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putable, and when people read, heard, dreamed of nothing else but "the wisdom of our ancestors:" but she had lived to see the inauspicious day when she was afraid to provoke contradiction from her own son, and when it was a hundred to one but that every book she opened, from the pompous and Johnsonian-looking quarto down to the dandified and finikin duodecimo, or even the penny canaille of the paper democracy, would have for its opening sentence some "grievous grievance" saddled upon "the ignorance of our progenitors," ancestors being by far too aristocratic a term for the phenomena of the present age to use even figuratively. Mrs. St. Leger wisely forbore a reply, but, like a true woman, continued expatiating upon the same
"And Lady Jernyngham is such a sweet woman-so much Chris tian charity and forbearance! I never heard her speak ill of any one, even if they are ever so bad. It was only the other night, at her sister's, Miss Humdrum's, that I heard her palliating, in the most amiable manner, the vices of that young profligate, Lord Rentall.”
“Oh!” cried the incorrigible Leslie, "she would no doubt have done the same by his Satanic Majesty, were he about town in guise of a bachelor elder-brothership, and likely to ask for either of her daughters; and then, notwithstanding her exemplary maternalism, I would stake Miss Fanny to a hackney-coach-horse, that she would have let the D-1 take either of them, and then have said, in her most purring and conciliating voice, that the D-1 is often painted blacker than he is."
"I hear Sir George Erpingham is very much in love with Emmeline," persevered Mrs. St. Leger.
"Heavens! what a fool that man is!" said Mrs. Brambleton. "By cramming his little, narrow, dark, crooked, antediluvian mind with a few modern chimeras, which he picks up, like his furniture, in different odd holes and corners, and, like his furniture, jumbles incongruously and heterogeneously together, he thinks to pass for a wondrously clever person, especially as he is hugely sceptical upon all mysteries, except his own importance, and that of his Yorkshire Siberia, and to those he pays the homage of a most idolatrous worship, after the fashion of the aboriginal priests of Isis, who always selected for their individual Latria an idol that never received the reverence of others."
"Ah, my dear Mrs. Brambleton, I fear this is all the good the 'march of intellect' is likely to do."
"March of intellect! my dear Madam, I begin to think that is past, and that it must now be the April of intellect, one meets so many fools."
"Pray, Mrs. Brambleton," asked Leslie (very apropos de botte, as his mother thought), "did you ever happen to meet a Miss Fielding?" Mrs. Brambleton put her head on one side, and leaned her cheek upon her hand to consider, for she was of that genus of ancient ladies, who pride themselves upon the diffusion of useful knowledge to all, and, therefore, could ill brook being thought ignorant either about persons or things. "Why, let me see; ye-s; you mean a little odd-looking dark girl, with a profusion of long black ringlets, like a Pont Neuf poodle coiffée for sale, don't you?"
"No, I mean a tall fair girl, with blue eyes, and golden hair." "Oh! the daughter of that odd Mrs. Fielding, that has such strange opinions upon all subjects; and the daughter is, I believe, as odd and as disagreeable as the mother."
"I have heard," said Mrs. St. Leger, in a deprecating tone," that she is a most undutiful daughter, and that she gives herself such tremendous airs, that she never will appear to any of her mother's guests, and is in every way thoroughly unamiable."
"And I have heard," said Leslie, somewhat more warmly than the occasion appeared to demand," that her mother's guests are persons of such strange opinions, and of such equivocal character, that you, my dear mother, would be the very first person to condemn any girl for voluntarily associating with them."
"I dare say," growled Mrs. Brambleton," she only avoids their society to annoy her mother, and not out of any sense of propriety."
"And I understand she is exceedingly satirical-a quality, to say the least of it, very unbecoming in any young woman," said Mrs. St. Leger.
"Oh! horribly ill-natured," responded the Brambleton, with a sneer that displayed her very sable teeth, which, at that moment, Leslie thought the venom of her tongue must have turned black.
Mrs. St. Leger began to feel a vague, though faint and ill-defined alarm, at the unwonted warmth of her son's championship in behalf of Florence Fielding, and finding that he was not to be moved by the niaiseries of English modesty and vacuity, she thought she would see what wit and wealth would do; and although, before she named Miss Marsham, she herself felt it was hardly fair to accuse Miss Fielding of satire, while she called Miss Marsham's undisguised and unprovoked ill-nature wit-yet Miss Marsham was an heiress, while Florence Fielding had not a shilling-and, therefore, had no right to a sense of the ridiculous, even upon the most trifling and external points. Having arrived at this conclusion, she commenced her operations with
Pray, my dear Leslie, tell me. Miss Marsham dined at Lord Audley's yesterday: don't you think her a most charming, agreeable person and so very clever and witty!"
