Images de page
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

daughters, occupied the back seat. “ You had better put up your pipe, and when we stop to change horses, you can take an outside place, where the smoke will not annoy any one.”

The man seemed persuaded by her gentle and reasonable way of speaking, and put his pipe in his pocket. Clara's mirth was excessive, in spite of my dark looks and Mary's attempts to restrain her.

“Balmy breezes-airs of Eden-ambrosial curls and lips of nectar-hyacinthine locks and brow of marble--eagle eye and nose of Roman : shoulders—ahem—something like King Richard's, I guess—and hands like, like--why like Cincinnatus's—you know he ploughed, Edith.”

“ You aint cum all the way from Bosting, to-day, gals ?” “Dulcet harmonies, proving speech the gift of the gods !" “What did you say, Miss ?” “ Que vous etez un bête.” Can't

go

that are lingo, no how," and he put his hands in his pocket, and whistled till I was sick with disgust.

“ Shade of Beau Brummell, appear to our relief, or even send thy worthy representative from the outside of this vehicle.”

“ What a goose you are, Clara !"

“ Edith, you are most ungrateful-you don't deserve any pity-you reject all consolations, and wilfully shut your eyes and turn a deaf ear to every blessing of sight or sound. There, hark! they are merry enough outside. Colonel Woodhouse has been laughing ever since we started.”

“He had something to laugh at when we stopped last, if he is ill-natured enough to do so," Mary said.

"Et tu, Mary!"

“Well, my dear Edith, never again stand so completely in your own light. You are too whimsical, entirely. Don't

with us.

[ocr errors]

frown; you know neither Clara nor I would have sided against you, if we had not thought you would soon have laughed

You are nervous to-day, and easily excited. I don't wonder, after such a month as you have had.”

“ Bless my stars, Edith, do you really care for my nonsense? Why, of course I don't blame you, only you are so fidgety. There is the stage house, and now we'll dispense with our odoriferous Adonis for the good Colonel, or even Don Whiskerando.”

Plague take women folks!" said the man, giving a short vent to his spite, as he turned out of his seat.

“The plague takes us on account of the women folks,” said a pleasant voice at my side, as Jonathan disappeared ; and before I could say a word, my

first

enemy was seated opposite to me, with the most provokingly complacent smile on his handsome face, and with his cap in his hand, revealing a profusion of brown curls on the fine head which was bowing politely to me. The courtesy was returned with all the hauteur I could summon, and I looked steadily from the window of the carriage.

“ Will you pardon me, young lady, if I seem obtrusive? I bring with me a note addressed to Miss Edith Arden, by your escort, Colonel Woodhouse, with whom I have had a half hour's chat. Be good enough to read it."

“ Colonel Woodhouse imposes upon us," said angrily, taking the billet, nevertheless. 6. He had better have taken his own proper seat, and then he could have said all he wanted me to know."

“He could not do that, as there is room here for but one of us, and he wishes you to know me.”

“Impossible."
“ Will you read the bil'et ?”

66

I read :

My dear Edith—Let me introduce to you Capt. Walter Manners, a British officer, returning, after a furlough, to his regiment at Quebec. I believe him to be the gentleman he seems, and beg you will not refuse him the passing acquaintance he covets.

EDWARD WOODHOUSE."

[ocr errors]

I raised my eyes with a bewildered expression, and found those of my vis-à-vis fixed on me with a very respectful, but certainly very provokingly mischievous smile. I was fairly caught in my own toils, and I hesitated for a moment whether to act the ungracious any longer, or to banish a spirit very foreign to my nature, and make the acquaintance which seemed forced upon me.

“ It is unfair-I am left no retreat. Was this gentlemanly, when you saw my reluctance ?"

“I beg your pardon once more, Miss Edith— I would not be ungenerous. I would not have risked my character as a true knight, were I not hoping to be able to maintain my right to the title of honourable, which English heraldry, and the accident of my birth, allow me to use."

"A very ingenious introduction to your social position, Honourable Captain Manners. Of course Colonel Woodhouse, being an Englishman also, could see no guile in any one who used the ancient and noble name of the house of Rutland."

" There is a freemasonry between men of honour, young lady-an elective affinity, as philosophers say. Colonel Woodhouse likes his cigar, and the rush of the mountain air exhilarates him ; but he feared you were dull, and so he sent me here, after a very earnest prayer on my part for the indulgence."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

66

[ocr errors]

a

“Good Colonel Woodhouse, he is so unsuspicious, so honest himself

“ Then you doubt me ?"
“I neither doubt, nor believe.”

Ah, you must be ungracious. What can I do? I thought a word from Colonel Woodhouse would give me a claim upon your forbearance.”

“I might have expected this presumption." “Why ?"

“Because I saw you were conceited.” The dash of sauciness in my manner pleased him. He knew I was not implacable.

“ You saw me only for a moment.”

“I judged by the same rule by which I now measure your capacity for wisdom."

66 You are too oracular. Treat me as if I were reasonable. How do you know that I am conceited, or am no Solomon? If you have such wonderful penetration, I shall be in despair. I hoped to prove an enigma which should interest you till we reach the fortunate place that claims you for a resident. Now see,I am very frank. I will answer any questions about myself. I will do all I can to remove this mistake of nature, which has kept us strangers till this time. Elective affinities

6 Nonsense there are none between us. You are giving such confirmation strong of my assertions, that I am overwhelmed with evidence.”

“ How do you know that I am
“ Conceited, simple, rash, egotistical—--"
“I protest, Miss Edith-
“Elective affinities-Honourable Captain Manners."
“Spare me that Honourable !"

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

5 What! when your elaborate circumlocution had no other object than to inform mw of it!"

“Will you reply to my repeated questions ?"

"Anything to give you self-knowledge, the basis of all improvement, the only hope left for you. Nature having spent herself in giving you rank and

6 Go on.”
“I was about to be personal

“ She means whiskers,” said Clara, with an assumption of simplicity which was very droll to me.

He passed his hand over his face, and said to her, “ Nature has been a churl to me, very likely ; but I am contented, since she has smiled so graciously on others. Miss Edith, will you go back to first principles ?"

“Will you take the consequences, and forgive the personality ?"

" I am clay in your hands."

“None but a conceited man dresses differently from other men, if he can help it. Only a simpleton would take so much pains to have a few hours' conversation with a school-girl. You are rash to defy my displeasure, unless you despise it; and you are very egotistical to want to hear so much about yourself.”

“ Excuse me," elevating his eye-glass with a comical deprecation of my displeasure, “ I was under the impression that I was tilting with a school-girl ; but now I see you are a woman of great discrimination and some wit. I should not have borne myself so frankly.”

“ Shall we commence our acquaintance on a new footing ? You shall treat me like a lady, though I am only a schoolgirl, and I will try to believe you a gentleman, in spite of your presumption."

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »