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Lady Susan by Jane Austen

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LADY SUSAN

by

Jane Austen

I

LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MR. VERNON

Langford, Dec.

MY DEAR BROTHER,--I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of
profiting by your kind invitation when we last parted of spending some
weeks with you at Churchhill, and, therefore, if quite convenient to you
and Mrs. Vernon to receive me at present, I shall hope within a few days to
be introduced to a sister whom I have so long desired to be acquainted
with. My kind friends here are most affectionately urgent with me to
prolong my stay, but their hospitable and cheerful dispositions lead them
too much into society for my present situation and state of mind; and I
impatiently look forward to the hour when I shall be admitted into Your
delightful retirement.

I long to be made known to your dear little children, in whose hearts I
shall be very eager to secure an interest. I shall soon have need for all
my fortitude, as I am on the point of separation from my own daughter.
The long illness of her dear father prevented my paying her that attention
which duty and affection equally dictated, and I have too much reason to
fear that the governess to whose care I consigned her was unequal to the
charge. I have therefore resolved on placing her at one of the best
private schools in town, where I shall have an opportunity of leaving her
myself in my way to you. I am determined, you see, not to be denied
admittance at Churchhill. It would indeed give me most painful sensations
to know that it were not in your power to receive me.

Your most obliged and affectionate sister,

S. VERNON.

II

LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MRS. JOHNSON

Langford.

You were mistaken, my dear Alicia, in supposing me fixed at this place
for the rest of the winter: it grieves me to say how greatly you were
mistaken, for I have seldom spent three months more agreeably than those
which have just flown away. At present, nothing goes smoothly; the females
of the family are united against me. You foretold how it would be when I
first came to Langford, and Mainwaring is so uncommonly pleasing that I was
not without apprehensions for myself. I remember saying to myself, as I
drove to the house, "I like this man, pray Heaven no harm come of it!" But
I was determined to be discreet, to bear in mind my being only four months
a widow, and to be as quiet as possible: and I have been so, my dear
creature; I have admitted no one's attentions but Mainwaring's. I have
avoided all general flirtation whatever; I have distinguished no creature
besides, of all the numbers resorting hither, except Sir James Martin, on
whom I bestowed a little notice, in order to detach him from Miss
Mainwaring; but, if the world could know my motive THERE they would honour
me. I have been called an unkind mother, but it was the sacred impulse of
maternal affection, it was the advantage of my daughter that led me on; and
if that daughter were not the greatest simpleton on earth, I might have
been rewarded for my exertions as I ought.

Sir James did make proposals to me for Frederica; but Frederica, who was
born to be the torment of my life, chose to set herself so violently
against the match that I thought it better to lay aside the scheme for the
present. I have more than once repented that I did not marry him myself;
and were he but one degree less contemptibly weak I certainly should: but I
must own myself rather romantic in that respect, and that riches only will
not satisfy me. The event of all this is very provoking: Sir James is gone,
Maria highly incensed, and Mrs. Mainwaring insupportably jealous; so
jealous, in short, and so enraged against me, that, in the fury of her
temper, I should not be surprized at her appealing to her guardian, if she
had the liberty of addressing him: but there your husband stands my friend;
and the kindest, most amiable action of his life was his throwing her off
for ever on her marriage. Keep up his resentment, therefore, I charge you.
We are now in a sad state; no house was ever more altered; the whole party
are at war, and Mainwaring scarcely dares speak to me. It is time for me to
be gone; I have therefore determined on leaving them, and shall spend, I
hope, a comfortable day with you in town within this week. If I am as
little in favour with Mr. Johnson as ever, you must come to me at 10
Wigmore street; but I hope this may not be the case, for as Mr. Johnson,
with all his faults, is a man to whom that great word "respectable" is
always given, and I am known to be so intimate with his wife, his slighting
me has an awkward look.

I take London in my way to that insupportable spot, a country village;
for I am really going to Churchhill. Forgive me, my dear friend, it is my
last resource. Were there another place in England open to me I would
prefer it. Charles Vernon is my aversion; and I am afraid of his wife. At
Churchhill, however, I must remain till I have something better in view. My
young lady accompanies me to town, where I shall deposit her under the care
of Miss Summers, in Wigmore street, till she becomes a little more
reasonable. She will make good connections there, as the girls are all
of the best families. The price is immense, and much beyond what I can ever
attempt to pay.

Adieu, I will send you a line as soon as I arrive in town.

Yours ever,

S. VERNON.

III

MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY

Churchhill.

My dear Mother,--I am very sorry to tell you that it will not be in our
power to keep our promise of spending our Christmas with you; and we are
prevented that happiness by a circumstance which is not likely to make us
any amends. Lady Susan, in a letter to her brother-in-law, has declared her
intention of visiting us almost immediately; and as such a visit is in all
probability merely an affair of convenience, it is impossible to conjecture
its length. I was by no means prepared for such an event, nor can I now
account for her ladyship's conduct; Langford appeared so exactly the place
for her in every respect, as well from the elegant and expensive style of
living there, as from her particular attachment to Mr. Mainwaring, that I
was very far from expecting so speedy a distinction, though I always
imagined from her increasing friendship for us since her husband's death
that we should, at some future period, be obliged to receive her. Mr.
Vernon, I think, was a great deal too kind to her when he was in
Staffordshire; her behaviour to him, independent of her general character,
has been so inexcusably artful and ungenerous since our marriage was first
in agitation that no one less amiable and mild than himself could have
overlooked it all; and though, as his brother's widow, and in narrow
circumstances, it was proper to render her pecuniary assistance, I cannot
help thinking his pressing invitation to her to visit us at Churchhill
perfectly unnecessary. Disposed, however, as he always is to think the
best of everyone, her display of grief, and professions of regret, and
general resolutions of prudence, were sufficient to soften his heart and
make him really confide in her sincerity; but, as for myself, I am still
unconvinced, and plausibly as her ladyship has now written, I cannot make
up my mind till I better understand her real meaning in coming to us. You
may guess, therefore, my dear madam, with what feelings I look forward to
her arrival. She will have occasion for all those attractive powers for
which she is celebrated to gain any share of my regard; and I shall
certainly endeavour to guard myself against their influence, if not
accompanied by something more substantial. She expresses a most eager
desire of being acquainted with me, and makes very gracious mention of my
children but I am not quite weak enough to suppose a woman who has behaved
with inattention, if not with unkindness, to her own child, should be
attached to any of mine. Miss Vernon is to be placed at a school in London
before her mother comes to us which I am glad of, for her sake and my own.
It must be to her advantage to be separated from her mother, and a girl of
sixteen who has received so wretched an education, could not be a very
desirable companion here. Reginald has long wished, I know, to see the
captivating Lady Susan, and we shall depend on his joining our party soon.
I am glad to hear that my father continues so well; and am, with best love,
&c.,