"Oh!" cried Leslie, putting both hands before his eyes, her not; she is my favourite aversion: there, is genuine unsophisticated ill-nature, if you will; and as to wit, if she has any pretensions to it, it must, indeed, be that she 'builds her fame upon the ruins of another's name:' and then her loud laugh, and her extraordinary plainness, which would make any man afraid to marry her, unless she could prove that she had taken out a patent for it, so as to confine it exclusively to herself: and with that eternal diamond Ferroniere, she is, indeed, like the toad, ugly and venomous, which yet wears a precious jewel in its head.'
"It is a strange anomaly in English society," continued Leslie, "where persons are certainly much more personally and rancorously ill-natured than in any other, that the only species of ill-nature never tolerated or forgiven, is that which is at all accompanied by wit. In England, people might write and speak libels for ever, provided they
avoided epigrams. The retailers of scandal, the assassins of reputation, who merely circulate the leaden lie in all its unwrought dulness, are never shunned as a pest, or denounced as dangerous; but let them omit half the malice, and only substitute wit for the remaining quantum, and they will soon be dreaded as though they were walking Choleras. A friend of mine (lucky fellow!) was once avoided for a whole season at Florence by all the English, for having happened to remark of one of his compatriots, who appeared at a ball with one of those turbans of the old English breed (now happily extinct), composed of white muslin handkerchiefs and red scarfs, that she looked like a Calmuck Tartar returning from the wars, with his head-gear garnished by the bleached bones of his enemies. Strange, strange contradiction! that a nation which excels more than any other in the talent of being able to eat mutton cold,' should not be able to forgive those who cut blocks with a razor!'"
A few days after the above conversation, Leslie requested an audience with his mother in her dressing-room, where she generally was to be found alone for some three hours after breakfast, unenvironed by the eternal Mrs. Brambleton; and he did then and there, after much hesitation, circumlocution, and ineffectual attempts at lessening the shock, boldly ask her consent to marry Miss Fielding!
Poor Mrs. St. Leger! Had he asked her consent to cut his throat, she could not have looked more aghast, or felt more heart-stricken, than she did. Leslie kept his eyes fixed as attentively on that part of the carpet immediately under them, as though he had been taking an inventory of the stitches or forming a synopsis of the colours. The "Morning Post" dropped from Mrs. St. Leger's little, aristocratic, thin white hand, which seemed within the last minute to have grown thinner and whiter. She leaned, or rather sank back, in her berger— she looked at her son for some seconds with as much intensity of despair, as though the grave, or the perdition beyond it, had yawned before him. At length a pale smile cast a faint gleam over her countenance, which had been actually palsied with horror, and she said, "Oh, no, no! Surely, Leslie, I might have known you were jesting."
Long and bitter was the scene which ensued. Leslie defended and eulogised Florence Fielding with all the eloquence of a lover. Mrs. St. Leger warned him, and inveighed against her with all that sophistry of parental devotion which convinces itself the more that it fails in convincing others that the happiness of her child alone actuated her that she was totally unbiassed by any other or more worldly motive-she even went so far as to say (what parents generally do on such occasions) that it was not money, it was not rank, she wished for her son-it was only happiness; and even had he preferred any one more portionless, and less well born than Miss Fielding-provided she had been in herself amiable and likely to make him happy-she would have willingly consented; but the daughter of such a woman! brought up as she had been! what could he expect? In vain Leslie pleaded that Florence's mother had never liked her, and that on no one subject had they an opinion in common; in vain he brought innumerable instances to prove how much affection for the individual influences our adoption of the individual's opinions-how almost impossible it is
for us to think those wrong in any thing who are never wrong to usand how nearly equally impossible it is to think those right in any thing who are never just or kind towards ourselves: thus it is that affection ever makes the very failings, and even vices, of those we love a haven to run into, while dislike to the object makes us light up the very same vices as a beacon to be shunned: in vain Leslie told of the many good traits he had noted in Florence's character-in vain he urged his mother to know before she condemned her. As for her good qualities, Mrs. St. Leger was convinced they only existed in his imagination-and as for knowing her, he was quite a sufficient proof of her art, without another member of his family being subjected to it. She was convinced, too, that she did not care one straw for him; for in her was that strange anomaly (that exists in most parents' minds) which, while it made her think her son more loveable, more amiable, more beautiful, more clever, and more attractive than any one else ever was, or ever will be, would not allow her to believe that any body could love, admire, or appreciate him but herself. Her pet scheme about him and Miss Jernyngham was at an end, for that morning's paper had announced her marriage with Sir George Erpingham; so Mrs. St. Leger was fain to close this painful conference with a sigh and a hope, that "her dear Leslie, to whom she had always given credit for sense beyond his years, would take some time to consider before he sealed his misery for life, by marrying a woman who every body said had not a good quality, and who, to say the least of her, she was certain, would run away from him at the end of six months."
