watson. "She
was sadly disappointed in Tom Musgrave, who afterwards transferred
his attentions from me to her, and whom she was very fond of, but he
never means anything serious, and when he had trifled with her long
enough, he began to slight her for Margaret, and poor Penelope was very
wretched. And since then she has been trying to make some match at
Chichester--she won't tell us with whom, but I believe it is a rich old
Dr. Harding, uncle to the friend she goes to see; and she has taken a
vast deal of trouble about him, and given up a great deal of time to no
purpose as yet. When she went away the other day, she said it should be
the last time. I suppose you did not know what her particular business
was at Chichester, nor guess at the object which could take her away
from Stanton just as you were coming home after so many years' absence."

"No, indeed, I had not the smallest suspicion of it. I considered her
engagement to Mrs. Shaw just at that time as very unfortunate for me.
I had hoped to find all my sisters at home, to be able to make an
immediate friend of each."

"I suspect the Doctor to have had an attack of the asthma, and that she
was hurried away on that account. The Shaws are quite on her side--at
least I believe so; but she tells me nothing. She professes to keep her
own counsel; she says, and truly enough, that 'Too many cooks spoil the
broth.'"

"I am sorry for her anxieties," said Emma, "but I do not like her plans
or her opinions. I shall be afraid of her. She must have too masculine
and bold a temper. To be so bent on marriage--to pursue a man merely
for the sake of situation, is a sort of thing that shocks me; I cannot
understand it. Poverty is a great evil; but to a woman of education and
feeling it ought not, it cannot be, the greatest. I would rather be
teacher at a school--and I can think of nothing worse--than marry a man
I did not like."

"I would rather do anything than be teacher at a school," said her
sister. "_I_ have been at school, Emma, and know what a life they
lead; _you_ never have. I should not like marrying a disagreeable
man any more than yourself, but I do not think there _are_ many very
disagreeable men; I think I could like any good-humoured man with
a comfortable income. I suppose my aunt brought you up to be rather
refined."

"Indeed, I do not know. My conduct must tell you how I have been
brought up. I am no judge of it myself. I cannot compare my aunt's
method with any other person's, because I know no other."

"But I can see in a great many things that you are very refined. I have
observed it ever since you came home, and I am afraid it will not be
for your happiness. Penelope will laugh at you very much."

"That will not be for my happiness, I am sure. If my opinions are wrong
I must correct them; if they are above my situation, I must endeavour
to conceal them; but I doubt whether ridicule--has Penelope much wit?"

"Yes, she has great spirit, and never cares what she says."

"Margaret is more gentle, I imagine?"

"Yes, especially in company; she is all gentleness and mildness
when anybody is by. But she is a little fretful and perverse among
ourselves. Poor creature! She is possessed with the notion of Tom
Musgrave's being more seriously in love with her than he ever was with
anybody else, and is always expecting him to come to the point. This
is the second time within this twelvemonth that she has gone to spend
a month with Robert and Jane on purpose to egg him on by her absence;
but I am sure she is mistaken, and that he will no more follow her to
Croydon now than he did last March. He will never marry unless he can
marry somebody very great; Miss Osborne, perhaps, or somebody in that
style."

"Your account of this Tom Musgrave, Elizabeth, gives me very little
inclination for his acquaintance."

"You are afraid of him; I do not wonder at you."

"No, indeed, I dislike and despise him."

"Dislike and despise Tom Musgrave! No, _that_ you never can. I defy you
not to be delighted with him if he takes notice of you. I hope he will
dance with you, and I daresay he will, unless the Osbornes come with a
large party, and then he will not speak to anybody else."

"He seems to have most engaging manners!" said Emma. "Well, we shall
see how irresistible Mr. Tom Musgrave and I find each other. I suppose
I shall know him as soon as I enter the ball-room: he _must_ carry some
of his charms in his face."

"You will not find him in the ball-room, I can tell you; you will go
early, that Mrs. Edwards may get a good place by the fire, and he
never comes till late; if the Osbornes are coming, he will wait in the
passage and come in with them. I should like to look in upon you, Emma.
If it was but a good day with my father, I would wrap myself up, and
James should drive me over as soon as I had made tea for him, and I
should be with you by the time the dancing began."

"What! Would you come late at night in this chair?"

"To be sure I would. There, I said you were very refined, and that's an
instance of it."

Emma for a moment made no answer. At last she said--

"I wish, Elizabeth, you had not made a point of my going to this ball;
I wish you were going instead of me. Your pleasure would be greater
than mine. I am a stranger here, and know nobody but the Edwards; my
enjoyment, therefore, must be very doubtful. Yours, among all your
acquaintances, would be certain. It is not too late to change. Very
little apology would be requisite to the Edwards, who must be more
glad of your company than of mine; and I should most readily return
to my father, and should not be at all afraid to drive this quiet old
creature home. Your clothes I would undertake to find means of sending
to you."

"My dearest Emma," cried Elizabeth, warmly. "Do you think I would do
such a thing? Not for the universe! But I shall never forget your
good-nature in proposing it. You must have a sweet temper indeed! I
never met anything like it! And would you really give up the ball that
I might be able to go to it? Believe me, Emma, I am not so selfish as
that comes to. No; though I am nine years older than you are, I would
not be the means of keeping you from being seen. You are very pretty,
and it would be very hard that you should not have as fair a chance as
we have all had to make your fortune. No, Emma; whoever stays at home
this winter, it shan't be you. I am sure I should never have forgiven
the person who kept me from a ball at nineteen."

Emma expressed her gratitude, and for a few minutes they jogged on in
silence. Elizabeth first spoke--

"You will take notice who Mary Edwards dances with?"

"I will remember her partners, if I can; but you know they will be all
strangers to me."

"Only observe whether she dances with Captain Hunter more than once--I
have my fears in that quarter. Not that her father or mother like
officers; but if she does, you know, it is all over with poor Sam. And
I have promised to write him word who she dances with."

"Is Sam attached to Miss Edwards?"

"Did not you know _that_?"

"How should I know it? How should I know in Shropshire what is passing
of that nature in Surrey? It is not likely that circumstances of such
delicacy should have made any part of the scanty communication which
passed between you and me for the last fourteen years."

"I wonder I never mentioned it when I wrote. Since you have been at
home, I have been so busy with my poor father, and our great wash, that
I have had no leisure to tell you anything; but, indeed, I concluded
you knew it all. He has been very much in love with her these two
years, and it is a great disappointment to him that he cannot always
get away to our balls; but Mr. Curtis won't often spare him, and just
now it is a sickly time at Guildford."

"Do you suppose Miss Edwards inclined to like him?"

"I am afraid not; you know, she is an only child, and will have at
least ten thousand pounds."

"But, still, she may like our brother."

"Oh, no! The Edwards look much higher. Her father and mother would
never consent to it. Sam is only a surgeon, you know. Sometimes I think
she does like him. But Mary Edwards is rather prim and reserved; I do
not always know what she would be at."

"Unless Sam feels on sure grounds with the lady herself, it seems a
pity to me that he should be encouraged to think of her at all."

"A young man must think of somebody," said Elizabeth; "and why should
not he be as lucky as Robert, who has got a good wife and six thousand
pounds?"

"We must not all expect to be individually lucky," replied Emma. "The
luck of one member of a family is luck to all."

"Mine is all to come, I am sure," said Elizabeth, giving another sigh
to the remembrance of Purvis. "I have been unlucky enough, and I cannot
say much for you, as my aunt married again so foolishly. Well, you
will have a good ball, I daresay. The next turning will bring us to
the turnpike; you may see the church-tower over the hedge, and the
'White Hart' is close by it. I shall long to know what you think of Tom
Musgrave."

Such were the last audible sounds of Miss Watson's voice, before they
passed through the turnpike-gate and entered on the pitching of the
town, the jumbling and noise of which made further conversation most
thoroughly undesirable. The old mare trotted heavily on, wanting no
direction of the reins to take a right turning; and making only one
blunder, in proposing to stop at the milliner's, before she drew up
towards Mr. Edwards' door. Mr. Edwards lived in the best house in the
street, and the best in the place; if Mr. Tomlinson, the banker, might
be indulged in calling his newly-erected house at the end of the town,
with a shrubbery and sweep, in the country.

Mr. Edwards' house was higher than most of its neighbours, with four
windows on each side the door; the windows guarded by posts and chains,
and the door approached by a flight of stone steps.

"Here we are," said Elizabeth, as the carriage ceased moving, "safely
arrived; and by the market clock we have been only five-and-thirty
minutes coming; which, I think, is doing pretty well, though it would
be nothing for Penelope. Is not it a nice town? The Edwards have a
noble house, you see, and they live quite in style. The door will be
opened by a man in livery, with a powdered head, I can tell you."



CHAPTER II


Emma had seen the Edwards only one morning at Stanton; they were
therefore all but strangers to her, and though her spirits were by
no means insensible to the expected joys of the evening, she felt a
little uncomfortable in the thought of all that was to precede them.
Her conversation with Elizabeth, too, giving her some very unpleasant
feelings with respect to her own family, had made her more open to
disagreeable impressions from any other cause, and increased her
sense of the awkwardness of rushing into intimacy on so slight an
acquaintance.

There was nothing in the manner of Mrs. and Miss Edwards to give
immediate change to these ideas. The mother, though a very friendly
woman, had a reserved air and a great deal of formal civility; and
the daughter, a genteel-looking girl of twenty-two, with her hair in
papers, seemed very naturally to have caught something of the style
of her mother, who had brought her up. Emma was soon left to know what
they could be, by Elizabeth being obliged to hurry away; and some very
languid remarks on the probable brilliancy of the ball were all that
broke, at intervals, a silence of half-an-hour before they were joined
by the master of the house. Mr. Edwards had a much easier and more
communicative air than the ladies of the family; he was fresh from the
street, and he came ready to tell whatever might interest. After a
cordial reception of Emma, he turned to his daughter with--

"Well, Mary, I bring you good news: the Osbornes will certainly be at
the ball to-night. Horses for two carriages are ordered from the 'White
Hart' to be at Osborne Castle by nine."

"I am glad of it," observed Mrs. Edwards, "because their coming gives
a credit to our assembly. The Osbornes being known to have been at the
first ball, will dispose a great many people to attend the second.
It is more than they deserve, for, in fact, they add nothing to the
pleasure of the evening; they come so late and go so early; but great
people have always their charm."

Mr. Edwards proceeded to relate many other little articles of news
which his morning's lounge had supplied him with, and they chatted with
greater briskness till Mrs. Edwards' moment for dressing arrived, and
the young ladies were carefully recommended to lose no time. Emma was
shown to a very comfortable apartment, and as soon as Mrs. Edwards'
civilities could leave her to herself, the happy occupation, the first
bliss of a ball, began. The girls, dressing in some measure together,
grew unavoidably better acquainted. Emma found in Miss Edwards the
show of good sense, a modest unpretending mind, and a great wish of
obliging; and when they returned to the parlour where Mrs. Edwards was
sitting, respectably attired in one of the two satin gowns which went
through the winter, and a new cap from the milliner's, they entered it
with much easier feelings and more natural smiles than they had taken
away. Their dress was now to be examined: Mrs. Edwards acknowledged
herself too old-fashioned to approve of every modern extravagance,
however sanctioned; and though complacently viewing her daughter's good
looks, would give but a qualified admiration; and Mr. Edwards, not less
satisfied with Mary, paid some compliments of good-humoured gallantry
to Emma at her expense.

The discussion led to more intimate remarks, and Miss Edwards gently
asked Emma if she was not often reckoned very like her youngest
brother. Emma thought she could perceive a faint blush accompany the
question, and there seemed something still more suspicious in the
manner in which Mr. Edwards took up the subject.

"You are paying Miss Emma no great compliment, I think, Mary," said
he hastily. "Mr. Sam Watson is a very good sort of young man, and I
daresay a very clever surgeon; but his complexion has been rather
too much exposed to all weathers to make a likeness to him very
flattering."

Mary apologised, in some confusion--

"She had not thought a strong likeness at all incompatible with very
different degrees of beauty. There might be resemblance in countenance,
and the complexion, and even the features, be very unlike."

"I know nothing of my brother's beauty," said Emma, "for I have not
seen him since he was seven years old; but my father reckons us alike."

"Mr. Watson!" cried Mr. Edwards, "well, you astonish me. There is not
the least likeness in the world; your brother's eyes are grey, yours
are brown; he has a long face, and a wide mouth. My dear, do _you_
perceive the least resemblance?"

"Not the least; Miss Emma Watson puts me very much in mind of her
eldest sister, and sometimes I see a look of Miss Penelope, and once or
twice there has been a glance of Mr. Robert; but I cannot perceive any
likeness to Mr. Samuel."

"I see the likeness between her and Miss Watson," replied Mr. Edwards,
"very strongly, but I am not sensible of the others. I do not much
think she is like any of the family _but_ Miss Watson; but I am very
sure there is no resemblance between her and Sam."

This matter was settled, and they went to dinner.

"Your father, Miss Emma, is one of my oldest friends," said Mr.
Edwards, as he helped her to wine, when they were drawn round the fire
to enjoy their dessert. "We must drink to his better health. It is a
great concern to me, I assure you, that he should be such an invalid.
I know nobody who likes a game of cards, in a social way, better than
he does, and very few people who play a fairer rubber. It is a thousand
pities that he should be so deprived of the pleasure. For now, we have
a quiet little whist club, that meets three times a week at the 'White
Hart'; and if he could but have his health, how much he would enjoy it!"

"I daresay he would, sir; and I wish, with all my heart, he were equal
to it."

"Your club would be better fitted for an invalid," said Mrs. Edwards,
"if you did not keep it up so late." This was an old grievance.

"So late, my dear! What are you talking of?" cried her husband with
sturdy pleasantry. "We are always at home before midnight. They would
laugh at Osborne Castle to hear you call _that_ late. They are but just
rising from dinner at midnight."

"That is nothing to the purpose," retorted the lady calmly. "The
Osbornes are to be no rule for us. You had better meet every night and
break up two hours sooner."

So far the subject was very often carried; but Mr. and Mrs. Edwards
were so wise as never to pass that point; and Mr. Edwards now turned to
something else. He had lived long enough in the idleness of a town to
become a little of a gossip, and having some anxiety to know more of
the circumstances of his young guest than had yet reached him, he began
with--

"I think, Miss Emma, I remember your aunt very well, about thirty years
ago; I am pretty sure I danced with her in the old rooms at Bath the
year before I married. She was a very fine woman then, but like other
people, I suppose, she is grown somewhat older since that time. I hope
she is likely to be happy in her second choice."

"I hope so; I believe so, sir," said Emma, in some agitation.

"Mr. Turner had not been dead a great while, I think?"

"About two years, sir."

"I forget what her name is now."

"O'Brien."

"Irish! Ah, I remember; and she is gone to settle in Ireland. I do not
wonder that you should not wish to go with her into _that_ country,
Miss Emma; but it must be a great deprivation to her, poor lady! after
bringing you up like a child of her own."

"I was not so ungrateful, sir," said Emma, warmly, "as to wish to be
anywhere but with her. It did not suit Captain O'Brien that I should be
of the party."

"Captain!" repeated Mrs. Edwards. "The gentleman is in the army, then?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Aye, there is nothing like your officers for captivating the ladies,
young or old. There is no resisting a cockade, my dear."

"I hope there is," said Mrs. Edwards gravely, with a quick glance at
her daughter; and Emma had just recovered from her own perturbation in
time to see a blush on Miss Edwards' cheek; and, in remembering what
Elizabeth had said of Captain Hunter, to wonder and waver between his
influence and her brother's.

"Elderly ladies should be careful how they make a second choice,"
observed Mr. Edwards.

"Carefulness and discretion should not be confined to elderly ladies,
or to a second choice," added his wife. "They are quite as necessary to
young ladies in their first."

"Rather more so, my dear," replied he; "because young ladies are likely
to feel the effects of it longer. When an old lady plays the fool, it
is not in the course of nature that she should suffer from it many
years."

Emma drew her hand across her eyes; and Mrs. Edwards, in perceiving
it, changed the subject to one of less anxiety to all.

With nothing to do but to expect the hour of setting off, the afternoon
was long to the two young ladies; and though Miss Edwards was rather
discomposed at the very early hour which her mother always fixed for
going, that early hour itself was watched for with some eagerness.
The entrance of the tea-things at seven o'clock was some relief; and,
luckily, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards always drank a dish extraordinary and
ate an additional muffin when they were going to sit up late, which
lengthened the ceremony almost to the wished-for moment.

At a little before eight o'clock the Tomlinsons' carriage was heard to
go by, which was the constant signal for Mrs. Edwards to order hers
to the door; and in a very few minutes the party were transported
from the quiet and warmth of a snug parlour to the bustle, noise, and
draughts of air of a broad entrance passage of an inn. Mrs. Edwards,
carefully guarding her own dress, while she attended to the proper
security of her young charges' shoulders and throats, led the way up
the wide staircase, while no sound of a ball, but the first scrape
of one violin, blessed the ears of her followers; and Miss Edwards,
on hazarding the anxious enquiry of whether there were many people
come yet, was told by the waiter, as she knew she should be, that Mr.
Tomlinson's family were in the room.

In passing along a short gallery to the assembly room, brilliant in
lights before them, they were accosted by a young man in a morning
dress and boots, who was standing in the doorway of a bedchamber
apparently on purpose to see them go by.

"Ah! Mrs. Edwards, how do you do? How do you do, Miss Edwards?" he
cried, with an easy air. "You are determined to be in good time, I see,
as usual. The candles are but this moment lit."

"I like to get a good seat by the fire, you know, Mr. Musgrave,"
replied Mrs. Edwards.

"I am this moment going to dress," said he. "I am waiting for my
stupid fellow. We shall have a famous ball. The Osbornes are certainly
coming; you may depend upon _that_, for I was with Lord Osborne this
morning."

The party passed on. Mrs. Edwards' satin gown swept along the clean
floor of the ball-room to the fireplace at the upper end, where one
party only were formally seated, while three or four officers were
lounging together, passing in and out from the adjoining card-room. A
very stiff meeting between these near neighbours ensued, and as soon as
they were all duly placed again, Emma, in a low whisper, which became
the solemn scene, said to Miss Edwards--

"The gentleman we passed in the passage was Mr. Musgrave, then; he is
reckoned remarkably agreeable, I understand?"

Miss Edwards answered hesitatingly: "Yes, he is very much liked by many
people; but we are not very intimate."

"He is rich, is not he?"

"He has about eight or nine hundred a year, I believe. He came into
possession of it when he was very young, and my father and mother think
it has given him rather an unsettled turn. He is no favourite with
them."

The cold and empty appearance of the room, and the demure air of the
small cluster of females at one end of it, began soon to give way.
The inspiriting sound of other carriages was heard, and continual
accessions of portly chaperones, and strings of smartly dressed girls,
were received, with now and then a fresh gentleman straggler, who, if
not enough in love to station himself near any fair creature, seemed
glad to escape into the card-room.

Among the increasing number of military men, one now made his way to
Miss Edwards with an air of _empressement_ which decidedly said to her
companion: "I am Captain Hunter"; and Emma, who could not but watch her
at such a moment, saw her looking rather distressed, but by no means
displeased, and heard an engagement formed for the two first dances,
which made her think her brother Sam's a hopeless case.

Emma, in the meanwhile, was not unobserved or unadmired herself. A
new face, and a very pretty one, could not be slighted. Her name was
whispered from one party to another, and no sooner had the signal been
given by the orchestra's striking up a favourite air, which seemed to
call the young to their duty, and people the centre of the room, than
she found herself engaged to dance with a brother officer, introduced
by Captain Hunter.