CATHERINE VERNON.

IV

MR. DE COURCY TO MRS. VERNON

Parklands.

My dear Sister,--I congratulate you and Mr. Vernon on being about to
receive into your family the most accomplished coquette in England. As a
very distinguished flirt I have always been taught to consider her, but it
has lately fallen in my way to hear some particulars of her conduct at
Langford: which prove that she does not confine herself to that sort of
honest flirtation which satisfies most people, but aspires to the more
delicious gratification of making a whole family miserable. By her
behaviour to Mr. Mainwaring she gave jealousy and wretchedness to his wife,
and by her attentions to a young man previously attached to Mr.
Mainwaring's sister deprived an amiable girl of her lover.

I learnt all this from Mr. Smith, now in this neighbourhood (I have
dined with him, at Hurst and Wilford), who is just come from Langford where
he was a fortnight with her ladyship, and who is therefore well qualified
to make the communication.

What a woman she must be! I long to see her, and shall certainly accept
your kind invitation, that I may form some idea of those bewitching powers
which can do so much--engaging at the same time, and in the same house, the
affections of two men, who were neither of them at liberty to bestow them-
-and all this without the charm of youth! I am glad to find Miss Vernon
does not accompany her mother to Churchhill, as she has not even manners to
recommend her; and, according to Mr. Smith's account, is equally dull and
proud. Where pride and stupidity unite there can be no dissimulation worthy
notice, and Miss Vernon shall be consigned to unrelenting contempt; but by
all that I can gather Lady Susan possesses a degree of captivating deceit
which it must be pleasing to witness and detect. I shall be with you very
soon, and am ever,

Your affectionate brother,

R. DE COURCY.

V

LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MRS. JOHNSON

Churchhill.

I received your note, my dear Alicia, just before I left town, and
rejoice to be assured that Mr. Johnson suspected nothing of your engagement
the evening before. It is undoubtedly better to deceive him entirely, and
since he will be stubborn he must be tricked. I arrived here in safety, and
have no reason to complain of my reception from Mr. Vernon; but I confess
myself not equally satisfied with the behaviour of his lady. She is
perfectly well-bred, indeed, and has the air of a woman of fashion, but her
manners are not such as can persuade me of her being prepossessed in my
favour. I wanted her to be delighted at seeing me. I was as amiable as
possible on the occasion, but all in vain. She does not like me. To be sure
when we consider that I DID take some pains to prevent my brother-in-law's
marrying her, this want of cordiality is not very surprizing, and yet it
shows an illiberal and vindictive spirit to resent a project which
influenced me six years ago, and which never succeeded at last.

I am sometimes disposed to repent that I did not let Charles buy Vernon
Castle, when we were obliged to sell it; but it was a trying circumstance,
especially as the sale took place exactly at the time of his marriage; and
everybody ought to respect the delicacy of those feelings which could not
endure that my husband's dignity should be lessened by his younger
brother's having possession of the family estate. Could matters have been
so arranged as to prevent the necessity of our leaving the castle, could we
have lived with Charles and kept him single, I should have been very far
from persuading my husband to dispose of it elsewhere; but Charles was on
the point of marrying Miss De Courcy, and the event has justified me. Here
are children in abundance, and what benefit could have accrued to me from
his purchasing Vernon? My having prevented it may perhaps have given his
wife an unfavourable impression, but where there is a disposition to
dislike, a motive will never be wanting; and as to money matters it has not
withheld him from being very useful to me. I really have a regard for him,
he is so easily imposed upon! The house is a good one, the furniture
fashionable, and everything announces plenty and elegance. Charles is very
rich I am sure; when a man has once got his name in a banking-house he
rolls in money; but they do not know what to do with it, keep very little
company, and never go to London but on business. We shall be as stupid as
possible. I mean to win my sister-in-law's heart through the children; I
know all their names already, and am going to attach myself with the
greatest sensibility to one in particular, a young Frederic, whom I take on
my lap and sigh over for his dear uncle's sake.

Poor Mainwaring! I need not tell you how much I miss him, how
perpetually he is in my thoughts. I found a dismal letter from him on my
arrival here, full of complaints of his wife and sister, and lamentations
on the cruelty of his fate. I passed off the letter as his wife's, to the
Vernons, and when I write to him it must be under cover to you.

Ever yours,
S. VERNON.

VI

MRS. VERNON TO MR. DE COURCY

Churchhill.