A year elapsed after this conversation, during which time Leslie St. Leger vainly tried to gain his mother's consent to his marriageand by the end of that time he contrived (by arguments best known to himself) to persuade Florence to become his wife without it, and consequently against her own conviction of right. The day of their marriage Mrs. St. Leger gave a large dinner-party-certainly not to celebrate the event, but chiefly to show the world in general, and her son in particular, that from that time he was as nothing to her-and that she would henceforth take refuge in crowds, which she had hitherto shunned, and seek in the many all that she persisted in thinking she had now lost in the one. The dinner passed off as English set-dinpers usually do, which for the most part seem modelled on the plan of the banquets of the old Florentine painters, who Vasari tells us used, even with their confections, desserts, and ambrosial wines, to introduce the most appalling skeletons, spectres, and images from the infernal regions; for at the dinner in question, fire, robberies, murders, and diseases and elopements, were duly discussed.
About four years after her marriage, as Florence was sitting alone one evening, during one of the frequent absences of her husband, who was then in Leicestershire, busy about his election, a servant entered, and said, "Ma'am, Mrs. Charlton is below, and wishes to speak to you."
"Who is Mrs. Charlton?" asked Florence.
"Mrs. St. Leger's housekeeper, Ma'am.”
"Let her come up," said Florence, trembling violently, as a vague
idea that her husband was in some danger flitted across her; for his mother had persisted in not seeing her since her marriage, and therefore she could not suppose it was any message from her. Mrs. Charlton at length came curtseying into the room-the very incarnation of an apology for having intruded upon her at all, much less at so unseasonable an hour-" but, Ma'am, Mrs. St. Leger is so dangerous hill, and Mrs. Lewyn (that is her maid, Ma'am), being in the fever too, Ma'am, and therefore, as the saying is, of no use, Ma'am-and my own poor girl being seized not an hour ago-(and one must look to one's own, Ma'am)—and a nurse not to be had to-night for love or money—and Dr. B— saying as Misses might not live through the night, if so be she was not properly 'tended-and Master Leslie-I beg pardon, Ma'am-Mr. St. Leger being out of town-and hearing you was such a good lady, I thought I would venter to call, thinking as you might be able to get a nurse, Ma'am-and that-then Mr. Leslie need not be written to, as he is so busy about his 'lection— and as I know he loves his mother dearly, it would sadly vex him, as his interest like would pull one way and his duty, Ma'am, another."
"You did quite right, Mrs. Charlton, not to write and alarm Mr. St. Leger," said Florence, "and I hope Mrs. St. Leger will be quite well before he even hears that she has been ill. I will endeavour to send a nurse to Grosvenor-street in less than half an hour. I suppose you are going back there immediately?"
"Oh, dear no, Ma'am, I am going on to my poor girl, who is lying so dangerous hill in Igh Obern-and that's chiefly what made me come to you, Ma'am, as I could not stay and do for Misses myself, poor dear lady !"
No sooner had the worthy Mrs. Charlton departed on her maternal mission to Igh Obern than Florence repaired to her own room, put on a morning cap, poke bonnet, and babtiste dress, and then, under a strict injunction of secrecy, confided to her astonished abigail her intention of herself going to nurse Mrs. St. Leger. The maid could not suppress her surprise and horror. "What! at this time of night, Ma'am?"- "That is the very reason; for no one else can be got.""And the typhus fever and all! Dear, dear Ma'am, if you should catch it, and die of it, and all, before Mr. St. Leger returns, what would he say?"
"And if his mother should die through my selfish fears, because I was afraid to go near her, Gerald, what would he say then?"
"I don't know, Ma'am, what he would say; but I should say,” cried the tirewoman somewhat pertly but still more indignantly, "that if it had been you, she would have let you die before she would have gone to you."
Florence arrived in Grosvenor-street as fast as fear and anxiety could take her. For four nights, and four days, which the darkness of a sick room made like night, she watched by the bed-side of Mrs. St. Leger. Never did nurse tread so noiselessly, never did leech administer his anodynes so carefully ;—and never did a mother smooth the pillow of a sick child more tenderly than did Florence that of her mother-in-law; and though in the ravings of the poor sufferer, she often heard her own name coupled with epithets of reproach and