Emma Watson was not more than of the middle height, well made and
plump, with an air of healthy vigour. Her skin was very brown, but
clear, smooth, and glowing; which, with a lively eye, a sweet smile,
and an open countenance, gave beauty to attract, and expression to
make that beauty improve on acquaintance. Having no reason to be
dissatisfied with her partner, the evening began very pleasantly
to her, and her feelings perfectly coincided with the reiterated
observation of others, that it was an excellent ball. The two first
dances were not quite over when the returning sound of carriages, after
a long interruption, called general notice--"the Osbornes are coming!"
was repeated round the room. After some minutes of extraordinary
bustle without, and watchful curiosity within, the important party,
preceded by the attentive master of the inn to open a door which was
never shut, made their appearance. They consisted of Lady Osborne;
her son, Lord Osborne; her daughter, Miss Osborne; Miss Carr, her
daughter's friend; Mr. Howard, formerly tutor to Lord Osborne, now
clergyman of the parish in which the castle stood; Mrs. Blake, a widow
sister, who lived with him; her son, a fine boy of ten years old; and
Mr. Tom Musgrave, who probably, imprisoned within his own room, had
been listening in bitter impatience to the sound of music for the last
half-hour. In their progress up the room they paused almost immediately
behind Emma to receive the compliments of some acquaintance, and she
heard Lady Osborne observe that they had made a point of coming early
for the gratification of Mrs. Blake's little boy, who was uncommonly
fond of dancing. Emma looked at them all as they passed, but chiefly
and with most interest on Tom Musgrave, who was certainly a genteel,
good-looking young man. Of the females, Lady Osborne had by much the
finest person; though nearly fifty, she was very handsome, and had all
the dignity of rank.

Lord Osborne was a very fine young man; but there was an air of
coldness, of carelessness, even of awkwardness about him, which seemed
to speak him out of his element in a ball-room. He came, in fact, only
because it was judged expedient for him to please the borough; he was
not fond of women's company, and he never danced. Mr. Howard was an
agreeable-looking man, a little more than thirty.

At the conclusion of the two dances, Emma found herself, she knew not
how, seated amongst the Osbornes' set; and she was immediately struck
with the fine countenance and animated gestures of the little boy, as
he was standing before his mother, considering when they should begin.

"You will not be surprised at Charles's impatience," said Mrs. Blake, a
lively, pleasant-looking little woman of five- or six-and-thirty, to a
lady who was standing near her, "when you know what a partner he is to
have. Miss Osborne has been so very kind as to promise to dance the two
first dances with him."

"Oh, yes! we have been engaged this week," cried the boy, "and we are
to dance down every couple."

On the other side of Emma, Miss Osborne, Miss Carr, and a party of
young men were standing engaged in a very lively consultation; and soon
afterwards she saw the smartest officer of the set walking off to the
orchestra to order the dance, while Miss Osborne, passing before her
to her little expecting partner, hastily said: "Charles, I beg your
pardon for not keeping my engagement, but I am going to dance these
two dances with Colonel Beresford. I know you will excuse me, and I
will certainly dance with you after tea"; and without staying for an
answer, she turned again to Miss Carr, and in another minute was led
by Colonel Beresford to begin the set. If the poor little boy's face
had in its happiness been interesting to Emma, it was infinitely more
so under this sudden reverse; he stood the picture of disappointment
with crimsoned cheeks, quivering lips, and eyes bent on the floor. His
mother, stifling her own mortification, tried to soothe him with the
prospect of Miss Osborne's second promise; but, though he contrived to
utter with an effort of boyish bravery, "Oh, I do not mind it!" it was
very evident by the unceasing agitation of his features that he minded
it as much as ever.

Emma did not think or reflect; she felt and acted. "I shall be very
happy to dance with you, sir, if you like it," said she, holding out
her hand with the most unaffected good-humour. The boy, in one moment
restored to all his first delight, looked joyfully at his mother;
and stepping forwards with an honest, simple "Thank you, ma'am," was
instantly ready to attend his new acquaintance. The thankfulness of
Mrs. Blake was more diffuse; with a look most expressive of unexpected
pleasure and lively gratitude, she turned to her neighbour with
repeated and fervent acknowledgments of so great and condescending
a kindness to her boy. Emma, with perfect truth, assured her that
she could not be giving greater pleasure than she felt herself; and
Charles, being provided with his gloves and charged to keep them on,
they joined the set which was now rapidly forming, with nearly equal
complacency. It was a partnership which could not be noticed without
surprise. It gained her a broad stare from Miss Osborne and Miss Carr,
as they passed her in the dance. "Upon my word, Charles, you are in
luck," said the former, as she turned him; "you have got a better
partner than me"; to which the happy Charles answered "Yes."

Tom Musgrave, who was dancing with Miss Carr, gave her many inquisitive
glances; and after a time Lord Osborne himself came, and under pretence
of talking to Charles, stood to look at his partner. Though rather
distressed by such observation, Emma could not repent what she had
done, so happy had it made both the boy and his mother; the latter of
whom was continually making opportunities of addressing her with the
warmest civility. Her little partner she found, though bent chiefly on
dancing, was not unwilling to speak, when her questions or remarks gave
him anything to say; and she learnt, by a sort of inevitable enquiry,
that he had two brothers and a sister, that they and their mamma all
lived with his uncle at Wickstead, that his uncle taught him Latin,
that he was very fond of riding, and had a horse of his own given
him by Lord Osborne; and that he had been out once already with Lord
Osborne's hounds.

At the end of these dances, Emma found they were to drink tea; Miss
Edwards gave her a caution to be at hand, in a manner which convinced
her of Mrs. Edwards' holding it very important to have them both close
to her when she moved into the tea-room; and Emma was accordingly on
the alert to gain her proper station.

It was always the pleasure of the company to have a little bustle and
crowd when they adjourned for refreshment. The tea-room was a small
room within the card-room; and in passing through the latter, where the
passage was straitened by tables, Mrs. Edwards and her party were for
a few moments hemmed in. It happened close by Lady Osborne's casino
table; Mr. Howard, who belonged to it, spoke to his nephew; and Emma,
on perceiving herself the object of attention both to Lady Osborne and
him, had just turned away her eyes in time to avoid seeming to hear her
young companion exclaim delightedly aloud: "Oh, uncle! do look at my
partner, she is so pretty!" As they were immediately in motion again,
however, Charles was hurried off without being able to receive his
uncle's suffrage. On entering the tea-room, in which two long tables
were prepared, Lord Osborne was to be seen quite alone at the end of
one, as if retreating as far as he could from the ball, to enjoy his
own thoughts and gape without restraint. Charles instantly pointed him
out to Emma. "There's Lord Osborne; let you and I go and sit by him."

"No, no," said Emma laughing, "you must sit with my friends."

Charles was now free enough to hazard a few questions in his turn.
"What o'clock was it?"

"Eleven."

"Eleven! and I am not at all sleepy. Mamma said I should be asleep
before ten. Do you think Miss Osborne will keep her word with me when
tea is over?"

"Oh, yes; I suppose so," though she felt that she had no better reason
to give than that Miss Osborne had _not_ kept it before.

"When shall you come to Osborne Castle?"

"Never, probably. I am not acquainted with the family."

"But you may come to Wickstead and see mamma, and she can take you
to the castle. There is a monstrous curious stuffed fox there, and a
badger; anybody would think they were alive. It is a pity you should
not see them."

On rising from tea there was again a scramble for the pleasure of
being first out of the room, which happened to be increased by one or
two of the card-parties having just broken up, and the players being
disposed to move exactly the different way. Among these was Mr. Howard,
his sister leaning on his arm; and no sooner were they within reach of
Emma, than Mrs. Blake, calling her notice by a friendly touch, said:
"Your goodness to Charles, my dear Miss Watson, brings all his family
upon you. Give me leave to introduce my brother." Emma curtsied, the
gentleman bowed, made a hasty request for the honour of her hand in
the two next dances, to which as hasty an affirmative was given, and
they were immediately impelled in opposite directions. Emma was very
well pleased with the circumstance; there was a quietly cheerful,
gentlemanlike air in Mr. Howard, which suited her; and in a few minutes
afterwards the value of her engagement increased when, as she was
sitting in the card-room, somewhat screened by a door, she heard Lord
Osborne, who was lounging on a vacant table near her, call Tom Musgrave
towards him and say: "Why do not you dance with that beautiful Emma
Watson? I want you to dance with her, and I will come and stand by you."

"I was determined on it this very moment, my lord; I'll be introduced
and dance with her directly."

"Aye, do; and if you find she does not want much talking to, you may
introduce me by-and-by."

"Very well, my lord; if she is like her sisters, she will only want
to be listened to. I will go this moment. I shall find her in the
tea-room. That stiff old Mrs. Edwards has never done tea."

Away he went, Lord Osborne after him; and Emma lost no time in hurrying
from her corner exactly the other way, forgetting in her haste that she
left Mrs. Edwards behind.

"We had quite lost you," said Mrs. Edwards, who followed in less than
five minutes. "If you prefer this room to the other, there is no reason
why you should not be here; but we had better all be together."

Emma was saved the trouble of apologising, by their being joined at
the moment by Tom Musgrave, who, requesting Mrs. Edwards aloud to do
him the honour of presenting him to Miss Emma Watson, left that good
lady without any choice in the business, but that of testifying by
the coldness of her manner that she did it unwillingly. The honour of
dancing with her was solicited without loss of time; and Emma, however
she might like to be thought a beautiful girl by lord or commoner,
was so little disposed to favour Tom Musgrave himself, that she had
considerable satisfaction in avowing her previous engagement. He was
evidently surprised and discomposed. The style of her last partner had
probably led him to believe her not overpowered with applications.

"My little friend, Charles Blake," he cried, "must not expect to
engross you the whole evening. We can never suffer this. It is against
the rules of the assembly, and I am sure it will never be patronised by
our good friend here, Mrs. Edwards; she is by much too nice a judge of
decorum to give her licence to such a dangerous particularity----"

"I am not going to dance with Master Blake, sir!"

The gentleman, a little disconcerted, could only hope he might be
fortunate another time; and seeming unwilling to leave her, though his
friend, Lord Osborne, was waiting in the doorway for the result, as
Emma with some amusement perceived, he began to make civil enquiries
after her family.

"How comes it that we have not the pleasure of seeing your sisters here
this evening? Our assemblies have been used to be so well treated by
them that we do not know how to take this neglect."

"My eldest sister is the only one at home, and she could not leave my
father."

"Miss Watson the only one at home! You astonish me! It seems but the
day before yesterday that I saw them all three in the town. But I
am afraid I have been a very sad neighbour of late. I hear dreadful
complaints of my negligence wherever I go, and I confess it is a
shameful length of time since I was at Stanton. But I shall _now_
endeavour to make myself amends for the past."

Emma's calm curtsey in reply must have struck him as very unlike the
encouraging warmth he had been used to receive from her sisters; and
gave him probably the novel sensation of doubting his own influence,
and of wishing for more attention than she bestowed. The dancing
now recommenced. Miss Carr being impatient to _call_, everybody was
required to stand up; and Tom Musgrave's curiosity was appeased on
seeing Mr. Howard come forward and claim Emma's hand.

"That will do as well for me," was Lord Osborne's remark, when his
friend carried him the news, and he was continually at Howard's elbow
during the two dances.

The frequency of his appearance there was the only unpleasant part of
the engagement, the only objection she could make to Mr. Howard. In
himself, she thought him as agreeable as he looked; though chatting on
the commonest topics, he had a sensible, unaffected way of expressing
himself, which made whatever he said worth hearing, and she only
regretted that he had not been able to make his pupil's manners as
unexceptionable as his own. The two dances seemed very short, and
she had her partner's authority for considering them so. At their
conclusion, the Osbornes and their train were all on the move.

"We are off at last," said his lordship to Tom. "How much longer do you
stay in this heavenly place?--till sunrise?"

"No, faith! my lord; I have had quite enough of it, I assure you.
I shall not show myself here again when I have had the honour of
attending Lady Osborne to her carriage. I shall retreat in as much
secrecy as possible to the most remote corner of the house, where I
shall order a barrel of oysters, and be famously snug."

"Let me see you soon at the castle, and bring me word how she looks by
daylight."

Emma and Mrs. Blake parted as old acquaintance; and Charles shook her
by the hand and wished her good-bye at least a dozen times. From Miss
Osborne and Miss Carr she received something like a jerking curtsey as
they passed her; even Lady Osborne gave her a look of complacency, and
his lordship actually came back after the others were out of the room,
to "beg her pardon," and look in the window-seat behind her for the
gloves which were visibly compressed in his hand. As Tom Musgrave was
seen no more, we may suppose his plan to have succeeded, and imagine
him mortifying with his barrel of oysters in dreary solitude, or gladly
assisting the landlady in her bar to make fresh negus for the happy
dancers above. Emma could not help missing the party by whom she had
been, though in some respects unpleasantly, distinguished; and the
two dances which followed and concluded the ball were rather flat in
comparison with the others. Mr. Edwards having played with good luck,
they were some of the last in the room.

"Here we are back again, I declare," said Emma sorrowfully, as she
walked into the dining-room, where the table was prepared, and the neat
upper maid was lighting the candles.

"My dear Miss Edwards, how soon it is at an end! I wish it could all
come over again."

A great deal of kind pleasure was expressed in her having enjoyed the
evening so much; and Mr. Edwards was as warm as herself in the praise
of the fulness, brilliancy, and spirit of the meeting; though as he had
been fixed the whole time at the same table in the same room, with only
one change of chairs, it might have seemed a matter scarcely perceived;
but he had won four rubbers out of five, and everything went well. His
daughter felt the advantage of this gratified state of mind in the
course of the remarks and retrospections which now ensued over the
welcome soup.

"How came you not to dance with either of the Mr. Tomlinsons, Mary?"
said her mother.

"I was always engaged when they asked me."

"I thought you were to have stood up with Mr. James the two last
dances; Mrs. Tomlinson told me he was gone to ask you, and I had heard
you say two minutes before that you were _not_ engaged?"

"Yes, but there was a mistake; I had misunderstood. I did not know I
was engaged. I thought it had been for the two dances after, if we
stayed so long; but Captain Hunter assured me it was for those very
two."

"So you ended with Captain Hunter, Mary, did you?" said her father.
"And whom did you begin with?"

"Captain Hunter," was repeated in a very humble tone.

"Hum! That is being constant, however. But who else did you dance with?"

"Mr. Norton and Mr. Styles."

"And who are they?"

"Mr. Norton is a cousin of Captain Hunter's."

"And who is Mr. Styles?"

"One of his particular friends."

"All in the same regiment," added Mrs. Edwards. "Mary was surrounded by
redcoats all the evening. I should have been better pleased to see her
dancing with some of our old neighbours, I confess."

"Yes, yes; we must not neglect our old neighbours. But if these
soldiers are quicker than other people in a ball-room, what are young
ladies to do?"

"I think there is no occasion for their engaging themselves so many
dances beforehand, Mr. Edwards."

"No, perhaps not; but I remember, my dear, when you and I did the same."

Mrs. Edwards said no more, and Mary breathed again. A good deal of
good-humoured pleasantry followed, and Emma went to bed in charming
spirits, her head full of Osbornes, Blakes, and Howards.



CHAPTER III


The next morning brought a great many visitors. It was the way of the
place always to call on Mrs. Edwards the morning after a ball, and this
neighbourly inclination was increased in the present instance by a
general spirit of curiosity on Emma's account, as everybody wanted to
look again at the girl who had been admired the night before by Lord
Osborne. Many were the eyes, and various the degrees of approbation,
with which she was examined. Some saw no fault, and some no beauty.
With some, her brown skin was the annihilation of every grace, and
others could never be persuaded that she was half so handsome as
Elizabeth Watson had been ten years ago. The morning passed quickly
away in discussing the merits of the ball with all this succession of
company, and Emma was at once astonished by finding it two o'clock,
and considering that she had heard nothing of her father's chair.
After this discovery she had walked twice to the window to examine the
street, and was on the point of asking leave to ring the bell and make
enquiries, when the light sound of a carriage driving up to the door
set her heart at ease. She stepped again to the window, but instead
of the convenient though very un-smart family equipage, perceived a
neat curricle. Mr. Musgrave was shortly afterwards announced, and
Mrs. Edwards put on her very stiffest look at the sound. Not at all
dismayed, however, by her chilling air, he paid his compliments to each
of the ladies with no unbecoming ease, and continuing to address Emma,
presented her a note, which "he had the honour of bringing from her
sister, but to which, he must observe, a verbal postscript from himself
would be requisite."

The note, which Emma was beginning to read rather before Mrs. Edwards
had entreated her to use no ceremony, contained a few lines from
Elizabeth importing that their father, in consequence of being
unusually well, had taken the sudden resolution of attending the
visitation that day; and that as his road lay quite wide from D----,
it was impossible for her to come home till the following morning;
unless the Edwards would send her, which was hardly to be expected, or
she could meet with any chance conveyance, or did not mind walking so
far. She had scarcely run her eye through the whole, before she found
herself obliged to listen to Tom Musgrave's further account.

"I received that note from the fair hands of Miss Watson only ten
minutes ago," said he; "I met her in the village of Stanton, whither my
good stars prompted me to run my horses' heads. She was at that moment
in quest of a person to employ on the errand, and I was fortunate
enough to convince her that she could not find a more willing or speedy
messenger than myself. Remember, I say nothing of my disinterestedness.
My reward is to be the indulgence of conveying you to Stanton in my
curricle. Though they are not written down, I bring your sister's
orders for the same."

Emma felt distressed; she did not like the proposal--she did not wish
to be on terms of intimacy with the proposer: and yet, fearful of
encroaching on the Edwards, as well as wishing to go home herself, she
was at a loss how entirely to decline what he offered. Mrs. Edwards
continued silent, either not understanding the case, or waiting to see
how the young lady's inclination lay. Emma thanked him, but professed
herself very unwilling to give him so much trouble. The trouble was of
course, honour, pleasure, delight--what had he or his horses to do?
Still she hesitated--she believed she must beg leave to decline his
assistance; she was rather afraid of the sort of carriage. The distance
was not beyond a walk. Mrs. Edwards was silent no longer. She enquired
into the particulars, and then said, "We shall be extremely happy, Miss
Emma, if you can give us the pleasure of your company till to-morrow;
but if you cannot conveniently do so, our carriage is quite at your
service, and Mary will be pleased with the opportunity of seeing your
sister."

This was precisely what Emma longed for, and she accepted the offer
most thankfully; acknowledging that as Elizabeth was entirely alone, it
was her wish to return home to dinner. The plan was warmly opposed by
their visitor.

"I cannot suffer it, indeed. I must not be deprived of the happiness
of escorting you. I assure you there is not a possibility of fear with
my horses. You might guide them yourself. Your sisters all know how
quiet they are; they have none of them the smallest scruple intrusting
themselves with me, even on a racecourse. Believe me," added he,
lowering his voice, "_you_ are quite safe--the danger is only _mine_."

Emma was not more disposed to oblige him for all this.

"And as for Mrs. Edwards' carriage being used the day after the ball,
it is a thing out of all rule, I assure you--never heard of before. The
old coachman will look as black as his horses--won't he, Miss Edwards?"

No notice was taken. The ladies were silently firm, and the gentleman
found himself obliged to submit.

"What a famous ball we had last night," he cried, after a short pause.
"How long did you keep it up after the Osbornes and I went away?"

"We had two dances more."

"It is making it too much of a fatigue, I think, to stay so late. I
suppose your set was not a very full one?"