Well, my dear Reginald, I have seen this dangerous creature, and must
give you some description of her, though I hope you will soon be able to
form your own judgment she is really excessively pretty; however you may
choose to question the allurements of a lady no longer young, I must, for
my own part, declare that I have seldom seen so lovely a woman as Lady
Susan. She is delicately fair, with fine grey eyes and dark eyelashes; and
from her appearance one would not suppose her more than five and twenty,
though she must in fact be ten years older, I was certainly not disposed to
admire her, though always hearing she was beautiful; but I cannot help
feeling that she possesses an uncommon union of symmetry, brilliancy, and
grace. Her address to me was so gentle, frank, and even affectionate, that,
if I had not known how much she has always disliked me for marrying Mr.
Vernon, and that we had never met before, I should have imagined her an
attached friend. One is apt, I believe, to connect assurance of manner with
coquetry, and to expect that an impudent address will naturally attend an
impudent mind; at least I was myself prepared for an improper degree of
confidence in Lady Susan; but her countenance is absolutely sweet, and her
voice and manner winningly mild. I am sorry it is so, for what is this but
deceit? Unfortunately, one knows her too well. She is clever and agreeable,
has all that knowledge of the world which makes conversation easy, and
talks very well, with a happy command of language, which is too often used,
I believe, to make black appear white. She has already almost persuaded me
of her being warmly attached to her daughter, though I have been so long
convinced to the contrary. She speaks of her with so much tenderness and
anxiety, lamenting so bitterly the neglect of her education, which she
represents however as wholly unavoidable, that I am forced to recollect how
many successive springs her ladyship spent in town, while her daughter was
left in Staffordshire to the care of servants, or a governess very little
better, to prevent my believing what she says.

If her manners have so great an influence on my resentful heart, you may
judge how much more strongly they operate on Mr. Vernon's generous temper.
I wish I could be as well satisfied as he is, that it was really her choice
to leave Langford for Churchhill; and if she had not stayed there for
months before she discovered that her friend's manner of living did not
suit her situation or feelings, I might have believed that concern for the
loss of such a husband as Mr. Vernon, to whom her own behaviour was far
from unexceptionable, might for a time make her wish for retirement. But
I cannot forget the length of her visit to the Mainwarings, and when I
reflect on the different mode of life which she led with them from that to
which she must now submit, I can only suppose that the wish of establishing
her reputation by following though late the path of propriety, occasioned
her removal from a family where she must in reality have been particularly
happy. Your friend Mr. Smith's story, however, cannot be quite correct, as
she corresponds regularly with Mrs. Mainwaring. At any rate it must be
exaggerated. It is scarcely possible that two men should be so grossly
deceived by her at once.

Yours, &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON

VII

LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MRS. JOHNSON

Churchhill.

My dear Alicia,--You are very good in taking notice of Frederica, and I
am grateful for it as a mark of your friendship; but as I cannot have any
doubt of the warmth of your affection, I am far from exacting so heavy a
sacrifice. She is a stupid girl, and has nothing to recommend her. I would
not, therefore, on my account, have you encumber one moment of your
precious time by sending for her to Edward Street, especially as every
visit is so much deducted from the grand affair of education, which I
really wish to have attended to while she remains at Miss Summers's. I want
her to play and sing with some portion of taste and a good deal of
assurance, as she has my hand and arm and a tolerable voice. I was so much
indulged in my infant years that I was never obliged to attend to anything,
and consequently am without the accomplishments which are now necessary to
finish a pretty woman. Not that I am an advocate for the prevailing fashion
of acquiring a perfect knowledge of all languages, arts, and sciences. It
is throwing time away to be mistress of French, Italian, and German:
music, singing, and drawing, &c., will gain a woman some applause, but will
not add one lover to her list--grace and manner, after all, are of the
greatest importance. I do not mean, therefore, that Frederica's
acquirements should be more than superficial, and I flatter myself that she
will not remain long enough at school to understand anything thoroughly. I
hope to see her the wife of Sir James within a twelvemonth. You know on
what I ground my hope, and it is certainly a good foundation, for school
must be very humiliating to a girl of Frederica's age. And, by-the-by, you
had better not invite her any more on that account, as I wish her to find
her situation as unpleasant as possible. I am sure of Sir James at any
time, and could make him renew his application by a line. I shall trouble
you meanwhile to prevent his forming any other attachment when he comes to
town. Ask him to your house occasionally, and talk to him of Frederica,
that he may not forget her. Upon the whole, I commend my own conduct in
this affair extremely, and regard it as a very happy instance of
circumspection and tenderness. Some mothers would have insisted on their
daughter's accepting so good an offer on the first overture; but I could
not reconcile it to myself to force Frederica into a marriage from which
her heart revolted, and instead of adopting so harsh a measure merely
propose to make it her own choice, by rendering her thoroughly
uncomfortable till she does accept him--but enough of this tiresome girl.
You may well wonder how I contrive to pass my time here, and for the first
week it was insufferably dull. Now, however, we begin to mend, our party is
enlarged by Mrs. Vernon's brother, a handsome young man, who promises me
some amusement. There is something about him which rather interests me, a
sort of sauciness and familiarity which I shall teach him to correct. He is
lively, and seems clever, and when I have inspired him with greater respect
for me than his sister's kind offices have implanted, he may be an
agreeable flirt. There is exquisite pleasure in subduing an insolent
spirit, in making a person predetermined to dislike acknowledge one's
superiority. I have disconcerted him already by my calm reserve, and it
shall be my endeavour to humble the pride of these self important De
Courcys still lower, to convince Mrs. Vernon that her sisterly cautions
have been bestowed in vain, and to persuade Reginald that she has
scandalously belied me. This project will serve at least to amuse me, and
prevent my feeling so acutely this dreadful separation from you and all
whom I love.

Yours ever,

S. VERNON.

VIII

MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY

Churchhill.

My dear Mother,--You must not expect Reginald back again for some time.
He desires me to tell you that the present open weather induces him to
accept Mr. Vernon's invitation to prolong his stay in Sussex, that they may
have some hunting together. He means to send for his horses immediately,
and it is impossible to say when you may see him in Kent. I will not
disguise my sentiments on this change from you, my dear mother, though I
think you had better not communicate them to my father, whose excessive
anxiety about Reginald would subject him to an alarm which might seriously
affect his health and spirits. Lady Susan has certainly contrived, in the
space of a fortnight, to make my brother like her. In short, I am persuaded
that his continuing here beyond the time originally fixed for his return is
occasioned as much by a degree of fascination towards her, as by the wish
of hunting with Mr. Vernon, and of course I cannot receive that pleasure
from the length of his visit which my brother's company would otherwise
give me. I am, indeed, provoked at the artifice of this unprincipled woman;
what stronger proof of her dangerous abilities can be given than this
perversion of Reginald's judgment, which when he entered the house was so
decidedly against her! In his last letter he actually gave me some
particulars of her behaviour at Langford, such as he received from a
gentleman who knew her perfectly well, which, if true, must raise
abhorrence against her, and which Reginald himself was entirely disposed to
credit. His opinion of her, I am sure, was as low as of any woman in
England; and when he first came it was evident that he considered her as
one entitled neither to delicacy nor respect, and that he felt she would be
delighted with the attentions of any man inclined to flirt with her. Her
behaviour, I confess, has been calculated to do away with such an idea; I
have not detected the smallest impropriety in it--nothing of vanity, of
pretension, of levity; and she is altogether so attractive that I should
not wonder at his being delighted with her, had he known nothing of her
previous to this personal acquaintance; but, against reason, against
conviction, to be so well pleased with her, as I am sure he is, does really
astonish me. His admiration was at first very strong, but no more than was
natural, and I did not wonder at his being much struck by the gentleness
and delicacy of her manners; but when he has mentioned her of late it has
been in terms of more extraordinary praise; and yesterday he actually said
that he could not be surprised at any effect produced on the heart of man
by such loveliness and such abilities; and when I lamented, in reply, the
badness of her disposition, he observed that whatever might have been her
errors they were to be imputed to her neglected education and early
marriage, and that she was altogether a wonderful woman. This tendency to
excuse her conduct or to forget it, in the warmth of admiration, vexes me;
and if I did not know that Reginald is too much at home at Churchhill to
need an invitation for lengthening his visit, I should regret Mr. Vernon's
giving him any. Lady Susan's intentions are of course those of absolute
coquetry, or a desire of universal admiration; I cannot for a moment
imagine that she has anything more serious in view; but it mortifies me to
see a young man of Reginald's sense duped by her at all.

I am, &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON.

IX

MRS. JOHNSON TO LADY S. VERNON

Edward Street.

My dearest Friend,--I congratulate you on Mr. De Courcy's arrival, and I
advise you by all means to marry him; his father's estate is, we know,
considerable, and I believe certainly entailed. Sir Reginald is very
infirm, and not likely to stand in your way long. I hear the young man well
spoken of; and though no one can really deserve you, my dearest Susan, Mr.
De Courcy may be worth having. Mainwaring will storm of course, but you
easily pacify him; besides, the most scrupulous point of honour could not
require you to wait for HIS emancipation. I have seen Sir James; he came to
town for a few days last week, and called several times in Edward Street. I
talked to him about you and your daughter, and he is so far from having
forgotten you, that I am sure he would marry either of you with pleasure. I
gave him hopes of Frederica's relenting, and told him a great deal of her
improvements. I scolded him for making love to Maria Mainwaring; he
protested that he had been only in joke, and we both laughed heartily at
her disappointment; and, in short, were very agreeable. He is as silly as
ever.

Yours faithfully,

ALICIA.

X

LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MRS. JOHNSON

Churchhill.

I am much obliged to you, my dear Friend, for your advice respecting Mr.
De Courcy, which I know was given with the full conviction of its
expediency, though I am not quite determined on following it. I cannot
easily resolve on anything so serious as marriage; especially as I am not
at present in want of money, and might perhaps, till the old gentleman's
death, be very little benefited by the match. It is true that I am vain
enough to believe it within my reach. I have made him sensible of my power,
and can now enjoy the pleasure of triumphing over a mind prepared to
dislike me, and prejudiced against all my past actions. His sister, too,
is, I hope, convinced how little the ungenerous representations of anyone
to the disadvantage of another will avail when opposed by the immediate
influence of intellect and manner. I see plainly that she is uneasy at my
progress in the good opinion of her brother, and conclude that nothing will
be wanting on her part to counteract me; but having once made him doubt the
justice of her opinion of me, I think I may defy her. It has been
delightful to me to watch his advances towards intimacy, especially to
observe his altered manner in consequence of my repressing by the cool
dignity of my deportment his insolent approach to direct familiarity. My
conduct has been equally guarded from the first, and I never behaved less
like a coquette in the whole course of my life, though perhaps my desire of
dominion was never more decided. I have subdued him entirely by sentiment
and serious conversation, and made him, I may venture to say, at least
half in love with me, without the semblance of the most commonplace
flirtation. Mrs. Vernon's consciousness of deserving every sort of revenge
that it can be in my power to inflict for her ill-offices could alone
enable her to perceive that I am actuated by any design in behaviour so
gentle and unpretending. Let her think and act as she chooses, however. I
have never yet found that the advice of a sister could prevent a young
man's being in love if he chose. We are advancing now to some kind of
confidence, and in short are likely to be engaged in a sort of platonic
friendship. On my side you may be sure of its never being more, for if I
were not attached to another person as much as I can be to anyone, I should
make a point of not bestowing my affection on a man who had dared to think
so meanly of me. Reginald has a good figure and is not unworthy the praise
you have heard given him, but is still greatly inferior to our friend at
Langford. He is less polished, less insinuating than Mainwaring, and is
comparatively deficient in the power of saying those delightful things
which put one in good humour with oneself and all the world. He is quite
agreeable enough, however, to afford me amusement, and to make many of
those hours pass very pleasantly which would otherwise be spent in
endeavouring to overcome my sister-in-law's reserve, and listening to the
insipid talk of her husband. Your account of Sir James is most
satisfactory, and I mean to give Miss Frederica a hint of my intentions
very soon.

Yours, &c.,

S. VERNON.

XI

MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY

Churchhill

I really grow quite uneasy, my dearest mother, about Reginald, from
witnessing the very rapid increase of Lady Susan's influence. They are now
on terms of the most particular friendship, frequently engaged in long
conversations together; and she has contrived by the most artful coquetry
to subdue his judgment to her own purposes. It is impossible to see the
intimacy between them so very soon established without some alarm, though I
can hardly suppose that Lady Susan's plans extend to marriage. I wish you
could get Reginald home again on any plausible pretence; he is not at all
disposed to leave us, and I have given him as many hints of my father's
precarious state of health as common decency will allow me to do in my own
house. Her power over him must now be boundless, as she has entirely
effaced all his former ill-opinion, and persuaded him not merely to forget
but to justify her conduct. Mr. Smith's account of her proceedings at
Langford, where he accused her of having made Mr. Mainwaring and a young
man engaged to Miss Mainwaring distractedly in love with her, which
Reginald firmly believed when he came here, is now, he is persuaded, only a
scandalous invention. He has told me so with a warmth of manner which spoke
his regret at having believed the contrary himself. How sincerely do I
grieve that she ever entered this house! I always looked forward to her
coming with uneasiness; but very far was it from originating in anxiety for
Reginald. I expected a most disagreeable companion for myself, but could
not imagine that my brother would be in the smallest danger of being
captivated by a woman with whose principles he was so well acquainted, and
whose character he so heartily despised. If you can get him away it will be
a good thing.

Yours, &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON.

XII

SIR REGINALD DE COURCY TO HIS SON

Parklands.

I know that young men in general do not admit of any enquiry even from
their nearest relations into affairs of the heart, but I hope, my dear
Reginald, that you will be superior to such as allow nothing for a father's
anxiety, and think themselves privileged to refuse him their confidence and
slight his advice. You must be sensible that as an only son, and the
representative of an ancient family, your conduct in life is most
interesting to your connections; and in the very important concern of
marriage especially, there is everything at stake--your own happiness, that
of your parents, and the credit of your name. I do not suppose that you
would deliberately form an absolute engagement of that nature without
acquainting your mother and myself, or at least, without being convinced
that we should approve of your choice; but I cannot help fearing that you
may be drawn in, by the lady who has lately attached you, to a marriage
which the whole of your family, far and near, must highly reprobate. Lady
Susan's age is itself a material objection, but her want of character is
one so much more serious, that the difference of even twelve years becomes
in comparison of small amount. Were you not blinded by a sort of
fascination, it would be ridiculous in me to repeat the instances of great
misconduct on her side so very generally known.

Her neglect of her husband, her encouragement of other men, her
extravagance and dissipation, were so gross and notorious that no one could
be ignorant of them at the time, nor can now have forgotten them. To our
family she has always been represented in softened colours by the
benevolence of Mr. Charles Vernon, and yet, in spite of his generous
endeavours to excuse her, we know that she did, from the most selfish
motives, take all possible pains to prevent his marriage with Catherine.

My years and increasing infirmities make me very desirous of seeing you
settled in the world. To the fortune of a wife, the goodness of my own will
make me indifferent, but her family and character must be equally
unexceptionable. When your choice is fixed so that no objection can be
made to it, then I can promise you a ready and cheerful consent; but it is
my duty to oppose a match which deep art only could render possible, and
must in the end make wretched. It is possible her behaviour may arise only
from vanity, or the wish of gaining the admiration of a man whom she must
imagine to be particularly prejudiced against her; but it is more likely
that she should aim at something further. She is poor, and may naturally
seek an alliance which must be advantageous to herself; you know your own
rights, and that it is out of my power to prevent your inheriting the
family estate. My ability of distressing you during my life would be a
species of revenge to which I could hardly stoop under any circumstances.

I honestly tell you my sentiments and intentions: I do not wish to work
on your fears, but on your sense and affection. It would destroy every
comfort of my life to know that you were married to Lady Susan Vernon; it
would be the death of that honest pride with which I have hitherto
considered my son; I should blush to see him, to hear of him, to think of
him. I may perhaps do no good but that of relieving my own mind by this
letter, but I felt it my duty to tell you that your partiality for Lady
Susan is no secret to your friends, and to warn you against her. I should
be glad to hear your reasons for disbelieving Mr. Smith's intelligence; you
had no doubt of its authenticity a month ago. If you can give me your
assurance of having no design beyond enjoying the conversation of a clever
woman for a short period, and of yielding admiration only to her beauty and
abilities, without being blinded by them to her faults, you will restore me
to happiness; but, if you cannot do this, explain to me, at least, what has
occasioned so great an alteration in your opinion of her.

I am, &c., &c,

REGINALD DE COURCY

XIII

LADY DE COURCY TO MRS. VERNON

Parklands.

My dear Catherine,--Unluckily I was confined to my room when your last
letter came, by a cold which affected my eyes so much as to prevent my
reading it myself, so I could not refuse your father when he offered to
read it to me, by which means he became acquainted, to my great vexation,
with all your fears about your brother. I had intended to write to Reginald
myself as soon as my eyes would let me, to point out, as well as I could,
the danger of an intimate acquaintance, with so artful a woman as Lady
Susan, to a young man of his age, and high expectations. I meant,
moreover, to have reminded him of our being quite alone now, and very much
in need of him to keep up our spirits these long winter evenings. Whether
it would have done any good can never be settled now, but I am excessively
vexed that Sir Reginald should know anything of a matter which we foresaw
would make him so uneasy. He caught all your fears the moment he had read
your letter, and I am sure he has not had the business out of his head
since. He wrote by the same post to Reginald a long letter full of it all,
and particularly asking an explanation of what he may have heard from Lady
Susan to contradict the late shocking reports. His answer came this
morning, which I shall enclose to you, as I think you will like to see it.
I wish it was more satisfactory; but it seems written with such a
determination to think well of Lady Susan, that his assurances as to
marriage, &c., do not set my heart at ease. I say all I can, however, to
satisfy your father, and he is certainly less uneasy since Reginald's
letter. How provoking it is, my dear Catherine, that this unwelcome guest
of yours should not only prevent our meeting this Christmas, but be the
occasion of so much vexation and trouble! Kiss the dear children for me.

Your affectionate mother,

C. DE COURCY.

XIV

MR. DE COURCY TO SIR REGINALD

Churchhill.

My dear Sir,--I have this moment received your letter, which has given
me more astonishment than I ever felt before. I am to thank my sister, I
suppose, for having represented me in such a light as to injure me in your
opinion, and give you all this alarm. I know not why she should choose to
make herself and her family uneasy by apprehending an event which no one
but herself, I can affirm, would ever have thought possible. To impute such
a design to Lady Susan would be taking from her every claim to that
excellent understanding which her bitterest enemies have never denied her;
and equally low must sink my pretensions to common sense if I am suspected
of matrimonial views in my behaviour to her. Our difference of age must be
an insuperable objection, and I entreat you, my dear father, to quiet your
mind, and no longer harbour a suspicion which cannot he more injurious to
your own peace than to our understandings. I can have no other view in
remaining with Lady Susan, than to enjoy for a short time (as you have
yourself expressed it) the conversation of a woman of high intellectual
powers. If Mrs. Vernon would allow something to my affection for herself
and her husband in the length of my visit, she would do more justice to us
all; but my sister is unhappily prejudiced beyond the hope of conviction
against Lady Susan. From an attachment to her husband, which in itself does
honour to both, she cannot forgive the endeavours at preventing their
union, which have been attributed to selfishness in Lady Susan; but in this
case, as well as in many others, the world has most grossly injured that
lady, by supposing the worst where the motives of her conduct have been
doubtful. Lady Susan had heard something so materially to the disadvantage
of my sister as to persuade her that the happiness of Mr. Vernon, to whom
she was always much attached, would be wholly destroyed by the marriage.
And this circumstance, while it explains the true motives of Lady Susan's
conduct, and removes all the blame which has been so lavished on her, may
also convince us how little the general report of anyone ought to be
credited; since no character, however upright, can escape the malevolence
of slander. If my sister, in the security of retirement, with as little
opportunity as inclination to do evil, could not avoid censure, we must not
rashly condemn those who, living in the world and surrounded with
temptations, should be accused of errors which they are known to have the
power of committing.

I blame myself severely for having so easily believed the slanderous
tales invented by Charles Smith to the prejudice of Lady Susan, as I am now
convinced how greatly they have traduced her. As to Mrs. Mainwaring's
jealousy it was totally his own invention, and his account of her attaching
Miss Mainwaring's lover was scarcely better founded. Sir James Martin had
been drawn in by that young lady to pay her some attention; and as he is a
man of fortune, it was easy to see HER views extended to marriage. It is
well known that Miss M. is absolutely on the catch for a husband, and no
one therefore can pity her for losing, by the superior attractions of
another woman, the chance of being able to make a worthy man completely
wretched. Lady Susan was far from intending such a conquest, and on finding
how warmly Miss Mainwaring resented her lover's defection, determined, in
spite of Mr. and Mrs. Mainwaring's most urgent entreaties, to leave the
family. I have reason to imagine she did receive serious proposals from Sir
James, but her removing to Langford immediately on the discovery of his
attachment, must acquit her on that article with any mind of common
candour. You will, I am sure, my dear Sir, feel the truth of this, and will
hereby learn to do justice to the character of a very injured woman. I know
that Lady Susan in coming to Churchhill was governed only by the most
honourable and amiable intentions; her prudence and economy are exemplary,
her regard for Mr. Vernon equal even to HIS deserts; and her wish of
obtaining my sister's good opinion merits a better return than it has
received. As a mother she is unexceptionable; her solid affection for her
child is shown by placing her in hands where her education will be properly
attended to; but because she has not the blind and weak partiality of most
mothers, she is accused of wanting maternal tenderness. Every person of
sense, however, will know how to value and commend her well-directed
affection, and will join me in wishing that Frederica Vernon may prove more
worthy than she has yet done of her mother's tender care. I have now, my
dear father, written my real sentiments of Lady Susan; you will know from
this letter how highly I admire her abilities, and esteem her character;
but if you are not equally convinced by my full and solemn assurance that
your fears have been most idly created, you will deeply mortify and
distress me.