"Yes, quite as full as ever, except the Osbornes. There seemed no
vacancy anywhere; and everybody danced with uncommon spirit to the very
last."

Emma said this, though against her conscience.

"Indeed! Perhaps I might have looked in upon you again, if I had been
aware of as much; for I am rather fond of dancing than not. Miss
Osborne is a charming girl, is not she?"

"I do not think her handsome," replied Emma, to whom all this was
chiefly addressed.

"Perhaps she is not critically handsome, but her manners are
delightful. And Fanny Carr is a most interesting little creature. You
can imagine nothing more naïve or _piquante_; and what do you think of
Lord Osborne, Miss Watson?"

"He would be handsome even though he were _not_ a lord, and perhaps
better himself pleased in a right place."

"Upon my word, you are severe upon my friend! I assure you Lord Osborne
is a very good fellow."

"I do not dispute his virtues, but I do not like his careless air."

"If it were not a breach of confidence," replied Tom, with an important
look, "perhaps I might be able to win a more favourable opinion of poor
Osborne."

Emma gave him no encouragement, and he was obliged to keep his friend's
secret. He was also obliged to put an end to his visit, for Mrs.
Edwards having ordered her carriage, there was no time to be lost on
Emma's side in preparing for it. Miss Edwards accompanied her home; but
as it was dinner hour at Stanton, stayed with them only a few minutes.

"Now, my dear Emma," said Miss Watson, as soon as they were alone, "you
must talk to me all the rest of the day without stopping, or I shall
not be satisfied; but, first of all, Nanny shall bring in the dinner.
Poor thing! You will not dine as you did yesterday, for we have nothing
but some fried beef. How nice Mary Edwards looks in her new pelisse!
And now tell me how you like them all, and what I am to say to Sam. I
have begun my letter; Jack Stokes is to call for it to-morrow, for his
uncle is going within a mile of Guildford next day."

Nanny brought in the dinner.

"We will wait upon ourselves," continued Elizabeth, "and then we shall
lose no time. And so you would not come home with Tom Musgrave?"

"No, you had said so much against him that I could not wish either for
the obligation or the intimacy which the use of his carriage must have
created. I should not even have liked the appearance of it."

"You did very right, though I wonder at your forbearance, and I do not
think I could have done it myself. He seemed so eager to fetch you that
I could not say no, though it rather went against me to be throwing you
together, so well as I knew his tricks; but I did long to see you, and
it was a clever way of getting you home. Besides, it won't do to be too
nice. Nobody could have thought of the Edwards letting you have their
coach, after the horses being out so late. But what am I to say to Sam?"

"If you are guided by me you will not encourage him to think of
Miss Edwards. The father is decidedly against him, the mother shows
him no favour, and I doubt his having any interest with Mary. She
danced twice with Captain Hunter, and I think shows him in general
as much encouragement as is consistent with her disposition and the
circumstances she is placed in. She once mentioned Sam, and certainly
with a little confusion; but that was perhaps merely owing to the
consciousness of his liking her, which may very probably have come to
her knowledge.

"Oh! dear, yes. She has heard enough of _that_ from us all! Poor Sam!
he is out of luck as well as other people. For the life of me, Emma, I
cannot help feeling for those that are crossed in love. Well, now begin
and give me an account of everything as it happened."

Emma obeyed her, and Elizabeth listened with very little interruption
till she heard of Mr. Howard as a partner.

"Dance with Mr. Howard. Good heavens! You don't say so! Why, he is
quite one of the great and grand ones. Did you not find him very high?"

"His manners are of a kind to give me much more ease and confidence
than Tom Musgrave's."

"Well, go on. I should have been frightened out of my wits to have had
anything to do with the Osbornes' set."

Emma concluded her narration.

"And so you really did not dance with Tom Musgrave at all, but you
must have liked him--you must have been struck with him altogether?"

"I do _not_ like him, Elizabeth. I allow his person and air to be
good; and that his manners to a certain point--his address rather--is
pleasing. But I see nothing else to admire in him. On the contrary, he
seems very vain, very conceited, absurdly anxious for distinction, and
absolutely contemptible in some of the measures he takes for being so.
There is a ridiculousness about him that entertains me; but his company
gives me no other agreeable emotion."

"My dearest Emma! You are like nobody else in the world. It is well
Margaret is not by. You do not offend _me_, though I hardly know how to
believe you; but Margaret would never forgive such words."

"I wish Margaret could have heard him profess his ignorance of her
being out of the country; he declared it seemed only two days since he
had seen her."

"Aye, that is just like him; and yet this is the man she _will_ fancy
so desperately in love with her. He is no favourite of mine, as you
well know, Emma; but you must think him agreeable. Can you lay your
hand on your heart and say you do not?"

"Indeed I can, both hands; and spread them to their widest extent."

"I should like to know the man you _do_ think agreeable."

"His name is Howard."

"Howard! Dear me, I cannot think of him but as playing cards with Lady
Osborne, and looking proud. I must own, however, that it is a relief
to me to find you can speak as you do of Tom Musgrave. My heart did
misgive me that you would like him too well. You talked so stoutly
beforehand, that I was sadly afraid your brag would be punished.
I only hope it will last, and that he will not come on to pay you
much attention. It is a hard thing for a woman to stand against the
flattering ways of a man when he is bent upon pleasing her."

As their quietly sociable little meal concluded, Miss Watson could not
help observing how comfortably it had passed.

"It is so delightful to me," said she, "to have things going on in
peace and good-humour. Nobody can tell how much I hate quarrelling.
Now, though we have had nothing but fried beef, how good it has all
seemed. I wish everybody were as easily satisfied as you; but poor
Margaret is very snappish, and Penelope owns she would rather have
quarrelling going on than nothing at all."

Mr. Watson returned in the evening not the worse for the exertion of
the day and, consequently, pleased with what he had done, and glad to
talk of it over his own fireside. Emma had not foreseen any interest
to herself in the occurrences of a visitation; but when she heard Mr.
Howard spoken of as the preacher, and as having given them an excellent
sermon, she could not help listening with a quicker ear.

"I do not know when I have heard a discourse more to my mind,"
continued Mr. Watson, "or one better delivered. He reads extremely
well, with great propriety, and in a very impressive manner; and at
the same time without any theatrical grimace or violence. I own I do
not like much action in the pulpit; I do not like the studied air and
artificial inflexions of voice which your very popular and most admired
preachers generally have. A simple delivery is much better calculated
to inspire devotion, and shows a much better taste. Mr. Howard read
like a scholar and a gentleman."

"And what had you for dinner, sir?" said his eldest daughter.

He related the dishes, and told what he had ate himself.

"Upon the whole," he added, "I have had a very comfortable day. My old
friends were quite surprised to see me amongst them, and I must say
that everybody paid me great attention, and seemed to feel for me as an
invalid. They would make me sit near the fire; and as the partridges
were pretty high, Dr. Richards would have them sent away to the other
end of the table, 'that they might not offend Mr. Watson,' which I
thought very kind of him. But what pleased me as much as anything was
Mr. Howard's attention. There is a pretty steep flight of steps up to
the room we dine in, which do not agree with my gouty foot, and Mr.
Howard walked by me from the bottom to the top, and would make me take
his arm. It struck me as very becoming in so young a man, but I am sure
I had no claim to expect it, for I never saw him before in my life. By
the by, he enquired after one of my daughters, but I do not know which.
I suppose you know among yourselves."



CHAPTER IV


On the third day after the ball, as Nanny at five minutes before three,
was beginning to bustle into the parlour with the tray and knife case,
she was suddenly called to the front door by the sound of as smart
a rap as the end of a riding whip could give; and though charged by
Miss Watson to let nobody in, returned in half a minute with a look
of awkward dismay to hold the parlour door open for Lord Osborne and
Tom Musgrave. The surprise of the young ladies may be imagined. No
visitors would have been welcome at such a moment, but such visitors as
these--such an one as Lord Osborne at least, a nobleman and a stranger,
was really distressing.

He looked a little embarrassed himself, as, on being introduced by
his easy voluble friend, he muttered something of doing himself the
honour of waiting upon Mr. Watson. Though Emma could not but take the
compliment of the visit to herself, she was very far from enjoying
it. She felt all the inconsistency of such an acquaintance with the
very humble style in which they were obliged to live; and having in
her aunt's family been used to many of the elegancies of life, was
fully sensible of all that must be open to the ridicule of richer
people in her present home. Of the pain of such feelings, Elizabeth
knew very little. Her simple mind or juster reason saved her from
such mortification; and though shrinking under a general sense of
inferiority, she felt no particular shame. Mr. Watson, as the gentlemen
had already heard from Nanny, was not well enough to be down stairs.
With much concern they took their seats; Lord Osborne near Emma, and
the convenient Mr. Musgrave, in high spirits at his own importance, on
the other side of the fireplace with Elizabeth. _He_ was at no loss
for words; but when Lord Osborne had hoped that Emma had not caught
cold at the ball, he had nothing more to say for some time, and could
only gratify his eye by occasional glances at his fair companion. Emma
was not inclined to give herself much trouble for his entertainment;
and after hard labour of mind, he produced the remark of its being a
very fine day; and followed it up with the question of "Have you been
walking this morning?"

"No, my lord, we thought it too dirty."

"You should wear half-boots." After another pause: "Nothing sets off a
neat ankle more than a half-boot; nankeen, goloshed with black, looks
very well. Do not you like half-boots?"

"Yes; but unless they are so stout as to injure their beauty, they are
not fit for country walking."

"Ladies should ride in dirty weather. Do you ride?"

"No, my lord."

"I wonder every lady does not; a woman never looks better than on
horseback."

"But every woman may not have the inclination or the means."

"If they knew how much it became them, they would all have the
inclination; and I fancy, Miss Watson, when once they had the
inclination, the means would soon follow."

"Your lordship thinks we always have our own way. _That_ is a point on
which ladies and gentlemen have long disagreed; but without pretending
to decide it, I may say that there are some circumstances which even
_women_ cannot control. Female economy will do a great deal, my lord;
but it cannot turn a small income into a large one."

Lord Osborne was silenced. Her manner had been neither sententious nor
sarcastic, but there was a something in its mild seriousness, as well
as in the words themselves, which made his lordship think; and when he
addressed her again, it was with a degree of considerable propriety
totally unlike the half-awkward, half-fearless style of his former
remarks. It was a new thing with him to wish to please a woman; it
was the first time that he had ever felt what was due to a woman in
Emma's situation; but as he was wanting neither in sense nor a good
disposition, he did not feel it without effect.

"You have not been long in this country, I understand," said he in the
tone of a gentleman. "I hope you are pleased with it."

He was rewarded by a gracious answer and a more liberal full view
of her face than she had yet bestowed. Unused to exert himself, and
happy in contemplating her, he then sat in silence for some minutes
longer, while Tom Musgrave was chattering to Elizabeth, till they were
interrupted by Nanny's approach, who, half-opening the door and putting
in her head, said--

"Please, ma'am, master wants to know why he be'nt to have his dinner?"

The gentlemen, who had hitherto disregarded every symptom, however
positive, of the nearness of that meal, now jumped up with apologies;
while Elizabeth called briskly after Nanny to take up the fowls.

"I am sorry it happens so," she added, turning good-humouredly towards
Musgrave, "but you know what early hours we keep."

Tom had nothing to say for himself, he knew it very well; and such
honest simplicity, such shameless truth, rather bewildered him.
Lord Osborne's parting compliments took some time, his inclination
for speech seeming to increase with the shortness of the term for
indulgence. He recommended exercise in defiance of dirt; spoke again in
praise of half-boots; begged that his sister might be allowed to send
Emma the name of her shoemaker; and concluded with saying: "My hounds
will be hunting this country next week. I believe they will throw
off at Stanton Wood on Wednesday at nine o'clock. I mention this in
hopes of your being drawn out to see what's going on. If the morning's
tolerable, pray do us the honour of giving us your good wishes in
person."

The sisters looked on each other with astonishment when their visitors
had withdrawn.

"Here's an unaccountable honour!" cried Elizabeth at last. "Who would
have thought of Lord Osborne's coming to Stanton? He is very handsome;
but Tom Musgrave looks all to nothing the smartest and most fashionable
man of the two. I am glad he did not say anything to me; I would not
have had to talk to such a great man for the world. Tom was very
agreeable, was not he? But did you hear him ask where Miss Penelope and
Miss Margaret were, when he first came in? It put me out of patience. I
am glad Nanny had not laid the cloth, however, it would have looked so
awkward; just the tray did not signify."

To say that Emma was not flattered by Lord Osborne's visit, would be to
assert a very unlikely thing, and describe a very odd young lady; but
the gratification was by no means unalloyed; his coming was a sort of
notice which might please her vanity, but did not suit her pride; and
she would rather have known that he wished the visit without presuming
to make it, than have seen him at Stanton.

Among other unsatisfactory feelings, it once occurred to her to
wonder why Mr. Howard had not taken the same privilege of coming, and
accompanied his lordship; but she was willing to suppose that he had
either known nothing about it, or had declined any share in a measure
which carried quite as much impertinence in form as good breeding. Mr.
Watson was very far from being delighted when he heard what had passed;
a little peevish under immediate pain, and ill-disposed to be pleased,
he only replied--

"Pooh! Pooh! what occasion could there be for Lord Osborne's coming?
I have lived here fourteen years without being noticed by any of the
family. It is some fooling of that idle fellow, Tom Musgrave. I cannot
return the visit. I would not if I could." And when Tom Musgrave was
met with again, he was commissioned with a message of excuse to Osborne
Castle on the too sufficient plea of Mr. Watson's infirm state of
health.



CHAPTER V


A week or ten days rolled quietly away after this visit before any
new bustle arose to interrupt, even for half a day, the tranquil and
affectionate intercourse of the two sisters, whose mutual regard
was increasing with the intimate knowledge of each other which such
intercourse produced. The first circumstance to break in on their
security was the receipt of a letter from Croydon, to announce the
speedy return of Margaret, and a visit of two or three days from Mr.
and Mrs. Robert Watson, who undertook to bring her home, and wished to
see their sister Emma.

It was an expectation to fill the thoughts of the sisters at Stanton
and to busy the hours of one of them at least; for, as Jane had been
a woman of fortune, the preparations for her entertainment were
considerable; and as Elizabeth had at all times more goodwill than
method in her guidance of the house, she could make no change without
a bustle. An absence of fourteen years had made all her brothers and
sisters strangers to Emma, but in her expectation of Margaret there was
more than the awkwardness of such an alienation; she had heard things
which made her dread her return; and the day which brought the party to
Stanton, seemed to her the probable conclusion of almost all that had
been comfortable in the house.

Robert Watson was an attorney at Croydon in a good way of business,
very well satisfied with himself for the same, and for having married
the only daughter of the attorney to whom he had been clerk, with
a fortune of six thousand pounds. Mrs. Robert was not less pleased
with herself for having had that six thousand pounds, and for being
now in possession of a very smart house in Croydon, where she gave
genteel parties and wore fine clothes. In her person there was nothing
remarkable; her manners were pert and conceited. Margaret was not
without beauty; she had a slight, pretty figure, and rather wanted
countenance than good features; but the sharp and anxious expression
on her face made her beauty in general little felt. On meeting her
long-absent sister, as on every occasion of show, her manner was all
affection and her voice all gentleness; continual smiles and a very
slow articulation being her constant resource when determined on
pleasing.

She was now "so delighted to see dear, dear Emma," that she could
hardly speak a word in a minute.

"I am sure we shall be great friends," she observed with much sentiment
as they were sitting together. Emma scarcely knew how to answer such
a proposition, and the manner in which it was spoken she could not
attempt to equal. Mrs. Robert Watson eyed her with much familiar
curiosity and triumphant compassion; the loss of her aunt's fortune
was uppermost in her mind at the moment of meeting, and she could not
but feel how much better it was to be the daughter of a gentleman of
property in Croydon than the niece of an old woman who threw herself
away on an Irish captain. Robert was carelessly kind, as became
a prosperous man and a brother; more intent on settling with the
post-boy, inveighing against the exorbitant advance in posting, and
pondering over a doubtful half-crown, than on welcoming a sister who
was no longer likely to have any property for him to get the direction
of.

"Your road through the village is infamous, Elizabeth," said he; "worse
than ever it was. By heaven! I would indict it if I lived near you. Who
is the surveyor now?"

There was a little niece at Croydon to be fondly enquired after by the
kind-hearted Elizabeth, who regretted very much her not being of the
party.

"You are very good," replied her mother, "and I assure you it went
very hard with Augusta to have us come away without her. I was forced
to say we were only going to church, and promise to come back for her
directly. But you know it would not do to bring her without her maid,
and I am as particular as ever in having her properly attended to."

"Sweet little darling," cried Margaret. "It quite broke my heart to
leave her."

"Then why was you in such a hurry to run away from her?" cried Mrs.
Robert. "You are a sad, shabby girl. I have been quarrelling with you
all the way we came, have not I? Such a visit as this I never heard
of! You know how glad we are to have any of you with us, if it be for
months together; and I am sorry (with a witty smile) we have not been
able to make Croydon agreeable this autumn."

"My dearest Jane, do not overpower me with your raillery. You know what
inducements I had to bring me home. Spare me, I entreat you. I am no
match for your arch sallies."

"Well, I only beg you will not set your neighbours against the place.
Perhaps Emma may be tempted to go back with us and stay till Christmas,
if you don't put in your word."

Emma was greatly obliged. "I assure you we have very good society at
Croydon. I do not much attend the balls, they are rather too mixed; but
our parties are very select and good. I had seven tables last week in
my drawing-room.

"Are you fond of the country? How do you like Stanton?"

"Very much," replied Emma, who thought a comprehensive answer most to
the purpose. She saw that her sister-in-law despised her immediately.
Mrs. Robert Watson was indeed wondering what sort of a home Emma could
possibly have been used to in Shropshire, and setting it down as
certain that the aunt could never have had six thousand pounds.

"How charming Emma is," whispered Margaret to Mrs. Robert in her
most languishing tone. Emma was quite distressed by such behaviour,
and she did not like it better when she heard Margaret, five minutes
afterwards, say to Elizabeth in a sharp, quick accent, totally unlike
the first: "Have you heard from Pen since she went to Chichester? I had
a letter the other day. I don't find she is likely to make anything of
it. I fancy she'll come back 'Miss Penelope,' as she went."

Such she feared would be Margaret's common voice when the novelty of
her own appearance was over; the tone of artificial sensibility was not
recommended by the idea. The ladies were invited upstairs to prepare
for dinner.

"I hope you will find things tolerably comfortable, Jane," said
Elizabeth, as she opened the door of the spare bedchamber.

"My good creature," replied she, "use no ceremony with me, I entreat
you. I am one of those who always take things as they find them. I hope
I can put up with a small apartment for two or three nights without
making a piece of work. I always wish to be treated quite _en famille_
when I come to see you. And now I do hope you have not been getting a
great dinner for us. Remember, we never eat suppers."

"I suppose," said Margaret rather quickly to Emma, "you and I are to
be together; Elizabeth always takes care to have a room to herself."

"No. Elizabeth gives me half hers."

"Oh!" in a softened voice, and rather mortified to find that she was
not ill-used.

"I am sorry I am not to have the pleasure of your company, especially
as it makes me nervous to be much alone."

Emma was the first of the females in the parlour again; on entering it,
she found her brother alone.

"So, Emma," said he, "you are quite a stranger at home. It must seem
odd enough for you to be here. A pretty piece of work your Aunt Turner
has made of it! By heaven! A woman should never be trusted with money.
I always said she ought to have settled something on you, as soon as
her husband died."

"But that would have been trusting _me_ with money," replied Emma; "and
I am a woman, too."

"It might have been secured to your future use, without your having
any power over it now. What a blow it must have been upon you! To find
yourself, instead of heiress of eight thousand pounds or nine thousand
pounds, sent back a weight upon your family, without a sixpence. I hope
the old woman will smart for it."

"Do not speak disrespectfully of her; she was very good to me, and if
she has made an imprudent choice, she will suffer more from it herself
than I can possibly do."

"I do not mean to distress you, but you know everybody must think her
an old fool. I thought Turner had been reckoned an extraordinarily
sensible, clever man. How the devil came he to make such a will?"

"My uncle's sense is not at all impeached in my opinion by his
attachment to my aunt. She had been an excellent wife to him. The most
liberal and enlightened minds are always the most confiding. The event
has been unfortunate, but my uncle's memory is, if possible, endeared
to me by such a proof of tender respect for my aunt."

"That's odd sort of talking. He might have provided decently for his
widow, without leaving everything that he had to dispose of, or any
part of it, at her mercy."

"My aunt may have erred," said Emma warmly; "she _has_ erred, but my
uncle's conduct was faultless; I was her own niece, and he left to her
the power of providing for me."

"But unluckily she has left the pleasure of providing for you to
your father, and without the power. That's the long and short of the
business. After keeping you at a distance from your family for such a
length of time as must do away with all natural affection among us, and
breeding you up (I suppose) in a superior style, you are returned upon
their hands without a sixpence."

"You know," replied Emma, struggling with her tears, "my uncle's
melancholy state of health. He was a greater invalid than my father. He
could not leave home."

"I do not mean to make you cry," said Robert, rather softened; and
after a short silence, by way of changing the subject, he added: "I
am just come from my father's room; he seems very indifferent. It will
be a sad break up if he dies. Pity you can none of you get married!
You must come to Croydon as well as the rest, and see what you can do
there. I believe if Margaret had had a thousand or fifteen hundred
pounds, there was a young man who would have thought of her."

Emma was glad when they were joined by the others; it was better to
look at her sister-in-law's finery than listen to Robert, who had
equally irritated and grieved her. Mrs. Robert, exactly as smart as she
had been at her own party, came in with apologies for her dress.

"I would not make you wait," said she, "so I put on the first thing I
met with. I am afraid I am a sad figure. My dear Mr. W---- (addressing
her husband), you have not put fresh powder in your hair."

"No, I do not intend it. I think there is powder enough in my hair for
my wife and sisters."

"Indeed, you ought to make some alteration in your dress before dinner
when you are out visiting, though you do not at home."

"Nonsense."

"It is very odd you do not like to do what other gentlemen do. Mr.
Marshall and Mr. Hemming change their dress every day of their lives
before dinner. And what was the use of my putting up your last new
coat, if you are never to wear it?"

"Do be satisfied with being fine yourself and leave your husband alone."

To put an end to this altercation and soften the evident vexation of
her sister-in-law, Emma (though in no spirits to make nonsense easy)
began to admire her gown. It produced immediate complacency.

"Do you like it?" she said. "I am very happy. It has been excessively
admired, but sometimes I think the pattern too large. I shall wear one
to-morrow which I think you will prefer to this. Have you seen the one
I gave Margaret?"

Dinner came, and except when Mrs. Robert looked at her husband's head,
she continued gay and flippant; chiding Elizabeth for the profusion
on the table, and absolutely protesting against the entrance of the
roast turkey, which formed the only exception to "you see your dinner."
"I do beg and entreat that no turkey may be seen to-day. I am really
frightened out of my wits with the number of dishes we have already.
Let us have no turkey, I beseech you."

"My dear," replied Elizabeth, "the turkey is roasted, and it may just
as well come in as stay in the kitchen. Besides, if it is cut, I am
in hopes my father may be tempted to eat a bit, for it is rather a
favourite dish."

"You may have it in, then, my dear; but I assure you I shan't touch it."

Mr. Watson had not been well enough to join the party at dinner, but
was prevailed on to come down and drink tea with them.

"I wish he may be able to have a game of cards to-night," said
Elizabeth to Mrs. Robert, after seeing her father comfortably seated
in his arm-chair.

"Not on my account, my dear, I beg. You know I am no card-player. I
think a snug chat infinitely better. I always say cards are very well
sometimes to break a formal circle, but one never wants them among
friends."

"I was thinking of its being something to amuse my father," said
Elizabeth, "if it was not disagreeable to you. He says his head won't
bear whist, but perhaps if we make a round game he may be tempted to
sit down with us."

"By all means, my dear creature; I am quite at your service, only do
not oblige me to choose the game, that's all. Speculation is the only
round game at Croydon now, but I can play anything. When there is only
one or two of you at home, you must be quite at a loss to amuse him.
Why do not you get him to play at cribbage? Margaret and I have played
at cribbage most nights that we have not been engaged."

A sound like a distant carriage was at this moment caught; everybody
listened; it became more decided; it certainly drew nearer. It was
an unusual sound for Stanton at any time of the day, for the village
was on no very public road, and contained no gentleman's family but
the rector's. The wheels rapidly approached, in two minutes the
general expectation was answered; they stopped beyond a doubt at the
garden-gate of the parsonage. Who could it be? It was certainly a
post-chaise. Penelope was the only creature to be thought of: she
might perhaps have met with some unexpected opportunity of returning.
A pause of suspense ensued. Steps were distinguished along the paved
footway, which led under the window of the house to the front door,
and then within the passage. They were the steps of a man. It could
not be Penelope. It must be Samuel. The door opened, and displayed Tom
Musgrave in the wrap of a traveller. He had been in London and was now
on his way home, and he had come half a mile out of his road to call
for ten minutes at Stanton. He loved to take people by surprise with
sudden visits at extraordinary seasons and, in the present instance, he
had the additional motive of being able to tell the Miss Watsons, whom
he depended on finding sitting quietly employed after tea, that he was
going home to an eight o'clock dinner.

As it happened, he did not give more surprise than he received,
when, instead of being shown into the usual little sitting-room, the
door of the best parlour (a foot larger each way than the other) was
thrown open, and he beheld a circle of smart people, whom he could not
immediately recognise, arranged with all the honours of visiting round
the fire; and Miss Watson seated at the best Pembroke table, with the
best tea-things before her.

He stood a few seconds in silent amazement. "Musgrave," ejaculated
Margaret, in a tender voice. He recollected himself, and came forward,
delighted to find such a circle of friends, and blessing his good
fortune for the unlooked-for indulgence. He shook hands with Robert,
bowed and smiled to the ladies, and did everything very prettily;
but as to any particularity of address or emotion towards Margaret,
Emma, who closely observed him, perceived nothing that did not justify
Elizabeth's opinion; though Margaret's modest smiles imported that
she meant to take the visit to herself. He was persuaded without much
difficulty to throw off his great coat and drink tea with them. For
"whether he dined at eight or nine," as he observed, "was a matter
of very little consequence"; and without seeming to seek, he did not
turn away from the chair close by Margaret, which she was assiduous in
providing him. She had thus secured him from her sisters, but it was
not immediately in her power to preserve him from her brother's claims;
for as he came avowedly from London, and had left it only four hours
ago, the last current report as to public news, and the general opinion
of the day, must be understood before Robert could let his attention
be yielded to the less rational and important demands of the women.
At last, however, he was at liberty to hear Margaret's soft address,
as she spoke her fears of his having had a most terrible cold, dark,
dreadful journey.

"Indeed, you should not have set out so late."

"I could not be earlier," he replied. "I was detained chatting at the
'Bedford' by a friend. All hours are alike to me. How long have you
been in the country, Miss Margaret?"

"We only came this morning; my kind brother and sister brought me home
this very morning. 'Tis singular--is not it?"

"You were gone a great while, were not you? A fortnight, I suppose?"

"_You_ may call a _fortnight_ a great while, Mr. Musgrave," said Mrs.
Robert, sharply; "but _we_ think a _month_ very little. I assure you we
bring her home at the end of a month much against our will."

"A month! Have you really been gone a month? 'Tis amazing how time
flies."

"You may imagine," said Margaret, in a sort of whisper, "what are my
sensations in finding myself once more at Stanton; you know what a
sad visitor I make. And I was so excessively impatient to see Emma; I
dreaded the meeting, and at the same time longed for it. Do you not
comprehend the sort of feeling?"

"Not at all," cried he, aloud. "I could never dread a meeting with Miss
Emma Watson, or any of her sisters."

It was lucky that he added that finish.

"Were you speaking of me?" said Emma, who had caught her own name.

"Not absolutely," he answered; "but I was thinking of you, as many at a
greater distance are probably doing at this moment. Fine open weather,
Miss Emma--charming season for hunting."

"Emma is delightful, is not she?" whispered Margaret; "I have found
her more than answer my warmest hopes. Did you ever see anything more
perfectly beautiful? I think even _you_ must be a convert to a brown
complexion."

He hesitated. Margaret was fair herself, and he did not particularly
want to compliment her; but Miss Osborne and Miss Carr were likewise
fair, and his devotion to them carried the day.

"Your sister's complexion," said he, at last, "is as fine as a dark
complexion can be; but I still profess my preference of a white skin.
You have seen Miss Osborne? She is my model for a truly feminine
complexion, and she is very fair."

"Is she fairer than me?"

Tom made no reply. "Upon my honour, ladies," said he, giving a glance
over his own person, "I am highly indebted to your condescension for
admitting me in such dishabille into your drawing-room. I really did
not consider how unfit I was to be here, or I hope I should have kept
my distance. Lady Osborne would tell me that I was growing as careless
as her son if she saw me in this condition."

The ladies were not wanting in civil returns, and Robert Watson,
stealing a view of his own head in an opposite glass, said with equal
civility--

"You cannot be more in dishabille than myself. We got here so late that
I had not time even to put a little fresh powder into my hair."

Emma could not help entering into what she supposed her sister-in-law's
feelings at the moment.

When the tea-things were removed, Tom began to talk of his carriage;
but the old card-table being set out, and the fish and counters, with
a tolerably clean pack brought forward from the buffet by Miss Watson,
the general voice was so urgent with him to join their party, that
he agreed to allow himself another quarter of an hour. Even Emma was
pleased that he would stay, for she was beginning to feel that a family
party might be the worst of all parties; and the others were delighted.

"What's the game?" cried he, as they stood round the table.

"Speculation, I believe," said Elizabeth. "My sister recommends it, and
I fancy we all like it. I know _you_ do, Tom."

"It is the only round game played at Croydon now," said Mrs. Robert;
"we never think of any other. I am glad it is a favourite with you."

"Oh! _me_," said Tom. "Whatever you decide on will be a favourite with
_me_. I have had some pleasant hours at speculation in my time; but I
have not been in the way of it for a long while. Vingt-un is the game
at Osborne Castle. I have played nothing but vingt-un of late. You
would be astonished to hear the noise we make there--the fine old lofty
drawing-room rings again. Lady Osborne sometimes declares she cannot
hear herself speak. Lord Osborne enjoys it famously, and he makes the
best dealer without exception that I ever beheld--such quickness and
spirit; he lets nobody dream over their cards. I wish you could see him
overdraw himself on both his own cards. It is worth anything in the
world!"

"Dear me!" cried Margaret, "why should not we play vingt-un? I think it
is a much better game than speculation. I cannot say I am very fond of
speculation."

Mrs. Robert offered not another word in support of the game. She was
quite vanquished, and the fashions of Osborne Castle carried it over
the fashions of Croydon.

"Do you see much of the parsonage family at the castle, Mr. Musgrave?"
said Emma, as they were taking their seats.

"Oh, yes; they are almost always there. Mrs. Blake is a nice, little,
good-humoured woman; she and I are sworn friends; and Howard's a very
gentlemanlike sort of fellow. You are not forgotten, I assure you, by
any of the party. I fancy you must have a little cheek-glowing now and
then, Miss Emma. Were not you rather warm last Saturday about nine or
ten o'clock in the evening? I will tell you how it was--I see you are
dying to know. Says Howard to Lord Osborne----"

At this interesting moment he was called on by the others to regulate
the game and determine some disputable point; and his attention was so
totally engaged in the business, and afterwards by the course of the
game, as never to revert to what he had been saying before; and Emma,
though suffering a good deal from curiosity, dared not remind him.

He proved a very useful addition at their table. Without him it would
have been a party of such very near relations as could have felt little
interest, and perhaps maintained little complaisance, but his presence
gave variety and secured good manners. He was, in fact, excellently
qualified to shine at a round game, and few situations made him appear
to greater advantage. He played with spirit, and had a great deal to
say; and though no wit himself, could sometimes make use of the wit of
an absent friend, and had a lively way of retailing a commonplace, or
saying a mere nothing, that had great effect at a card-table. The ways
and good jokes of Osborne Castle were now added to his ordinary means
of entertainment. He repeated the smart sayings of one lady, detailed
the oversights of another, and indulged them even with a copy of Lord
Osborne's overdrawing himself on both cards.

The clock struck nine while he was thus agreeably occupied; and when
Nanny came in with her master's basin of gruel, he had the pleasure of
observing to Mr. Watson that he should leave him at supper while he
went home to dinner himself. The carriage was ordered to the door, and
no entreaties for his staying longer could now avail; for he well knew
that if he stayed he would have to sit down to supper in less than ten
minutes, which to a man whose heart has been long fixed on calling his
next meal a dinner, was quite insupportable. On finding him determined
to go, Margaret began to wink and nod at Elizabeth to ask him to dinner
the following day; and Elizabeth at last, not able to resist hints
which her own hospitable social temper more than half seconded, gave
the invitation: "Would he give Robert the meeting, they would be very
happy?"

"With the greatest pleasure," was his first reply. In a moment
afterwards: "That is, if I can possibly get here in time; but I shoot
with Lord Osborne, and therefore must not engage. You will not
think of me unless you see me." And so he departed, delighted in the
uncertainty in which he had left it.

Margaret, in the joy of her heart, under circumstances which she
chose to consider as peculiarly propitious, would willingly have
made a confidante of Emma, when they were alone for a short time
the next morning, and had proceeded so far as to say: "The young
man who was here last night, my dear Emma, and returns to-day, is
more interesting to me than perhaps you may be aware"; but Emma,
pretending to understand nothing extraordinary in the words, made some
very inapplicable reply, and, jumping up, ran away from a subject
which was odious to her. As Margaret would not allow a doubt to be
repeated of Musgrave's coming to dinner, preparations were made for
his entertainment much exceeding what had been deemed necessary the
day before; and taking the office of superintendence entirely from her
sister, she was half the morning in the kitchen herself, directing and
scolding.

After a great deal of indifferent cooking and anxious suspense,
however, they were obliged to sit down without their guest. Tom
Musgrave never came; and Margaret was at no pains to conceal her
vexation under the disappointment, or repress the peevishness of
her temper. The peace of the party for the remainder of that day
and the whole of the next, which comprised the length of Robert and
Jane's visit, was continually invaded by her fretful displeasure and
querulous attacks. Elizabeth was the usual object of both. Margaret
had just respect enough for her brother's and sister's opinion to
behave properly by _them_, but Elizabeth and the maids could never
do right; and Emma, whom she seemed no longer to think about, found
the continuance of the gentle voice beyond calculation short. Eager
to be as little among them as possible, Emma was delighted with the
alternative of sitting above with her father, and warmly entreated to
be his constant companion each evening; and as Elizabeth loved company
of any kind too well not to prefer being below at all risks; as she had
rather talk of Croydon with Jane, with every interruption of Margaret's
perverseness, than sit with only her father, who frequently could not
endure talking at all, the affair was so settled, as soon as she could
be persuaded to believe it no sacrifice on her sister's part. To Emma,
the change was most acceptable and delightful. Her father, if ill,
required little more than gentleness and silence; and being a man of
sense and education, was, if able to converse, a welcome companion. In
_his_ chamber, Emma was at peace from the dreadful mortifications of
unequal society and family discord, and from the immediate endurance
of hard-hearted prosperity, low-minded conceit, and wrong-headed folly
engrafted on an untoward disposition. She still suffered from them in
the contemplation of their existence, in memory and in prospect, but
for the moment she ceased to be tortured by their effects. She was at
leisure; she could read and think, though her situation was hardly such
as to make reflection very soothing. The evils arising from the loss of
her uncle were neither trifling nor likely to lessen; and when thought
had been freely indulged, in contrasting the past and the present, the
employment of mind and dissipation of unpleasant ideas, which only
reading could produce, made her thankfully return to a book.



CHAPTER VI


The change in Emma's home society and style of life, in consequence
of the death of one friend and the imprudence of another, had indeed
been striking. From being the first object of hope and solicitude to
an uncle who had formed her mind with the care of a parent, and of
tenderness to an aunt whose amiable temper had delighted to give her
every indulgence; from being the life and spirit of a house where all
had been comfort and elegance, and the expected heiress of an easy
independence, she was become of importance to no one--a burden on those
whose affections she could not expect, an addition in a house already
overstocked, surrounded by inferior minds, with little chance of
domestic comfort, and as little hope of future support. It was well for
her that she was naturally cheerful, for the change had been such as
might have plunged weak spirits in despondence.

She was very much pressed by Robert and Jane to return with them to
Croydon, and had some difficulty in getting a refusal accepted, as
they thought too highly of their own kindness and situation to suppose
the offer could appear in less advantageous light to anybody else.
Elizabeth gave them her interest, though evidently against her own, in
privately urging Emma to go.

"You do not know what you refuse, Emma," said she, "nor what you
have to bear at home. I would advise you by all means to accept the
invitation; there is always something lively going on at Croydon. You
will be in company almost every day, and Robert and Jane will be very
kind to you. As for me, I shall be no worse off without you than I
have been used to be; but poor Margaret's disagreeable ways are new to
_you_, and they would vex you more than you think for, if you stay at
home."

Emma was, of course, uninfluenced, except to greater esteem for
Elizabeth by such representations; and the visitors departed without
her.

On the following day, as Emma and Elizabeth were in the best parlour,
setting the sofa before the fire for their father to lie on, for a
little change, they heard a carriage stopping at the garden gate; and
a minute or two later Nanny showed in Mrs. Blake and her little boy,
closely followed by Mr. Howard.

Charles was carrying a beautiful bunch of greenhouse flowers and, on
seeing Emma, he ran eagerly forward, saying--

"I have brought you these flowers, ma'am, because you were so good as
to dance with me. Lord Osborne gave me anything I liked for you, and
cut some for you himself."

Emma blushed as she smiled and curtsied, and blushed again as she
advanced to receive her other visitors and present her sister to them.

They had often observed Elizabeth at balls, and had considered her
handsome, but they had never before spoken to her, and were at once
favourably impressed by her unaffected good-humour and pleasant manner.
Before long they were conversing with almost as little formality as
though they had been old friends. On questioning Emma, Mrs. Blake
easily drew from her some account of her former life and, on learning
her aunt's name, recollected having heard it mentioned by friends in a
manner entirely agreeable to Emma's feelings.

Presently Mr. Watson came into the room, and although he was a good
deal surprised at finding himself in company, as Mr. Howard at once
came forward with a show of friendliness, he had not time to lose his
temper.

He was a man of considerable information, and finding the present
society entirely congenial to him, contributed not a little to the
pleasure of the visit, even going so far as to show Charles a volume
of coloured prints; and before taking leave, Mr. Howard had persuaded
him to join him, with his three daughters, at dinner, on the following
Thursday, promising to send the carriage for them, and assuring him of
his return at an early hour.

On Margaret's coming in from the village, where she had gone on
an errand, she was all amazement on learning the arrangement; and
displeased her father by enquiring if Mr. Musgrave and Lord Osborne
were to be present.

"Mr. Howard expressly said they were to be by themselves," he replied,
with the importance of an invalid. "He took particular care to assure
me that I should suffer as little fatigue as possible."

He was therefore by no means too well pleased when, on the appointed
evening, shortly after they had assembled in the drawing-room at
Wickstead, Lord Osborne and Mr. Musgrave were ushered in; and before
any explanation could be vouchsafed him, dinner was announced.

Turning to Lord Osborne, Mr. Howard said--

"As I cannot very well, my lord, ask Mr. Watson to hand in his
daughter, I must ask him to conduct Mrs. Blake; and I will lead with
Miss Watson if you will be good enough to give your arm to Miss Emma
Watson; while Mr. Musgrave takes in Miss Margaret."

This arrangement was agreeable to all, except Mr. Musgrave, who, had he
been of greater sensibility, would have been embarrassed by Margaret's
manner towards him; and, as it was, felt not a little irritated by her
determination to consider his escort as a _personal compliment_, rather
than as _inevitable_ on his part.

He had long since tired of his fancy for her, which indeed had always
been of the slightest; and now in his determination to free himself
from her, did not hesitate to go beyond the limits of propriety, openly
disregarding her, and entering into conversation with everyone else
in preference to her. Greatly mortified, she would have sunk under
this neglect but for the kindness of Mrs. Blake, who addressed her as
often as possible; and even Lord Osborne, vaguely aware that there was
something wanting in ease, observed to her across the table that the
roads were monstrous wet when it rained.

In the meantime, his lordship had not been enjoying himself either,
to any great extent; for Emma, having perceived a volume on the
drawing-room table with which she was familiar, on finding herself
placed beside her host at the dinner table, fell to discussing it with
him with much sense and spirit; and from this proceeded to contrast her
favourite authors and the merits of their respective works. As Lord
Osborne had as little knowledge of literature as well might be, he was
compelled, despite the kindly efforts of his host, to sit more or less
in silence, trying to look as if he had not less in his head than might
reasonably be expected.

Elizabeth was only too glad to share her partner with her sister,
as she did not very well know what to say to him; and she enjoyed
listening to their conversation, the more so as they repeatedly
explained to her the situation, or the point, in question. Moreover,
she could not help hoping that another future, far different to what
she had feared for her young sister, might possibly be in store for
her.

With dessert, Charles arrived on the scene, which created a diversion
in Lord Osborne's favour, as he came to place himself between the
latter and his dear Miss Emma Watson, and both joined in the endeavour
to entertain him.

On the ladies withdrawing, Lord Osborne turned to Mr. Watson and said--

"You have a very beautiful daughter, sir," but he received in reply
such a chilling bow that he could find nothing more to say; and Tom
Musgrave nearly choked himself over his wine in the effort to control
his merriment at his friend's discomfiture. Mr. Howard then placed
himself at the other side of Mr. Watson, and speedily restored him to
good-humour by discussing the late visitation with him.

They were not long in returning to the drawing-room for tea; and
shortly after, Mrs. Blake and Mr. Watson began to play the new game
of écarté, proposing to one another with a pleasant air; whilst the
others, seating themselves round the larger table, started vingt-un.

They had scarcely commenced, however, when a carriage drove up to the
door, and Miss Osborne and Miss Carr were shown in.

"Oh, Mr. Howard! how could you have used us so?" cried Miss Osborne
archly. "I protest we are vastly offended with you!--to give a party
and leave us out!"

Miss Carr joined in, in the same strain. She had never heard of
anything so perfidious--it was really beyond everything she had ever
known in all her life!

Mr. Howard received them with the quiet courtesy that was habitual to
him; and when he deemed it possible to make his voice heard, expressed
his sense of the honour they had done him; but observed that one family
was scarcely a party, adding that Lord Osborne and Mr. Musgrave had
been good enough to invite themselves.

Lord Osborne remained silent, looking rather ashamed; but Mr. Tom
Musgrave protested vigorously that if Howard were such a sly dog,
plotting to cut them out like this, they were bound to look after
themselves!

The Miss Watsons and their father having been presented, and tea
declined, and Miss Carr, having, further, declared that there was
nothing she so doted on as vingt-un, the game was once more started.

Miss Osborne at once took possession of the chair at Mr. Howard's right
hand, which had previously been occupied by Emma; and just as he was
about to request the latter to accept the one at his left, he found it
already secured by Miss Carr. Lord Osborne, therefore, shared Emma with
Charles; and Tom Musgrave devoted himself assiduously to Miss Carr.
Presently he was heard endeavouring to persuade her to accept him as
her cavalier at the next meet. Unfortunately this reminded Charles of
the stuffed fox, and again he implored Emma to come and see it, adding--

"Lord Osborne will now ask you himself, ma'am--will you not, Lord
Osborne?"

Before he could reply, Emma had hastily excused herself; but Miss Carr,
leaning forward, said impertinently--

"It is a pity you should not see the castle, Miss Watson; it is thrown
open to the public every Wednesday--all except the private apartments."

Emma coloured and made no reply; but Lord Osborne quite shocked his
sister and her friend by saying--

"Lady Osborne will wait on Miss Watson."

Miss Osborne stared at her brother, but there was something in his face
that compelled her to lower her eyes. Never before had he so asserted
himself, and she had not deemed him capable of it.

At the conclusion of the game, Mr. Watson asked to return
home--declining to wait for supper--and took leave with his daughters.

Mr. Howard conducted them to the carriage, and as Emma curtsied in
passing him, held out his hand to her, and retaining hers for a moment,
thanked her in a low tone for the honour she had done him in coming.



CHAPTER VII


During the drive back, Mr. Watson was in very good humour, speaking
several times of the civility and attention he had received from Mr.
Howard and his sister; and praising Charles, to whom he had taken a
considerable fancy.

"As for Lord Osborne," he continued, "though I do not think very much
of him, he is at least preferable to that fellow Musgrave, whom I have
never thought a gentleman."

This was cruelly mortifying to Margaret, who was nevertheless forced
to constrain her feelings in the presence of her father; but on their
return home, as he went directly to his room, she gave way to her
agitation--quite shocking Emma by the violence of her passion, as well
as by a wholly unexpected attack on her own conduct.

Elizabeth endeavoured in vain to interpose, but Margaret would not be
stayed; and Emma stood motionless under a shower of angry accusations.
She was running after Lord Osborne--her intentions were plain to
everyone, and she would only have herself despised! Lord Osborne would
never _look at her_!

Mr. Musgrave saw through her! No doubt he was in Miss Osborne's
confidence, and knew she was coming--_that_ was why he had been so
wanting in civility to herself!--he did not want the Osbornes to think
he was mixed up with them--but Lord Osborne would never think of her,
except to insult her!

At this, Emma, in silent indignation, took up her candlestick and
retired to her room.

When she had gone, Elizabeth spoke more seriously to her sister than
ever she had done in her life before; and as Margaret at first refused
to listen to reason, threatened to appeal to her father should there be
any repetition of the scene. Completely overcome, Margaret then burst
into tears, and shortly after permitted Elizabeth to lead her upstairs.

A few days later, Lady Osborne and her daughter called on the Miss
Watsons. Miss Osborne, supported by her friend Miss Carr, had
endeavoured to dissuade her mother from taking this step; but Lady
Osborne, seeing that her son's feelings were more deeply engaged
than ever she had previously known them to be, was too clever not to
be assured that opposition would only serve to fan his flame; and,
moreover, she did not choose that he should visit with people whom she
would not acknowledge.

She was showed by Nanny into the parlour, and though it was not such a
room as she was accustomed to be received in, everything was in order;
and Elizabeth, who had become more refined from her intercourse with
Emma, received her with greater dignity than she had expected. As for
Emma herself, she was not less elegant in her simple house frock than
in her ball-dress, and the Osbornes were compelled to acknowledge her
beauty. It was not such a marriage as Lady Osborne could possibly
countenance for her son; but nevertheless she found herself drawn
towards Emma; and placing herself near to her, directed the greater
part of her conversation to her; while Margaret sat somewhat aside,
white and silent, only able to join in the conversation when directly
addressed.

"I understand from Mrs. Blake," said Lady Osborne, "that you have been
brought up by a relative at some distance?"

"By my aunt, Mrs. Turner, now Mrs. O'Brien."

"And where has she gone to live?"

"In the South of Ireland, ma'am, where Captain O'Brien has a small
property."

"Captain O'Brien? There was an officer of that name in the Royal ----s,
my brother's regiment."

"That was his regiment, but he resigned his commission many years ago."

"I am afraid it could scarcely have been a prudent marriage."

Seeing tears gathering in Emma's eyes, Lady Osborne hastened to change
the conversation by speaking of other officers in the same regiment;
and on mentioning a Colonel Norwood, was interested to hear that he had
been a friend of the late Mr. Turner, with whom he had frequently dined.

"It is a pity your aunt did not marry him instead," she observed.

"But he is dead, ma'am. He left me this brooch I am wearing and also a
legacy of fifty pounds."

"I did not know you had fifty pounds, Emma," said Elizabeth, surprised.
Miss Osborne looked her disdain, but Lady Osborne said kindly--

"It will be very useful to Miss Emma for her trousseau, in a few years;
well, do not be in too great a hurry to marry, my dear."

Emma blushed, and Lady Osborne, believing that it was on account of her
son, grew more reserved for a few moments. Determined, however, to have
fuller proof, she presently mentioned him by name, and was gratified to
observe that Emma received it without any embarrassment.

"Perhaps there is someone else," she thought to herself.

But on sharing this surmise with Miss Osborne, during the drive home,
she was surprised to find that her daughter received it with so little
favour.

Elizabeth and Emma shortly returned the visit, but Lady Osborne was not
at home.

Soon after this event, Lord Osborne sent game for Mr. Watson; Mr.
Howard was not less civil with a present of fruit; and Mr. Musgrave,
not to be out of the fashion, called with a basket of fish. Poor Mr.
Watson was considerably surprised at finding himself become so popular
all at once; but when he questioned Emma on the subject, received
surprisingly little information in her reply.

In the meantime, Margaret's health was occasioning not a little anxiety
to her sisters. She seemed to have no interest in anything, had quite
lost her appetite, and went listlessly about the house; before long she
was confined to her room with a feverish attack.

Elizabeth and Emma were assiduous in their care of her, and were
presently rewarded, not only by her being restored to some measure of
health, but also by her being rendered less irritable towards them,
from a sense of gratitude for their sympathy.

Just as she was beginning to come down stairs again, the Osbornes
issued invitations for a ball; and the Miss Watsons were among the
first to receive a card.

Elizabeth had no idea but that they should go with the Edwards, and was
considerably put out when she found that not only were they not going,
but that Mrs. Edwards was offended at having been ignored, when the
Watsons (on whom she had always looked down) had been included.

Mary Edwards was absent at the moment, but, on learning what had
transpired, with great good sense pointed out to her mother that as
they had never before been taken notice of by the Osbornes, they had
now no cause for mortification, generously adding that such beauty as
Emma's could not but be distinguished.

Nevertheless there is no young lady who can hear of a ball without
desiring to go to it; and the matter occasioned not a little stir in
the small country town, where any subject for gossip was eagerly seized
upon. Tom Musgrave, hearing of it, reported it at the Castle as a good
joke, believing the Osbornes would be gratified by learning of the
disappointment they had unwittingly occasioned.

It had quite a different effect, however, on Lady Osborne, who at
once despatched an invitation to Mary Edwards, together with a kind
note in which she said she understood that she was a friend of the
Miss Watsons, and that it would give her much pleasure if she would
accompany them to the dance.

All was now happily settled, as Mrs. Blake had arranged to meet them in
the cloakroom at the Castle and act as chaperon.

Miss Osborne, though in some awe of her mother, had done all in her
power to prevent her inviting Emma.

"You are encouraging Osborne in every way," she said, "to make this
disgraceful marriage--to ask Emma Watson to this house will be to throw
her into his arms."

"I think differently," replied Lady Osborne coldly, "and I do not
choose that Osborne should give a dance in the Assembly Rooms, which
was what he had intended doing."

"It would have been far better, ma'am. You could then have refused to
attend."

"I have not the slightest intention of ever inflicting such a slight
upon my son."

"It would have put Miss Watson in her place. She will now be more
forward and impertinent than ever."

"I find her neither forward nor impertinent."

"You do not know her, ma'am; there is a sort of independence in her
which I find insupportable."

"I believe I am the better judge--and it is not a question of _her_
conduct, but of _mine_."

Miss Osborne, finding nothing to reply, curtsied and left the room.



CHAPTER VIII


During the interval which elapsed, Lord Osborne and Mr. Howard both
discovered various pretexts for calling at the Rectory; Mr. Watson's
health, for one thing, causing them no inconsiderable anxiety; and
on different occasions when the latter was riding by chance in the
neighbourhood of Stanton, and had met Emma out walking with Elizabeth,
in view of all the perils of a singularly quiet neighbourhood, had
believed it incumbent on him to escort her the whole way home, leading
his horse by the bridle.

Nor is it to be supposed that Mr. Musgrave permitted himself to
be relegated to the background, where a new and pretty woman was
concerned; even had she not possessed the additional importance, in
his eyes, of having aroused Lord Osborne from his habitual apathy. He
addressed himself to her without loss of time, confident of success,
and wholly incapable of believing that her indifference was genuine.

But Emma's contempt for him, as can well be imagined, only served to
aggravate the mortification from which poor Margaret was constrained
to suffer; and she could not be prevailed upon to go to the Osbornes'
dance, although her father had expressed his willingness to remain, for
once, by himself.

On the night of the ball, Emma and Elizabeth were received with every
attention by Lord Osborne, who met them in the hall; and Lady Osborne
both curtsied and held out her hand; but Miss Osborne contented herself
with a very short curtsey; while Miss Carr found herself obliged to
become so engrossed in Colonel Beresford that she could not see them at
all.

Lord Osborne was to open the ball with the Countess of X----, but he
engaged Emma for the next two dances; and Mr. Howard secured her for
the first two, and led her aside.

"This is just your second dance, is it not?"

"Oh, no! I have been out a year."

"Preposterous! A year's licence for breaking hearts in."

"Hearts so easily broken would be scarcely worth considering."

"Do not you, then, preserve them in a glass case?"

"I never preserve what I do not value."

"So young and so untender!"

"'So young, my lord, and true!'"

"I did not know young ladies were students of Shakespeare."

"No doubt they are more intelligent at breaking hearts, and preserving
them in a glass case!"

Miss Osborne, who was near to her at the moment, turned and looked at
her in cold surprise, then passed on; but Emma's face was at once so
arch and sweet that Mr. Howard was wholly charmed, and bending slightly
over her, took a white rose from his coat and begged her to honour him
by wearing it. Then as the violins were playing, and several couples
leaving the room, they followed in their wake.

As Emma entered the ball-room, all eyes were fixed on her--it passed
from mouth to mouth that she was the prettiest woman in the room, and
she was speedily acclaimed the _belle_.

Gentlemen flocked round her, begging for introductions; and Tom
Musgrave was foremost in presenting himself; but Emma felt so keenly
all the misery he had caused her sister, that she declined to give him
an engagement for any dance, and without affording him any semblance of
excuse.

Never before had he received such treatment at the hands of any lady,
and least of all had he expected it from a Miss Watson.

Highly incensed, and with a view to covering his discomfiture, he
approached Miss Carr, and solicited her; but as she had witnessed what
had transpired, and would have been the last to accept a rejected
suitor, he was promptly dismissed, and retired to the card-room vowing
vengeance.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Mary Edwards had no lack of partners, as they
knew several of the officers present; and Lord Osborne had made a
point of introducing other gentlemen to them. Both were in good looks,
especially Elizabeth, who was accounted by several to be almost as
handsome as her sister.

In the course of the evening the Boulangeries were danced. This had
been arranged by Miss Osborne and Miss Carr, with a special view to
mortifying Emma; but to their disappointment, it transpired that
she was not only conversant with the several figures, but was also
accustomed to innovations; and on Lord Osborne requesting her to direct
a new movement, conducted it with a simple confidence which proved her
to be no novice.

Had Elizabeth been her mother, she could not have taken a greater pride
in her performance; and Charles was in ecstasies as she selected him
for her cavalier.

Lady Osborne, who had come in with Mrs. Blake to watch the dance,
entirely approved her conduct, fully recognizing that she acted in this
manner, not only that she might keep her promise to Charles of giving
him a dance, but also in order to avoid Lord Osborne, who made not
the slightest effort to conceal his admiration of her. Her eyes then
fell on her own daughter, and it seemed to her that never had she seen
her less in looks. Near to her was Miss Carr, and she could not but
note the ill-humour of her countenance. The next moment she was almost
startled by its sudden change of expression as she leaned forward to
speak to her son, and as she did so her designs on him were betrayed.

In point of fortune and connection there was nothing to be urged; but
in that moment Lady Osborne felt that if she were asked to choose
between her and Emma Watson for a daughter-in-law, she would be
constrained to give her suffrage to the latter--and again her eyes
wandered to her.

She was now dancing with Mr. Howard, in a temporary exchange of
partners, and it was very evident that he was quite absorbed in her.

At this moment, Miss Osborne passed near to her mother, and her
excessive pallor showed beneath her rouge.

Presently Colonel Beresford and his partner paused within a few steps
of her, without observing her, and she could not help hearing part of
their conversation.

"Osborne must be monstrous hard hit when he gives a dance."

"But you are all in love with this beautiful girl--are not you?--Look
at Mr. Howard!--and she is not insensible to his merit!"

"He has no chance against Lord Osborne. No young lady could refuse a
title!"

"Why such strictures! Do not you then allow anything for our hearts?"

"Zounds, Madam; I have more respect for your wits! I should form but a
mean opinion of any woman's understanding who would reject Lord Osborne
for his former tutor!"

Then they passed on; but in the short space that Lady Osborne had
stood there, it seemed to her that all the comedy and tragedy of the
ball had been revealed to her; no longer could she find any enjoyment
in it; and, sick at heart, she would have left the room only for the
observation it would have occasioned.

As Lady X---- had been obliged to return home early, Lord Osborne,
having danced twice with Emma, took her in to supper. Mr. Howard then
danced twice with her. He had admired her very much from the first;
and now was in a fair way to be very much in love with her. Casting
prudence to the winds, he drew her into the greenhouse and, in accents
which betrayed his emotion, endeavoured to thank her for having given
him the happiest evening of his life, begging her to favour him by
returning him the rose he had presented to her.

Emma was unable to meet the ardour of his eyes, and with fingers which
slightly trembled, she removed it from her dress.

He placed it in his breast and, raising her hand, pressed it to his
lips.

"I believe this is our dance, Mr. Howard," Miss Osborne's cold voice
broke in on them, and nothing could well have been less opportune.
Mr. Howard, however, appeared entirely unembarrassed, and, bowing
and smiling, gave her his arm--seeing that Colonel Beresford was
claiming Emma; and the latter saw him no more. For almost immediately
afterwards, Miss Edwards came to beg her to come home, as she had
promised her father to return early; and as Lady X---- had already
gone, there could be no impropriety in their doing so.

Lord Osborne attended them to the carriage, but Emma was almost wholly
silent, and he was deeply mortified by her reserve.



CHAPTER IX


The next day Mr. Watson was taken seriously ill; and though he lingered
for some weeks, his daughters were almost completely cut off from all
social intercourse.

Towards Christmas he died.

Everything was overshadowed by the sense of loss; but Emma found that
she could be still more lonely, when, on receipt of a kind letter
from Mrs. Blake, she learned that she had taken a house in London, in
order to put Charles to school; and that Mr. Howard had been called to
Cumberland to the bedside of a relative who had had a stroke.

The Osbornes had gone abroad.

The clergyman who had been doing duty for Mr. Watson, had been
appointed to the parish; but with great consideration had begged
them not to move till the following March; so that they might have
sufficient leisure to dispose of their furniture, and to make their
arrangements.

Penelope had returned for some time, and Emma had learned to dread the
sound of her sharp voice. She and Margaret quarrelled perpetually.
There seemed never to be any peace in the house. Her ill-humour was
aggravated by her friends, the Shaws, having secured a situation for
her as assistant teacher in a private seminary; for not only was she
averse to this position, but she felt, even more keenly, that it was a
tacit acknowledgment of the fatal obduracy of the heart, she had wasted
so much time in endeavouring to subdue.

Margaret had got an engagement as companion to a delicate girl.

Emma's case was the hardest. She was to find her home with Robert and
Jane, who openly discussed her prospects of making a good match. In
vain she pleaded her desire to take a situation, like her sisters.
Robert would not hear of it. She had already received ill-treatment
enough from her family, he affirmed, and he would do his best to give
her a good chance. Even Elizabeth joined her voice to her brother's.

"You do not know what you would suffer as governess or companion. Your
beauty would be for ever making you enemies."

Emma could say no more while her brother was present, but when she
found herself alone with Elizabeth, she besought her to aid her in
getting a post where she might earn her bread independently.

"My position with Robert and Jane would not be tolerable," she pleaded.

"Do not stand in your own light, dear Emma," Elizabeth replied; "your
position would be much worse with strangers. Robert and Jane will
both be kind to you if you do not offend them. They were not too well
pleased by your refusing to go with them in October; and now that Lord
Osborne has admired you, they are all for having you. Believe me, it
will be the best thing for you."

"Anyway, I shall stay here until March."

"Yes--Robert has consented to that--and as Penelope and Margaret are
to go to their situations in February, we can have a little time in
peace to ourselves."

To Elizabeth alone did there come any prospect of happiness.

Mr. Purvis, now a widower, had been engaged by Mr. Howard to do duty
for him; and, on learning that Miss Watson was as handsome as ever,
considered it to be his duty to call as soon as circumstances permitted.

His earlier feelings for her were very soon revived, and although he
could not immediately enter into an engagement with her, on account
of his recent bereavement, it was quite evident to all that the old
relations between them would be happily restored.

In the meantime it was arranged that Elizabeth should go to his aunt as
companion.

His marriage had not been happy, which is scarcely to be wondered at,
seeing that he had entered somewhat hastily into it in order to assuage
his feelings of disappointment; and as his wife shortly afterwards
fell into ill-health, matters had been scarcely brightened by the
peevish temper of an invalid.

The more Emma saw of him, the better was she pleased with him. He was
good-looking and gentlemanlike, with unaffected manners, and a pleasant
countenance. She could not but feel confident that Elizabeth would be
happy at his side.

Towards the end of February, Mr. Howard returned, and lost no time in
riding over to Stanton. Unfortunately, however, as he drew near to the
Rectory gate, he met Tom Musgrave coming out of it, and was instantly
hailed by that gentleman.

"Upon my word, Howard, I thought you had taken root in Cumberland. Oh,
a sad break up here!--monstrous pleasant girls as ever I met! Miss
Emma is going to Croydon with her brother, and I hear is shortly to be
married to an old flame. Oh, a famous little flirt, I can assure you!"

So saying, and waving his hand, he took himself off, laughing heartily
at his own ingenuity.

In consequence therefore of this unwelcome intelligence, Mr. Howard
merely called at the door; and, ignoring Nanny's information that the
ladies were in, rode gloomily away.

Emma had watched his approach from an upper window, and blushed and
blushed again.

She was pausing before coming down, in the endeavour to quell the
beating of her heart, when to her surprise she heard the clattering of
his horse's hoofs; and, running back to the window, saw him vanishing
round the corner.

At first she was all disappointment, and did not know what to think.
Tears gathered thickly in her eyes, and fell on her black dress. But
presently she considered that he might perhaps think it right to call
at first without coming in, on account of her father's death, and that
he would come again.

But he never came again, and about a week later she was carried away to
Croydon by her brother, who had returned for her.



CHAPTER X


Emma had now entered on a new chapter of her life, and one which she
could not but regard with pain and misgiving. Being in mourning,
however, she was for the present saved from any special distress; and
she at once found an object for her affection in little Augusta, a very
pretty child, with much more natural refinement than either her father
or mother. As her health was indifferent, Emma was the more drawn to
her, and devoted all the time to her that she could spare from Jane's
constant demands on her needle.

All this time she had never seen her brother Sam, as he had been
seriously ill when the others had been called to the bedside of their
father. During this period he had been attended by Mr. Curtis with the
solicitude of a relative; and, on his recovering sufficiently to be
removed, he had sent him to Bath at his own charge.

Towards the end of March, he gave him a few days' leave to go and see
his brother and sisters at Croydon.

On the day previous to that on which he was expected, as Emma was
sitting alone in the drawing-room, the door opened and a young
gentleman, with a very open, attractive countenance, entered the room
unannounced.

He bowed on seeing her, apologising for his intrusion, and she rose and
curtsied--when suddenly he called out----

"As sure as anything, it is little Emma!" and came over to her with
both hands stretched out.

"Oh, Sam! Can it be really you?"

"Were not you, then, expecting me?"

"Not until to-morrow. How came you a day sooner?"

"I met Tom Musgrave in Guildford, and he drove me over in his curricle.
He will be staying here for a couple of days, and is coming this
evening to wait on you and Jane--but let me look at you properly! You
have got your nice little brown face still, I see; and I dare say you
have that fine little vixenish temper that you used to have--I vow you
gave me a famous slap the last time I had the honour of seeing you!"

"No doubt it was the price of you, sir! and I shall give you another,
if you do not be careful!"

Before very long, Jane came into the room and affected a great start of
surprise on seeing Sam and Emma sitting on the sofa together.

"Good Lord, Sam!" she cried. "I thought you must be one of Emma's
lovers come after her!"

"Has she so many as all that?--I protest I must look into this!" he
replied, laughing; then seeing a shade on Emma's face, he easily turned
the conversation by enquiring for Robert, and begging that little
Augusta might be sent for.

In the course of the evening, Tom Musgrave arrived, and was received
with great cordiality by Robert and Jane.

After the usual enquiries and civilities, he threw himself back in the
easiest chair in the room, and beamed round at them, saying--

"I vow and declare there are no friends like old friends. Oh, it's
monstrous dull since you and the Osbornes left--positively I have half
a mind to go after Osborne!"

"Is not he soon coming back?" asked Robert.

"Faith, there's no sign of it! Howard has joined them at Rome. He is
very likely to be engaged to Miss Osborne."

Emma was sitting beyond the candles, so that he could not see her face;
but by her very stillness he was satisfied that he had wounded her.

"I think it is Miss Carr that he is after," said Jane in an important
tone, as though she were intimate.

"Oh, Fanny Carr is all for me! She won't look at anyone else, I can
assure you, when I am by!"

"Take care, Tom!" said Sam, laughing. "Out of sight, out of mind! She
will have forgotten you months ago, I wager!"

"Why do not you join Lord Osborne?" enquired Jane.

Now, as this was precisely what Tom Musgrave had been straining every
nerve to accomplish--giving hints to his lordship of unimaginable
breadth, which so far had been entirely ignored--he was by no means too
well pleased by the question; and delighted Sam, who saw through him
perfectly, by reeling off a string of excuses, each less convincing
than the last.

"Does Miss Carr never stay with her own people?" enquired Robert.

"She has been at Castle Carr all winter," said Sam carelessly. "She
will be going up to Berkeley Square next month with Lord and Lady Carr."

Tom Musgrave stared at him.

"How came you to know this?" he asked in a sulky tone.

"Lord Montague told me."

"Lord Montague? How came you to meet with him?"

"I was called in to attend him when Mr. Curtis was away. I had supposed
he would consider a surgeon's assistant as little superior to his
valet; but he was very civil, and chatted away--told me he had seen my
sisters at the Osbornes' dance, and was so obliging as to add they were
prodigious pretty! Emma, do not be listening!"

Jane was as surprised as Musgrave, but shrewd enough not to betray it;
and, seeing the clouded look on his face, suggested a game of cards.

Robert hesitated a little, but, as Tom caught eagerly at the
suggestion, she produced a pack; and, Emma declining to play, whist was
selected.



CHAPTER XI


Sam was so little satisfied with Augusta's health that he insisted on
her being taken to the sea; and a client of Robert's at once offered to
lend him his house, which was in a sheltered bay on the South Coast,
for six months. As Jane was unable to go into company, she demurred
a good deal less than she might otherwise have done; and, like most
wives, was not averse to suffering the mild anguish of a temporary
separation from her husband.

Sam himself took charge of them on the journey, as Robert was engaged
on an important case; and he had the satisfaction of assuring himself
that the climate was suited to his little patient.

She and Emma were delighted with the change, and as the weather was
unusually mild, they rambled about the greater part of the day.

It was with sincere regret that Emma parted from Sam; she had found
in him a true friend, and one who comprehended the possible evils of
her situation with much greater distinctness than had been the case
with Elizabeth. They all escorted him to the mail coach at A----, and
Emma was constrained to wonder if it were to be for ever her lot to be
parted from all to whom she had become attached; while little Augusta,
holding her young uncle's hands, danced round with him on the publick
road, to the indignation of her mother and the amusement of the other
passengers.

At Emma's request, the child's nurse had been dismissed on their
leaving Croydon; Emma now taking Augusta under her sole charge, to the
great advantage of the little girl, who had been considerably tried by
the vagaries of an uncertain temper and an injudicious arrangement of
her meals.

As her health rapidly improved, Emma commenced some simple lessons with
her, which included instruction in drawing, for which she showed some
aptitude. In the course of a few weeks she had copied a little picture
so neatly, that Jane enclosed it in a letter to her father, who was so
pleased that he sent her down a box of water-colours. This was a great
boon to the child during the broken weather, which set in for a short
time.

As Jane was really fond of her little daughter, she could not but feel
grateful to Emma for her care of her; but she had been not a little
offended at finding her indifferent to the petty gossip of Croydon,
which occupied half her own time, and had always been willingly
listened to by both Elizabeth and Margaret. At once jealous of her,
and yet considering her to be wanting in fashion, she was nevertheless
gratified by the pretty manners she was instilling into Augusta.

Emma was teaching her to curtsey before leaving the room; but, as she
was of a very lively disposition, she would often run out into the hall
before she could remember to do so. They would then hear her stopping
short, and saying to herself, "Oh, I forgot!" when she would come
running back to make her curtsey. It was all done so prettily, they
could not but be delighted with her.

It had been apparent from the first that Jane had derived but little
pleasure from the excursions by the sea, or through the country
lanes, which delighted Emma and Augusta so much; preferring rather
to drive in the pony chaise, which had been left for their use, into
the neighbouring town of A----. It was not, however, until the early
days of June that Emma began to notice how many hours she was spending
there; and presently Jane informed her that a former school friend,
a Mrs. Burton, now a widow, had taken rooms in the hotel there, and
that she spent the most of her time with her, playing cards. She also
confessed that this lady was no favourite of Robert's. This was very
unwelcome news to Emma, who knew her brother to be very far from
particular.

"I assure you, Emma," Jane continued earnestly, "it is all prejudice;
Jemima Burton is of quite superior style, and very well off. You could
hardly meet with anyone more agreeable; and she is all anxiety to know
you. I hope you will come with me to-morrow--she will not be having
company--we shall be quite by ourselves."

Emma was considerably embarrassed.

"I could not leave Augusta," she said.

"Oh! The maids here will take every care of her--she will not be
wanting for anything. I cannot very well go without you, when she has
made such a point of it."

On the following afternoon, therefore, Emma was constrained to drive
with her sister-in-law into A----, and they were shown into the common
sitting-room of the hotel, where they were warmly received by a vulgar,
over-dressed woman.

"Now, I call this kind," she exclaimed. "And so this is the young lady
Lord Osborne admired!"

This was said in such a loud voice that everyone in the room turned
and stared at Emma; so that, in spite of her efforts to maintain her
countenance, she grew crimson.

"Introduce me, madam, I beg," said a thin, unpleasant-looking man,
thrusting himself boldly forward; "I know his Lordship well, and am
proud to make the acquaintance of any friend of his."

"Allow me to have the pleasure of introducing Captain Conway, Miss
Watson."

Emma's curtsey was of the slightest. They were then joined by two or
three other men, all of them desiring to be presented, and each more
objectionable than the last.

With a quiet courage which surprised Emma herself, she said--

"I am in mourning for my father and do not desire introductions. I
understood, ma'am, that we were to be received by you in your own
rooms."

Jane stared at her sister-in-law; but Mrs. Burton at once gave in; and,
waving them all aside, declared that they were sad fellows, and that
none of them need think to be introduced. With that she led the way to
her apartments; but, to Emma's surprise, they were closely followed by
Captain Conway.

"Oh! he is my cousin," she said with bold assurance; but Emma was
convinced that this was a falsehood; the more so that the gentleman in
question laughed immoderately, and repeated the assertion several times
over.

He placed himself at her side and, fixing his glass in his eye,
ogled her in a manner she had never before been subjected to in the
whole course of her life; whilst he did his utmost to draw her into
conversation. But she would neither answer him, nor raise her eyes from
the ground.

Jane grew uncomfortable and, in order to conceal it and to regain
confidence, began to speak in a much louder voice than was her wont. In
this she was ably assisted by her friend--one would have thought that
there were at least a dozen women in the room.

At first, Emma was too agitated to pay any attention to what they
were saying--she was even too confused to arrange her thoughts; but
presently, as she grew more composed, the contrast of her past life
with her present position came home to her with such poignancy, that
she could scarcely contain her tears. Were it possible, she thought,
that her aunt could have seen her in such company, what would not have
been her feelings?

Presently, however, her attention was caught by Jane saying--

"Thursday, then; you will both come and have a dish of tea with me on
Thursday evening; and we can start a quiet rubber of whist."

During the drive home, Jane was in more ill-humour than Emma could have
conceived possible.

"Good heavens! Emma," she said. "How can you give yourself such airs?
Your head is completely turned by Lord Osborne having admired you! I
could not have imagined anyone could have been so silly!"

Emma remained silent.

"I assure you I am very much offended at the way you have been treating
my friends. Mrs. Burton has more style than you; and Captain Conway
is quite the gentleman. I never saw anyone of more fashion--and such
attentions he paid you! Mrs. Burton told me he was wild to know you;
and anyone could see how he was struck with you. Good Lord! Emma, what
more do you want--a _Captain_!--and _second cousin_ to the _Marquis of
H_----!--Mrs. Burton told me so!--Why do not you answer?"

"I cannot permit his attentions."

"You cannot permit his attentions!--did anyone ever hear the like!
Well, let me tell you, Miss Emma, you _must_ permit them--You should
be only too thankful he should _wish_ to pay them, when you are just
nothing!--you are all of you beggars!"

Emma covered her face with her hands.

"There, Emma--I did not mean to make you cry."

       *       *       *       *       *       *

On the evening on which Mrs. Burton and Captain Conway were expected,
Augusta was laid up with a feverish cold, and Emma steadily refused to
leave her bedside. Jane was at first angry, but, seeing the child's
flushed cheeks, was obliged to give way and send for the apothecary,
who prescribed a soothing draught.

A few days later, however, Captain Conway called again, and as on this
occasion Emma happened to be in the drawing-room with her sister, she
was obliged to submit to his company; but she remained almost as silent
as before, and would scarcely raise her eyes.

On his departure, Jane again turned on her and vowed that she would
soon bring her to her senses by writing to Robert.

"He will send you such a message as you will be bound to obey," she
said. "We have done all that could be thought of to fix one of you,
and now when there is a chance of your getting settled you are all for
throwing it away! You put me quite out of patience with you!"

Robert answered the letter in person; and, to Jane's amazement,
declared positively that he was not going to have Emma thrown away on
any half-pay officer; and that he had so much information against
Captain Conway, he would hunt him out of the neighbourhood.

On the following morning, however, when he drove into A----, he found
that that gentleman, having caught sight of him on the stage coach the
previous afternoon, had hastily cleared out, taking Mrs. Burton along
with him.

It then transpired that the two had been in collusion; and that Mrs.
Burton, believing Emma to be the heiress of her aunt, had introduced
Captain Conway to her, on the understanding that she was to receive a
substantial sum on the consummation of his marriage with her.

Jane was deeply mortified at having allowed herself to be mixed up with
such people; and it was in a very chastened frame of mind that Robert
left her, on his return to Croydon, promising to come back in August
for a fortnight's holiday.



CHAPTER XII


Mr. Howard had been but a short time with the Osbornes when he was
obliged to confess that he had made a mistake in coming.

A man of singular charm of manner, eminently gifted for social
success, he had as little vanity as well might be; and his devotion to
literature engendered in him a sort of absent-mindedness which rendered
him unconscious of things which were sufficiently obvious to others.

He could scarcely himself have said what now opened his eyes in some
measure to the nature of Miss Osborne's regard for him; for never
before had it occurred to him that she entertained anything beyond an
ordinary friendship--the very fact of her occasional efforts to flirt
with him only confirming his confidence in her indifference and merely
contributing to his amusement.

He had been but little pleased by her incursion into his dinner party;
but had attributed it to her lack of variety in a dull neighbourhood
and to the influence of Miss Carr, of whom he entertained but a slight
opinion. The jealousy of Emma, which she had betrayed at the ball, he
believed to be entirely owing to her brother's admiration of her--the
connection being such as she could scarcely be expected to advocate.

The knowledge of her feelings occasioned him so much regret, that he
would fain have left Italy then and there; but in view of the urgent
invitations he had received from Lady Osborne and her son, this was
scarcely possible. For the moment at least, he must remain where he was.

He began at once, however, to cast about for some excuse to shorten
his stay; and presently urged his desire to prosecute his travels in
Spain and Portugal. He had long desired to journey there, and there was
now no impediment to his doing so, as his cousin, whose bedside he
had attended, had bequeathed him a large fortune, independently of the
handsome property to which he had succeeded as heir-presumptive; but,
to his surprise, Lady Osborne withstood him, with flushed cheeks and
tears in her eyes.

"Do not desert us the moment you have come," she said; "Osborne has
seemed so much more composed since you joined us--I never before knew
him to be so disquieted as he has been. I cannot but admire Miss
Watson's conduct--had she chosen to accept him, nothing could have
prevented the marriage. I had scarcely realised how serious his passion
was until the night of the ball--after she had left us. He was quite in
despair."

"I understand she is shortly to be married."

"Have you told Osborne?"

"No. He has not mentioned her name to me."

"Am I at liberty to tell him?"

"Certainly, madam; what object could be served in concealing it?
Osborne could scarcely conceive the idea of rushing home to present a
pistol at her lover's head!"

Later on in the evening, Lord Osborne entered the private sitting-room
of his late tutor, and said abruptly--

"My mother has informed me of Miss Watson's engagement. To whom is she
to be married?"

"That I cannot tell you."

"How came you to know?"

"Musgrave told me.'

"_Musgrave!_ I would place monstrous little faith in anything he said!"

"He was certainly never _my_ friend, but I understood him to be
_yours_," replied Mr. Howard, coldly.

"What can a man do in that delectable neighbourhood?--He helps one to
get through the time. I dare swear he made the whole thing up!" So
saying, Lord Osborne swung out of the room.