I am, &c., &c.,

R. DE COURCY.

XV

MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY

Churchhill

My dear Mother,--I return you Reginald's letter, and rejoice with all my
heart that my father is made easy by it: tell him so, with my
congratulations; but, between ourselves, I must own it has only convinced
ME of my brother's having no PRESENT intention of marrying Lady Susan, not
that he is in no danger of doing so three months hence. He gives a very
plausible account of her behaviour at Langford; I wish it may be true, but
his intelligence must come from herself, and I am less disposed to believe
it than to lament the degree of intimacy subsisting, between them implied
by the discussion of such a subject. I am sorry to have incurred his
displeasure, but can expect nothing better while he is so very eager in
Lady Susan's justification. He is very severe against me indeed, and yet I
hope I have not been hasty in my judgment of her. Poor woman! though I have
reasons enough for my dislike, I cannot help pitying her at present, as she
is in real distress, and with too much cause. She had this morning a letter
from the lady with whom she has placed her daughter, to request that Miss
Vernon might be immediately removed, as she had been detected in an attempt
to run away. Why, or whither she intended to go, does not appear; but, as
her situation seems to have been unexceptionable, it is a sad thing, and of
course highly distressing to Lady Susan. Frederica must be as much as
sixteen, and ought to know better; but from what her mother insinuates, I
am afraid she is a perverse girl. She has been sadly neglected, however,
and her mother ought to remember it. Mr. Vernon set off for London as soon
as she had determined what should be done. He is, if possible, to prevail
on Miss Summers to let Frederica continue with her; and if he cannot
succeed, to bring her to Churchhill for the present, till some other
situation can be found for her. Her ladyship is comforting herself
meanwhile by strolling along the shrubbery with Reginald, calling forth all
his tender feelings, I suppose, on this distressing occasion. She has been
talking a great deal about it to me. She talks vastly well; I am afraid of
being ungenerous, or I should say, TOO well to feel so very deeply; but I
will not look for her faults; she may be Reginald's wife! Heaven forbid it!
but why should I be quicker-sighted than anyone else? Mr. Vernon declares
that he never saw deeper distress than hers, on the receipt of the letter;
and is his judgment inferior to mine? She was very unwilling that
Frederica should be allowed to come to Churchhill, and justly enough, as
it seems a sort of reward to behaviour deserving very differently; but it
was impossible to take her anywhere else, and she is not to remain here
long. "It will be absolutely necessary," said she, "as you, my dear sister,
must be sensible, to treat my daughter with some severity while she is
here; a most painful necessity, but I will ENDEAVOUR to submit to it. I am
afraid I have often been too indulgent, but my poor Frederica's temper
could never bear opposition well: you must support and encourage me; you
must urge the necessity of reproof if you see me too lenient." All this
sounds very reasonable. Reginald is so incensed against the poor silly
girl. Surely it is not to Lady Susan's credit that he should be so bitter
against her daughter; his idea of her must be drawn from the mother's
description. Well, whatever may be his fate, we have the comfort of knowing
that we have done our utmost to save him. We must commit the event to a
higher power.

Yours ever, &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON.

XVl

LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON

Churchhill.

Never, my dearest Alicia, was I so provoked in my life as by a letter
this morning from Miss Summers. That horrid girl of mine has been trying to
run away. I had not a notion of her being such a little devil before, she
seemed to have all the Vernon milkiness; but on receiving the letter in
which I declared my intention about Sir James, she actually attempted to
elope; at least, I cannot otherwise account for her doing it. She meant, I
suppose, to go to the Clarkes in Staffordshire, for she has no other
acquaintances. But she shall be punished, she shall have him. I have sent
Charles to town to make matters up if he can, for I do not by any means
want her here. If Miss Summers will not keep her, you must find me out
another school, unless we can get her married immediately. Miss S. writes
word that she could not get the young lady to assign any cause for her
extraordinary conduct, which confirms me in my own previous explanation of
it, Frederica is too shy, I think, and too much in awe of me to tell tales,
but if the mildness of her uncle should get anything out of her, I am not
afraid. I trust I shall be able to make my story as good as hers. If I am
vain of anything, it is of my eloquence. Consideration and esteem as
surely follow command of language as admiration waits on beauty, and here I
have opportunity enough for the exercise of my talent, as the chief of my
time is spent in conversation.

Reginald is never easy unless we are by ourselves, and when the weather
is tolerable, we pace the shrubbery for hours together. I like him on the
whole very well; he is clever and has a good deal to say, but he is
sometimes impertinent and troublesome. There is a sort of ridiculous
delicacy about him which requires the fullest explanation of whatever he
may have heard to my disadvantage, and is never satisfied till he thinks he
has ascertained the beginning and end of everything. This is one sort of
love, but I confess it does not particularly recommend itself to me. I
infinitely prefer the tender and liberal spirit of Mainwaring, which,
impressed with the deepest conviction of my merit, is satisfied that
whatever I do must be right; and look with a degree of contempt on the
inquisitive and doubtful fancies of that heart which seems always debating
on the reasonableness of its emotions. Mainwaring is indeed, beyond all
compare, superior to Reginald--superior in everything but the power of
being with me! Poor fellow! he is much distracted by jealousy, which I am
not sorry for, as I know no better support of love. He has been teazing me
to allow of his coming into this country, and lodging somewhere near
INCOG.; but I forbade everything of the kind. Those women are inexcusable
who forget what is due to themselves, and the opinion of the world.

Yours ever,
S. VERNON.

XVII

MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY

Churchhill.

My dear Mother,--Mr. Vernon returned on Thursday night, bringing his
niece with him. Lady Susan had received a line from him by that day's post,
informing her that Miss Summers had absolutely refused to allow of Miss
Vernon's continuance in her academy; we were therefore prepared for her
arrival, and expected them impatiently the whole evening. They came while
we were at tea, and I never saw any creature look so frightened as
Frederica when she entered the room. Lady Susan, who had been shedding
tears before, and showing great agitation at the idea of the meeting,
received her with perfect self-command, and without betraying the least
tenderness of spirit. She hardly spoke to her, and on Frederica's bursting
into tears as soon as we were seated, took her out of the room, and did not
return for some time. When she did, her eyes looked very red and she was as
much agitated as before. We saw no more of her daughter. Poor Reginald was
beyond measure concerned to see his fair friend in such distress, and
watched her with so much tender solicitude, that I, who occasionally caught
her observing his countenance with exultation, was quite out of patience.
This pathetic representation lasted the whole evening, and so ostentatious
and artful a display has entirely convinced me that she did in fact feel
nothing. I am more angry with her than ever since I have seen her daughter;
the poor girl looks so unhappy that my heart aches for her. Lady Susan is
surely too severe, for Frederica does not seem to have the sort of temper
to make severity necessary. She looks perfectly timid, dejected, and
penitent. She is very pretty, though not so handsome as her mother, nor at
all like her. Her complexion is delicate, but neither so fair nor so
blooming as Lady Susan's, and she has quite the Vernon cast of countenance,
the oval face and mild dark eyes, and there is peculiar sweetness in her
look when she speaks either to her uncle or me, for as we behave kindly to
her we have of course engaged her gratitude.