He had not been long gone when there was a timid knock, and Miss
Osborne entered with a book in her hand.

Mr. Howard rose and placed a chair for her; but did not sit down
himself.

"I came to ask you if you would be so very good as to help me with this
passage in Dante's _Inferno_," she said.

He read it at once without any hesitation, as the portion indicated
presented no special difficulty that he could see; and he was
constrained to wonder wherefore she had selected it--the truth being
that she had opened the volume at random.

"I have just heard from Lady Osborne that Miss Watson is about to be
married."

In spite of himself, he was obliged to smile.

"I regret that I have nothing to add to this thunderbolt!"

"You are quite sure that she is to be married?"

He was aware that she was watching him narrowly, and both his face and
voice were entirely under control as he replied--

"I see no reason to doubt Mr. Musgrave's statement. He was just coming
from the Rectory, and I know he was intimate with them."

"He was altogether mad with her for refusing to dance with him at our
ball--Fanny Carr told me so."

Mr. Howard looked startled for a moment; and she proceeded--

"Fanny thought it showed a great want of breeding on her part to be so
insolent to a guest of ours--she is not in a position to be disdainful
of anyone--I should never think of calling her a lady."

She received no answer to this.

"Oh, I know you were vastly in love with her--I was quite expecting to
have to congratulate you!"--with an attempt at archness.

Mr. Howard contented himself with bowing.

"I thought her rather handsome myself; but several gentlemen said to me
that they did not at all think her anything out of the common."

This again was received in silence; and Julia Osborne, considerably
mortified, and perfectly aware of Lady Osborne's displeasure, should
she learn of her adventure, thought it best to retire to her room.

A few days later they were joined by Lord Edward Sothern, to whom
Miss Osborne turned her attentions, and with much greater prospect of
ultimate success.

This, however, was not at all what she desired; but to inflict some
gentle damage on an unimpressive heart, which she should presently
be called upon to repair. In vain was the snare laid; and she was
shortly engaged in a flirtation which obliged Lady Osborne to compel
her to accept the proposal which speedily followed, and was urged with
insistence.

Julia Osborne was not a little incensed at the turn affairs had taken;
and believing Mr. Howard to be the cause of all the mischief, felt that
she had been barbarously used. Her resentment grew with reflection;
and for a time nothing could appease her, although it was incumbent
on her to dissemble her feelings. All this, however, had the salutary
effect of estranging her from the first object of her affections; and
by degrees the good-humour and attentions of her lover reconciled her
to the hardship of her fate.



CHAPTER XIII


As the period for which the Osbornes had engaged a suite of apartments
(in an old palace) had drawn to a close, they proceeded with their
guests by easy stages to Florence.

Mr. Howard was now Lady Osborne's constant companion, as they rambled
about amongst the old churches, and through the galleries, so rich in
the masterpieces of the world. He was much more attached to her than to
any member of the family, always finding in her a congenial companion.
She was an amiable, intelligent, elegant woman, greatly superior to her
son and daughter, as well by nature as cultivation.

Her beauty was wonderfully preserved; her fair hair untouched by time;
her eyes undimmed; and a bright colour glowing in her cheeks as she
walked along under the perfect blue of the Italian sky. As they turned
down the "Way of the Beautiful Ladies," he could not but acknowledge
how well she fulfilled the tradition.

"You are very silent, Arthur," she said.

He looked at her with a smile in his eyes, and made some brief answer.

Never before had she addressed him by his christian name, and he was at
once gratified by a friendship which was sincere enough to desire the
intimacy; and disappointed that the music of his name had not sounded
for him on the lips of another, whose image he was as yet unable to
banish from his heart.

As though divining something of the trend of his thought, she began to
speak of Emma; continuing--

"I thought her a perfect lady--I could find no want of breeding in her.
Modest, yet confident, as one used to Society; refined, yet without
affectation. When I think of the difference between her and the other
members of her family, whom I have noticed at the Assembly balls, I am
forced to the conclusion that her father must have married very much
beneath him. It must be trying for her, when she has been brought up
so differently, to be obliged to live with them now."

"She seems to be attached to her eldest sister."

"_She_ impressed me much more favourably than her other sisters, whose
conduct has attracted my attention on different occasions--she is too
simple to be accused of vulgarity."

They walked along in silence for a brief space; and then Lady Osborne
continued--

"Is it not very much to be deplored that men so seldom ask for anything
beyond youth and beauty?--so seldom consider merit, or suitability? How
often have not men disregarded every indication of personal qualities
that would have assured their happiness, and turned aside after the
first pretty face that came in their way? It is a sort of blindness--an
absence of penetration--which must bring ultimate regret. Do you
remember the Sacristan, in Santa Croce, telling us of the priceless
frescoes of Giotto that lay hidden under the whitewash on the walls of
the Chapel of the Bardi della Liberta? It made me think of how often
so much lies hidden from us by an even slighter veil--a gossamer so
slender that we may afterwards come to wonder what obstacle it could
have presented to us!"

Her companion looked at her in wonder, not unmixed with sorrow, though
the appeal in her voice held no meaning for him; and he was constrained
to walk along in silence at her side.

Later on, as she sat beneath Botticelli's _Fortitude_, with her hand
on her parasol, the likeness between them struck him with almost a
sense of dismay. Her bright colour had faded, and there was a look of
weariness and lassitude on her face. As in the picture, it was the face
of one who had suffered, and would yet again suffer, before she had
laid her head on the quiet pillow of her grave.

       *       *       *       *       *       *

Towards the end of May, the Osbornes returned to London to prepare for
Miss Osborne's wedding, whilst Mr. Howard went on his way to Spain.



CHAPTER XIV


The Watsons returned to Croydon in October; and a few weeks later, Mrs.
Watson, finding the resignation of second mourning eminently becoming,
sent out invitations for a party.

Emma was very sensible of the want of propriety in having company
within a year of her father's death; but Robert welcomed the
arrangement, as he was anxious to show attention to some new and
important clients.

About a week before the entertainment was to take place, Lord Osborne
called. He was shown into the drawing-room where Emma was working at
her embroidery; while Jane sat near her, making out a list of the
dishes that would be necessary for the supper.

It was with a sinking heart that Emma rose and curtsied to him. She
had hoped that he had forgotten her; and his persistence in once more
following her could only serve to aggravate the difficulty of her
position. Jane was not a little agitated at finding herself, for the
first time in her life, in the society of a man of his position; and
was also a good deal disconcerted by having thrown her second best
tippet round her shoulders, when her _best_ would have been so much
more suitable to such an important occasion.

As Emma remained silent, she believed it to be incumbent on her to
express her sense of the honour he had done them in calling, enquiring
with immense affability for Lady Osborne and Lady Edward Sothern.

Emma then enquired for Mrs. Blake and Charles, and learned that the
latter was head of his class at school, and was grown a monstrous fine
fellow. Lord Osborne then added that Mr. Howard was not yet returned
from Spain.

"How do you like Croydon, Miss Watson?" he continued. "I always thought
it famously dull myself."

"There are some pleasant walks towards the country," she began, when
she was hastily interrupted by Jane.

"Oh! I assure you, Lord Osborne, there is an immense deal of fashion
in Croydon! Many of the families live in the first style--and as for
sociability, there are few places to equal it! When not in mourning, we
are in company nearly every evening!"

Lord Osborne looked not a little astonished; then, after a short pause,
turning to Emma, said--

"I am glad to hear you are taking exercise. Do not you now wear
half-boots?"

Emma began to laugh; and believing he must have said something witty,
he joined in very heartily.

At this moment, Robert entered the room. He had not expected to find
Lord Osborne there; but Emma was gratified by the quiet manner in
which he received him. Taking the conversation into his own hands, he
discussed the harvest; the French; the incapacity of the Government
(that unfailing source of gratification to those who govern not); and
a new play, which a friend of his had seen in London. Emma had never
before heard him talk so well; and yet she was aware that there was
something wanting in cordiality; but Lord Osborne was apparently very
well satisfied to be spared the fatigue of exercising his brain.

Jane, however, listened with ill-concealed impatience; and when, at
length, Robert paused, she lost no time in striking in, and began--

"We are arranging to have a little company, my lord----"

But Robert was quite equal to playing the husband; and the instant
displeasure of his eye froze the invitation which was hovering on her
lips.

"Mr. Musgrave mentioned something of the sort to me," replied Lord
Osborne, colouring slightly. "I should be very much honoured, madam, if
you would be so good as to include me."

The request was made with a sort of simple shyness that made it
impossible to be refused; but as Robert returned to the drawing-room,
after seeing him out, his face was clouded.

"I am sure you are too sensible, Emma," he said, "to desire to have
Lord Osborne dangling after you. It will not be possible for him to
marry you. It will only occasion spiteful gossip; and perhaps prevent
your getting fixed."

"I assure you, Robert," replied Emma, blushing, "that not for anything
in the world would I encourage him--I sincerely hope that he will not
continue to call." With that, she left the room.

Jane had been watching her, with shrewd eyes, in silence.

"I declare I never met a girl like her!" she exclaimed. "I am as
certain as anything that she is not wanting to have him! But mark my
words, Robert, Lord Osborne is in earnest! He is not for flirting at
all. And, unless she is a born fool, Emma will be 'my lady'!"

       *       *       *       *       *       *

On the night of the party, Augusta was allowed to remain up for
half-an-hour; Sam had got leave to join them; and Lord Osborne and Mr.
Musgrave were amongst the first arrivals.

After the usual civilities, Lord Osborne sat down by Emma; and as the
guests began to arrive in quick succession, and were not long in being
informed by Jane as to his quality, inquisitive glances were constantly
directed towards them. Seeing this, Emma presently excused herself,
and went to sit by a lady to whom she had been previously introduced;
but in a few moments he had followed her. She then presented him to
the lady, who was only too pleased to form the acquaintance; and moved
on to speak to a pretty girl who was sitting somewhat apart, and who
appeared to know as few people as Emma herself. But again he came after
her; and although she did her best to engage the two in conversation,
the former was so shy, and the latter so dull, that it appeared to
her as though they had simultaneously embarked on a game as to which
should limit their observations to the fewest words of one syllable. In
response to an imploring eye, Sam came over, and she introduced them;
and shortly afterwards they were joined by little Augusta. Lord Osborne
was at once attracted by the pretty child; and, lifting her up on his
knee, presented her with his silver comfit-box. It was soon time for
her to retire, and Emma took her, herself, up to her room, remaining
with her until Sam was sent in search of her.

As she was coming down stairs, with her hand on his arm, she paused and
said earnestly--

"Sam--cannot you help me?"

He remained silent, and she continued: "You can have no conception how
I have been suffering from Jane's boasting--and now that Lord Osborne
has come, it will be worse than ever! Could not you persuade Robert to
forbid him the house?"

"Are you quite sure, Emma, that you know your own heart? Should he be
sent away, can you be certain that you will not be regretting it?"

"Quite sure and quite certain!" she replied, smiling.

"Is there anyone else, then, that you care for?"

She blushed deeply, and tears gathered in her eyes.

"There--my love!" he said, gently. "I should not have asked you."

When they re-entered the drawing-room, Lord Osborne was at once at her
side. The card-table was being set, and he was anxious to arrange a
party for whist, which should include Emma and himself.

Robert, however, interposed by coming forward and requesting his sister
to be so kind as to sit beside old Lady Brown, and show her how to play
speculation. "Did I hear you say 'whist,' my lord?--this way, if you
will be good enough."

At supper, Lord Osborne found himself separated by the length of the
room from the object of his admiration; and when he endeavoured to
engage her afterwards as his partner, Sam had already secured her for
another table.

Jane was perfectly aware of the manoeuvres of her husband and brother,
and was not a little entertained by them. "It will only serve to
inflame Lord Osborne," she thought to herself. "They could not be
playing her cards better!"

       *       *       *       *       *       *

Sam was obliged to leave them on the following day; but, before going,
he urged Robert to put a stop to Lord Osborne calling.

"It is not so simple as you think, Sam," replied his brother. "I shall
certainly not give him any encouragement--still less, allow Emma to be
thrown at his head. But Jane will have it that he is violently in love
with Emma, and quite determined to marry her. If such should be the
case, I would not be justified in standing in her way--it would be a
very fine match for her."

"I assure you she does not desire it."

"Emma is a good girl--I am perfectly satisfied with her conduct; but,
of course, if Lord Osborne intends to ask her, everything will be quite
different--she will not think of him in the same way. She is now afraid
of being made to appear foolish."

With this, Sam had perforce to be satisfied; and he was at least
confident that Robert would secure his sister from any impertinence.



CHAPTER XV


Mrs. Robert Watson having announced her emancipation from the trammels
of woe, invitations poured in, fast and thick, in all of which Emma was
specially included.

It was fine, bright weather, with the pleasantest frost; and Emma
was able to take out Augusta nearly every morning for a walk. To her
dismay, however, she found herself frequently joined by Lord Osborne,
who had taken rooms in a neighbouring inn; and she appealed in vain to
her sister to accompany them, or to take charge of the child herself.

Matters were brought to a head by Jane, who deliberately informed Lord
Osborne one morning when he called, of the direction in which Emma had
gone. She herself had sent her some little distance beyond the town, in
order to enquire for an old servant who was ill. The result was, that
as Emma was turning but the first corner on her return home, she came
face to face with Lord Osborne.

She replied to his greeting as coldly as might be; and was endeavouring
to proceed on her way, when she was brought to a standstill by his
informing her that Mrs. Watson had been so good as to indicate to him
where he might find her. "She was particularly kind," he said. "I am
very much obliged to her--the more so that I have been missing you for
so many mornings."

Emma's eyes had been fixed on the ground, but she now suddenly raised
them. His face was slightly flushed, and his whole manner betrayed
confidence.

Pale with anger, and holding Augusta's hand tightly, she confronted him.

"Lord Osborne, I am alone and unprotected," she said. "You must surely
see that your attentions only cause me distress. Be good enough to let
me proceed on my way, without accompanying me."

"Mrs. Watson has given me her permission to escort you home."

"My sister-in-law has no conception of her duty to me."

"Believe me, Miss Watson, my intentions are entirely honourable. You
have no reason to treat me with such coldness. My whole desire is to
make you my wife--if you will honour me by accepting me."

Emma curtsied.

"I cannot possibly accept you, my lord--I beseech you to accept this
answer as final--I can never be your wife!--but, believe me, I am
deeply sensible to the honour you have done me."

"What reason can you have for refusing me? Do not be so hasty! You do
not perhaps know me well enough. I will wait--I will be patient--if you
will only give me one word of hope!"

"My lord, I cannot!"

"You cannot?--why cannot you?"

Emma remained silent, but she was walking onward, the while he kept at
her side.

"Miss Emma! why do not you speak?"

She could find no reply.

"I know I am a dull fellow--but I love you so much! There is not
anything I would not do for you! Could not you care for me a little?"

"No, my lord."

"If you were only married to me, you would care for me!--you could not
but care for me if we were married--I would love you so much!"

Emma wept.

"Why do you make my aunt cry? Why do not you go away?" asked little
Augusta, looking over at him reproachfully.

"It needs a child to point out my obvious duty," he said bitterly; and,
turning back, he strode away.

Augusta remained silent for several minutes, and then said--

"Is not a lord nicer than a gentleman?"

Emma was obliged to smile.

"Shall not you marry him after a while?" she continued.

"Would _you_ like to marry him, Augusta?"

"No," replied the child, after a little hesitation; "it always seems a
long time when he is there."

On their return home, Jane herself opened the door and, fixing her eyes
on Emma, said--

"Has Lord Osborne asked you?"

Emma admitted it.

"Well, you have accepted him?"

"No."

"You have _not_ accepted him! Good heavens! Emma!--do you tell me you
have _refused_ him?--refused _Lord Osborne_!"

"Yes."

"Wicked, ungrateful girl! How have you the face to stand there and tell
me such a thing? Are you mad, Emma? What bewitched you to refuse him?"

Emma remained silent.

"Speak, wretched girl! How dared you to refuse him?"

Emma looked at her haughtily.

"I shall speak to my brother," she replied coldly.

"It is your brother who will speak to _you_--Minx! Do not look at
me like that! You are insufferable with your airs--and you _just
nothing_! Owing every stick on your back to your brother and to me!"

Jane had completely lost all self-control; and little Augusta,
terrified, clung to Emma, crying bitterly.

At this moment, Robert came into the hall.

"Here is Emma gone and refused Lord Osborne!" cried his wife.

"Do you consider the servants to be stone deaf!" he demanded angrily.
"Come with me into my study, Emma. Go with your mother, Augusta."

Crossing the hall, he opened the door of his room for Emma to enter,
and, following her in, closed and locked it.

"What is the meaning of all this?"

Emma was too agitated to reply.

"Is it true that you have refused Lord Osborne?"

"Yes, Robert."

"And why have you refused him?" Emma strove to answer, but no words
came.

"I insist on your answering me. Why have you refused him?--you must
have some reason."

"I do not love him."

"As far as I am aware, it is not the custom for a nice girl to love
a man before he asks her. It will come in time. Listen to me, Emma.
I was anything but pleased when Lord Osborne followed you here, but
he has shown that his intentions are wholly honourable. Shortly after
our party he called on me to obtain my permission to offer himself to
you, as soon as he deemed that he might do so with reasonable hope
of success. This morning he acquainted your sister with his design
in following you. You have nothing to complain of with regard to his
conduct; he is a handsome man; and his position is far above that you
have any right to expect."

Emma remained silent, with her eyes on the ground and her cheeks
burning.

"I stand to you in the light of a father," continued Robert; "I have
a right to your obedience; and if you have any natural feelings you
will be glad to make me some return for all I have done for you--and
I am ready to do much more--by showing some willingness to comply
with what I judge to be best for you. I am not saying that I might not
have preferred that you had married a man in a simpler rank; but as
you are so difficult to suit, I could not run the risk of dismissing
him. Our aunt was no friend to you, breeding you up in a different way
to us all, making you discontented; and you should be grateful to Lord
Osborne for overlooking so much and being willing to marry you. Promise
me, Emma, that there will be no more nonsense, if he should be so good
as to forgive you for the insult you have done him, and should come
forward again."

"I cannot promise. I can never marry him."

"You _can_, and _will_ marry him! Obstinate girl! What are you aiming
at? Would you prefer to attract the attentions of a royal prince?"

Robert had no sooner uttered these words than he would gladly have
recalled them--shrinking from the flash of his sister's eyes. The next
moment she had swept past him, unlocked the door, and was gone.

Half-an-hour later she had left the house, and was on her way to Sam at
Guildford.



CHAPTER XVI


Early in January Mr. Howard returned from Spain. Had he been able to
follow his own inclinations, he would have gone straight to Cumberland
in order to look after his property, and confer with his agent on some
matters of importance; but he received such an urgent summons from Lady
Osborne that he did not like to disregard it, and went down into Surrey.

As he entered the beautiful drawing-room of the Castle, where
everything was so familiar to him, and Lady Osborne, so entirely in
keeping with her surroundings, came forward to greet him, with a slight
flush upon her face, he could not but feel how good it was to be once
more at home.

They sat together by the wide hearth, and it seemed to him that in the
soft light of the candles she might well pass for ten years less than
her age, but as a matter of fact a stranger might well have taken her
for but little older than himself; in her beauty there was something
so soft and fair.

They had been chatting of one thing and another--principally of Lady
Edward Sothern, and the wedding--when suddenly it occurred to him that
he had not enquired for Lord Osborne, and, to his amazement, learned
that he was in Paris.

"Upon my word I do not understand him," he said, rising to his feet,
and leaning against the mantelpiece. "When we were in Italy he was for
ever playing the _rôle_ of lonely exile, and pining for his native
land!"

He looked down at Lady Osborne, and she coloured.

"I was particularly anxious to speak to you about him," she replied.
"It is on account of his disappointment with Miss Watson. She has
definitely refused him."

"But what could have induced him to ask her when she is the betrothed
of another?"

"It was all a mistake--Mr. Musgrave confesses to having been
misinformed. She continues to live with her brother and sister at
Croydon--vulgar impossible people!--though Osborne insists that they
have a child who is a perfect little lady!--I cannot understand these
Watsons!"

On the plea of his disordered dress, Mr. Howard soon after retired,
but, as he crossed the room it was as though something of its beauty
had faded. It no longer held the same spell for him. Something of
disquiet had wakened in him. An instinct, not unakin to a sense of
shrinking, had possessed him--almost as though there were a pitfall at
his feet.

As he entered his old apartment, he was again conscious of uneasiness.
It had been freshly decorated, and re-furnished, and there was an
air of luxury which somehow repelled him, giving him a feeling of
oppression. He went over to the casement, and throwing it wide open,
regardless of frost and snow, looked out into the quiet night, with its
myriad of stars.


On the following day he set out to call on some old parishioners, and
had not gone very far on his way when he encountered Tom Musgrave
riding along.

"If ever I met such a fellow as you are, Howard! We all thought you'd
been eaten by cannibals!"

"Sorry to disappoint you!--but there are no cannibals in Spain!"

"Well, crocodiles!--it's all one!--and here's Osborne gone off to
Paris, clean out of his wits over Miss Watson!"

"How came you to make such a mistake with regard to Miss Watson?"

"Faith! I don't know that there was any mistake! Her people are wild
with her for not having Osborne--but there seems to be some other
fellow in the background--someone she had met at her aunt's--and she
seems fully determined to have her own way. She has, absolutely, left
them at Croydon, and gone to stay with her younger brother, where there
will be nobody to look after her from morning to night!"

This story unfortunately received confirmation during the morning; and
on the following day, when he rode over to the Rectory to see Purvis,
it received a still more disquieting aspect. Emma had been seen in the
company of a Captain Conway at A----, a man who was said to be highly
connected, though of this there was no certain proof--but who, on
the other hand, was well known to be a profligate. Heavy at heart he
returned to the Castle.

As he sat with Lady Osborne over the fire that night, she told him more
of her history than ever he had previously known.

He had always deplored the inferiority of her son and daughter to their
mother, but hitherto it had never occurred to him that she had been
conscious of it herself.

"I have known but little happiness in my life," she said. "My father,
Lord Foulke, was a gambler; and, in view of the increasing difficulty
of living, my mother believed it to be her duty to marry off all her
daughters as soon as they came out. I was the third of five girls,
and married when scarcely sixteen--no more than a child. I could not
endure Lord Osborne--my every instinct revolted against him--but though
I implored my father and mother, with tears, to spare me, they would
not listen to me. No one may know the misery of my married life. When
I was about twenty-three, however, my husband died, leaving me with
two young children--the boy so backward that I believed him for a time
to be deficient; but as I spared no effort to develop him he gradually
improved. Not long afterwards my father died from an accident. The
shock brought a stroke on my mother, depriving her of the power of
speech, which she never afterwards recovered, though she lingered on
for several years. My brother, despite the remonstrances of the doctor,
insisted on her removal to the Dower House, and short as was the drive,
she never recovered from it; so that I dared not attempt to bring her
here. As it was seldom possible to leave her, I could see but little
of my children, for as the Dower House was small, and indifferently
built, she could not endure their noise. But never had I loved her so
well. Qualities, that I had never before discerned in her, now showed
themselves, and we were drawn together as we never had been before. At
her death I returned home, to find my daughter almost a stranger to me.
Julia was now fourteen, and her pretty manners, which I had believed
to be the expression of her affection for me, had merely served as a
mask to her serious defects of character. Perhaps unjustly, I dismissed
her governess, believing her to be blamed, and endeavoured myself to
correct them, but I had come too late, and it only served to estrange
her the further. Osborne, on the other hand, has always held for me
the simple affection of his childhood, and his faults are rather of a
negative than of a positive character, but he cares for little beyond
hunting and fishing--we have almost nothing in common. Until you came,
Arthur, I had scarcely known what it was to have a companion."

There was a slight falter in her voice as she uttered the last words,
and she looked at her visitor wistfully.

His eyes, half veiled by their lashes, were fixed on the glowing
embers, and he remained silent. Once again Emma's soft hand trembled
in his own, and he was conscious of the beating of her heart. Why had
he not taken her into his arms, then and there, to shelter in his
breast for ever?

"Arthur, you are not listening to me!"

There was a note of reproach in the gentle voice at his side.

"I assure you, Lady Osborne, that I am deeply concerned and distressed
to hear of all that you have suffered. Perhaps in view of my office
it is scarcely orthodox for me to say how very unfair it has all
seemed--but from the point of view of a simple human being, it is
impossible to think otherwise."

Nothing could have been kinder than the tone in which he pronounced
these words; but that she had expected something altogether different
was quite evident by the expression of disappointment which overspread
her countenance, as she shrank into the shadow.

After a moment's silence he continued:

"The want of sympathy between parents and children is only too common,
but there must have been a total absence of all natural feeling on
the part of your brother, with regard to Lady Foulke, when he could
act in such a manner towards her. The counterpart of it, however, I
witnessed at the bedside of my cousin. His son, as you know, broke his
neck in the hunting field, as his father lay dying. I was deputed to
tell him, and did so in fear and trembling as to the possible effect it
might have on him, but he just looked round at me and said: 'And a good
thing, too!' Although I had been aware that the relations between them
were very unfortunate, I had not believed it possible that there could
be such an estrangement between father and son."

After a pause Mr. Howard then announced that he had written to his
agent to expect him on the following Saturday.

"Oh, surely not!" exclaimed his hostess, leaning forward in
expostulation. "Cumberland will be quite intolerable in this weather--I
have heard that the cold there is beyond everything!"

"I have yet to learn that I am in a galloping consumption. I assure
you there is no country more delightful and wonderful than Cumberland
in the grasp of winter!"

"I am well aware a Northman will swear _anything_ with respect to his
country!"

"Madam! I protest!"

"Oh, protest away! you are all of you alike! I had hoped that you might
have been prevailed upon to remain with us until Easter--in which case
Osborne would have come back at once."

"Do not you think he had much better remain where he is? In the gay
world of Paris he will have everything to distract him, and may
possibly find someone to replace Miss Watson?"

"I do not think so."

"Surely you do not believe that Osborne will remain inconsolable for
ever?"

There was a gleam of humour in his dark eyes as he turned them towards
her. In all his intimate knowledge of his former pupil, it had
certainly never occurred to him that he possessed a heart of untold
depths!

"No. What I believe is, that he will revert to his former indifference
towards women, and never marry at all."

"That would be very much to be deplored."

"I am not so sure of that. He is scarcely fitted to attract a superior
mind, and you could not expect me to welcome an inferior one, or to
view, without pain, an unwilling bride forced into his arms."

A day or two later Lady Osborne stood beneath the portico, to wish her
guest "God-speed."

"Remember I shall be counting on you for an invitation!" she said,
smiling.

He bowed low.

"I shall have to secure a fair chatelaine, madam, in order to receive
you worthily!"

How little did he realize that his idle words were as a naked sword in
her breast.



CHAPTER XVII


Sam was walking along the High Street of Guildford just as the coach
drove up to the stage; and, for the moment, thinking less of anything
in the world than of Emma, when, to his amazement, she suddenly
appeared on the platform. Hastening forward, he lifted her down; but
seeing she could scarcely maintain her composure, forbore to question
her, and, drawing her hand within his arm, he led her home.

He now lived entirely with Mr. Curtis at his residence, in a quiet
suburban road, not far off: a large, red-brick house, standing in its
own grounds, and furnished with all the comfort and suitability of
wealth and refinement. As soon as they were seated by a comfortable
fire in the library, Emma, in a few words, informed her brother of
all that had happened. He was much moved by the recital, but deeply
gratified that she had come to him at once--indeed his satisfaction
at having her would have been without bounds, had it not been for his
indignation at the conduct of Robert and Jane, and the shock he had
sustained at finding Emma travelling by herself.

Presently Mr. Curtis, who had been out, returned to the house, and
entered the room. Sam at once introduced his sister, and while sparing
her feelings as much as possible, made him acquainted with a sufficient
account of what had occurred, to let him see that it was impossible
for Emma to return to Croydon. He then announced his intention of at
once seeking for suitable lodgings for his sister and himself, but Mr.
Curtis steadily refused to countenance such an arrangement, insisting
that as he already regarded Sam as a son, he had some justification
in venturing to hope that Miss Emma might come to look on him as her
father, and in the meantime his house was as truly at her service.
Emma thanked him charmingly, but begged for permission to look for a
situation, as governess, or companion. On perceiving, however, the
mortification she was occasioning, both to Sam and Mr. Curtis, she was
soon obliged to give way.

Before very long her box was forwarded from Croydon, and both Robert
and Jane wrote more suitably than might have been expected, expressing
considerable regret that she had left them.

Emma was now more at ease than she had been since her quiet time with
Elizabeth, although she daily missed little Augusta; but her health had
been injured by all she had gone through. Her cheek, once rounded with
perfect health, was now thin and worn, and to Sam's dismay she did not
appear to be regaining her vitality as the weeks went by. In view of
her half-confession to him, he feared she was suffering from a secret
sorrow, and he and Mr. Curtis spared no effort to restore her.

Towards the end of February Elizabeth's marriage was arranged, and
Mrs. John Purvis, with whom she had been residing, and from whose
house the wedding was to take place, kindly invited the whole family,
including Augusta. Emma's embarrassment at meeting Robert and Jane
was considerably lessened by this arrangement, and she and the child
were inseparable during the few days they spent together. Penelope and
Margaret had obtained leave to be present, and both appeared improved
by having been provided with occupation, other than hunting for
husbands. Mary Edwards had also been invited, and Emma was now able to
satisfy herself that she was not wholly indifferent to Sam.

Elizabeth looked very sweet and handsome in her white bonnet and shawl,
and the bridegroom distinguished himself not a little by forgetting
neither cheque nor ring.

The sisters had been truly happy to have met together again, and their
parting was much less sorrowful than before, both bride and bridegroom
insisting that Emma should come to them in April to make her home with
them.

Poor Sam protested with no little warmth against this arrangement, but
Elizabeth was not his elder sister for nothing.

"Cannot you have some sense, Sam!" she said. "Emma is quite too pretty,
and has already been too much talked about, to be left alone with a
pair of old bachelors!--the two of you out the half of the time! Oh! I
know she can take care of herself better than could have been thought
possible--she has told me all about Captain Conway--but she should not
be left in such a position--her home is with her sister!"



CHAPTER XVIII


Unfortunately, Emma contracted a chill during the long drive back from
the wedding, and in spite of, or perhaps, rather as a result of the
various remedies with which she was treated, she was still very far
from strong when Sam took her over to Wickstead, and left her in the
care of Elizabeth.

With what mingled feelings did not Emma view once more the scene where
she had spent one of the happiest evenings of her life. Once again,
in fancy, she was received by Mr. Howard with all that particularity
which had assured her that the entertainment had been arranged with
a sole view to enjoying her society. Once again as she entered the
dining-parlour, she saw herself at his side, and heard the raillery
of his voice as he combated her cherished opinions--from no personal
conviction as she had been well aware, but in order to draw her into
friendly combat. In the evening afterwards, perhaps she alone had been
conscious of his vexation at Miss Osborne's intrusion; and she had also
divined his intention of retaining her as his neighbour at cards. The
moment of parting was also present with her.

But more to her than all these memories was that of the fateful moment
at the ball, when he had begged her to return him the rose he had given
to her. Even now it so moved her that she endeavoured to refrain from
dwelling on it. Yet how had she been so vain, so foolish, as to have
mistaken an ordinary flirtation of a man of the world, for an emotion
of a deeper character? For there could no longer be any doubt in her
mind with respect to him. He had simply been amusing himself, he had
had no intentions with regard to her. Nor had he in any way stepped
beyond the limits of convention--blame rested solely with herself. Her
former experience of life, slight as it had been, should have taught
her that all men of breeding and fashion are more or less adepts at
flirting--unless indeed they are scarcely to be tolerated.

Sweet and unselfish as was Emma's nature, the perfect happiness of
Elizabeth and Henry Purvis, in a setting so pregnant of another--where
every article of furniture seemed to speak of that other--could not but
make her sensible of a feeling of bereavement; nor could she withhold
her wayward fancy from depicting herself, and that other, as playing
the part of her sister and brother-in-law, in their daily life.

Lord Osborne had rejoined his regiment, but Lady Osborne, to the
surprise of all, continued to remain on at the Castle, instead of going
up to the family town house. Tom Musgrave was as much to the fore as
ever, and as busily occupied in impressing his own importance wherever
he went, and Mary Edwards drove over at once to welcome Emma. Happening
by accident to mention Sam, she gave Emma the opportunity of telling
her that Mr. Curtis had formally declared him his heir, for which she
was rewarded by a quick blush.

A ball was to take place shortly at the Assembly Rooms, and the Edwards
were anxious that Emma should come to them for it, but as can readily
be supposed it was almost the last entertainment she would have cared
to attend. Elizabeth, however, relieved her from all embarrassment by
saying that she did not desire her to go out at night till she was
recovered from a cough which had troubled her for some time.

It was not till the end of the month that she took her to a party,
given by Mrs. Stephenson, of Ashley Park. Emma had no sooner entered
the drawing-room, and before ever her eyes had rested on his tall
figure, than she was aware of the presence of Mr. Howard.

Following Elizabeth, she was slightly screened by her, and although
they passed within no great distance of him, as he appeared to be
looking the other way, she was able to persuade herself, for a short
time, that he had not observed her. But it was impossible she should
long continue in this belief. The moments were as hours to her, when,
presently, as he was conducting a lady into the room beyond, he was
obliged to come quite close to her, and recognition was inevitable. He
merely bowed and passed on.

Emma had never sought to disguise her feelings from herself, but how
deeply her heart was engaged she had not realised until that moment,
when she felt that it must break.

A minute or two later Mr. Howard grew aware of a sudden commotion, and
then heard it said that a lady had fainted.

Instinctively he knew that it was Emma--and almost immediately, he knew
not how, had reached her side. Motioning everyone away, he raised her
in his arms, and carried her out to the hall, where there was a couch,
but just before he laid her down she opened her eyes, and there was no
mistaking the look of deep joy which flashed into them, as she saw him
bending over her.

"Emma--my dearest Emma!"

He could say no more, as they were instantly joined by Mrs. Stephenson
and Elizabeth; other guests--some impelled by solicitude, and some by
curiosity--quickly following.

These, however, were quietly got rid of by their hostess, who at the
same time directed the servants to bring restoratives, and soon Emma
was able to sit up. She remained so pale and shaken, however, that
Mrs. Stephenson begged her to remain all night; but this was steadily
opposed by Elizabeth, who was anxious to bring her back with her, and
as Emma herself joined in begging to return, the carriage was sent for.

At this moment Henry, who had just heard of Emma's indisposition, came
hurrying up, and assisted in conveying her home.

On the following morning Mr. Howard rode over to Wickstead, and,
meeting Emma in the shrubbery, declared his passion.

She could not speak, but she laid her trembling hands in his.



CHAPTER XIX


The engagement created not a little stir, and many and various were the
comments.

Mr. Curtis composed a pretty speech, for the edification of his
patients, to the effect that had he been some forty years younger, when
he had had the honour of meeting with Miss Emma, his bachelorhood would
have been seriously imperilled.

It is said that when this was reported to Mr. Howard, he vowed he would
have imperilled it still further for him.

Mrs. Blake was rejoiced at the news, but it must be confessed that it
would be scarcely prudent to record the observations of Charles, who
thirsted for his uncle's blood for fully three days after.

Jane still protested that Emma was a fool to have refused a title.

Augusta enquired if she might not be married on the same day?

Lady Edward Sothern's comment was perhaps characteristic--

"There must be something singularly wanting in Arthur Howard to marry a
woman of the lower orders."

In a remote room of the Castle Lady Osborne sat, with her head bowed
on her hands. No one could have condemned her more severely than she
condemned herself. Having missed all hope of romance in her youth, she
had endeavoured to secure some measure of it when it was no longer
reasonable to expect it; and now she felt that her punishment was
almost greater than she well might bear--standing alone, as the slow
years went by.

       *       *       *       *       *       *

Emma's wedding morning shone fair, and people flocked from far and near
to see her married.

Lady Osborne lent her her own veil, placing it herself on her head.

Penelope and Margaret could not get leave so soon again, but the bride
was attended by Charles and Augusta, carrying baskets of flowers; and
it was easy to discern that the former, with the charming fickleness
of his sex, had wholly transferred his allegiance from the elder to the
younger lady.

As Emma came down from the altar on her husband's arm, she looked all
loveliness, but the eyes of different among the congregation strayed
from her fresh young beauty to the face of Lady Osborne, and rested
there. To the mind of more than one there was something, they knew not
what, that seemed to elevate it beyond all they could have believed
possible.

Sam and Mary Edwards, now happily betrothed (as Mr. and Mrs. Edwards
were unable any longer to urge anything against the alliance) were
amongst the company, and received the congratulations of all. It had
been arranged that they were to live on with Mr. Curtis, as the old
gentleman declared that he could not be deserted in his advancing years.

Shortly after Emma's marriage, Captain O'Brien died, and his widow,
surviving him but a short time, Emma found herself the recipient of a
legacy of twelve thousand pounds. With her husband's cordial approval,
she shared it equally with her sisters; and Penelope lost no time in
investing hers in a husband.

But Margaret had suffered so deeply through Tom Musgrave, that in
spite of anything Robert and Jane could urge, she insisted on keeping
her situation. It was only on the death of the young girl, some years
later, to whom she had been acting as companion, that she married a
naval officer, whom she had frequently met at her house, and to whom
she had become attached, finding with him a much greater measure of
happiness than could ever have been her lot had she become the wife of
one so worthless as Tom Musgrave.

This gentleman, not long after, fell a prey to a vixen, who lost but
little time in reducing him, and on his endeavouring to console himself
with strong waters, secured the keys of the cellar, and retained them
with a firm hand.

As the Rector of the living, on Mr. Howard's property, shortly resigned
it, on account of ill-health, he undertook it himself, appointing
Henry Purvis his curate, at a much handsomer figure than he would
have received as incumbent, and installing him in the rectory, with
its excellent gardens and farm. Emma and Elizabeth's happiness was
complete, now that they were settled so near to each other, and as the
years went by, there were many merry games between the children of the
Rectory and those of the Manor.

Lady Osborne was a frequent visitor at the Howards', some saying that
she was fonder of their young people than of her own grandchildren, but
this was scarcely the case, as the latter added, in no little degree,
to the happiness of her life. Perhaps it might have been nearer the
mark had they divined that in Emma she had found the companionship that
she had always missed in her own daughter.

She also became very fond of Mrs. Blake, whom Lord Osborne, to the
surprise of everyone, married a couple of years later.

If he did not entertain for her the same degree of love that Emma had
awakened in him, he was very sincerely attached to her, making an
excellent step-father to her children.

Charles entered the Royal Navy.

As he and Augusta spend the greater part of their holidays together at
the Howards', and do not find matter for heated argument above seven
times in the week, it is confidently believed by several that they will
ultimately embark on the more serious argument of life, with all its
possibilities for sweetness, or disaster.


FINIS



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