Her mother has insinuated that her temper is intractable, but I never
saw a face less indicative of any evil disposition than hers; and from what
I can see of the behaviour of each to the other, the invariable severity of
Lady Susan and the silent dejection of Frederica, I am led to believe as
heretofore that the former has no real love for her daughter, and has never
done her justice or treated her affectionately. I have not been able to
have any conversation with my niece; she is shy, and I think I can see that
some pains are taken to prevent her being much with me. Nothing
satisfactory transpires as to her reason for running away. Her kind-hearted
uncle, you may be sure, was too fearful of distressing her to ask many
questions as they travelled. I wish it had been possible for me to fetch
her instead of him. I think I should have discovered the truth in the
course of a thirty-mile journey. The small pianoforte has been removed
within these few days, at Lady Susan's request, into her dressing-room, and
Frederica spends great part of the day there, practising as it is called;
but I seldom hear any noise when I pass that way; what she does with
herself there I do not know. There are plenty of books, but it is not every
girl who has been running wild the first fifteen years of her life, that
can or will read. Poor creature! the prospect from her window is not very
instructive, for that room overlooks the lawn, you know, with the shrubbery
on one side, where she may see her mother walking for an hour together in
earnest conversation with Reginald. A girl of Frederica's age must be
childish indeed, if such things do not strike her. Is it not inexcusable to
give such an example to a daughter? Yet Reginald still thinks Lady Susan
the best of mothers, and still condemns Frederica as a worthless girl! He
is convinced that her attempt to run away proceeded from no justifiable
cause, and had no provocation. I am sure I cannot say that it HAD, but
while Miss Summers declares that Miss Vernon showed no signs of obstinacy
or perverseness during her whole stay in Wigmore Street, till she was
detected in this scheme, I cannot so readily credit what Lady Susan has
made him, and wants to make me believe, that it was merely an impatience of
restraint and a desire of escaping from the tuition of masters which
brought on the plan of an elopement. O Reginald, how is your judgment
enslaved! He scarcely dares even allow her to be handsome, and when I
speak of her beauty, replies only that her eyes have no brilliancy!
Sometimes he is sure she is deficient in understanding, and at others that
her temper only is in fault. In short, when a person is always to deceive,
it is impossible to be consistent. Lady Susan finds it necessary that
Frederica should be to blame, and probably has sometimes judged it
expedient to *excuse her of ill-nature and sometimes to lament her want of
sense. Reginald is only repeating after her ladyship.

I remain, &c., &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON.

XVIII

FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME

Churchhill.

My dear Mother,--I am very glad to find that my description of Frederica
Vernon has interested you, for I do believe her truly deserving of your
regard; and when I have communicated a notion which has recently struck me,
your kind impressions in her favour will, I am sure, be heightened. I
cannot help fancying that she is growing partial to my brother. I so very
often see her eyes fixed on his face with a remarkable expression of
pensive admiration. He is certainly very handsome; and yet more, there is
an openness in his manner that must be highly prepossessing, and I am sure
she feels it so. Thoughtful and pensive in general, her countenance always
brightens into a smile when Reginald says anything amusing; and, let the
subject be ever so serious that he may be conversing on, I am much mistaken
if a syllable of his uttering escapes her. I want to make him sensible of
all this, for we know the power of gratitude on such a heart as his; and
could Frederica's artless affection detach him from her mother, we might
bless the day which brought her to Churchhill. I think, my dear mother, you
would not disapprove of her as a daughter. She is extremely young, to be
sure, has had a wretched education, and a dreadful example of levity in her
mother; but yet I can pronounce her disposition to be excellent, and her
natural abilities very good. Though totally without accomplishments, she is
by no means so ignorant as one might expect to find her, being fond of
books and spending the chief of her time in reading. Her mother leaves her
more to herself than she did, and I have her with me as much as possible,
and have taken great pains to overcome her timidity. We are very good
friends, and though she never opens her lips before her mother, she talks
enough when alone with me to make it clear that, if properly treated by
Lady Susan, she would always appear to much greater advantage. There cannot
be a more gentle, affectionate heart; or more obliging manners, when acting
without restraint; and her little cousins are all very fond of her.

Your affectionate daughter,

C. VERNON

XIX

LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON

Churchhill.

You will be eager, I know, to hear something further of Frederica, and
perhaps may think me negligent for not writing before. She arrived with her
uncle last Thursday fortnight, when, of course, I lost no time in demanding
the cause of her behaviour; and soon found myself to have been perfectly
right in attributing it to my own letter. The prospect of it frightened her
so thoroughly, that, with a mixture of true girlish perverseness and folly,
she resolved on getting out of the house and proceeding directly by the
stage to her friends, the Clarkes; and had really got as far as the length
of two streets in her journey when she was fortunately missed, pursued, and
overtaken. Such was the first distinguished exploit of Miss Frederica
Vernon; and, if we consider that it was achieved at the tender age of
sixteen, we shall have room for the most flattering prognostics of her
future renown. I am excessively provoked, however, at the parade of
propriety which prevented Miss Summers from keeping the girl; and it seems
so extraordinary a piece of nicety, considering my daughter's family
connections, that I can only suppose the lady to be governed by the fear of
never getting her money. Be that as it may, however, Frederica is returned
on my hands; and, having nothing else to employ her, is busy in pursuing
the plan of romance begun at Langford. She is actually falling in love with
Reginald De Courcy! To disobey her mother by refusing an unexceptionable
offer is not enough; her affections must also be given without her mother's
approbation. I never saw a girl of her age bid fairer to be the sport of
mankind. Her feelings are tolerably acute, and she is so charmingly artless
in their display as to afford the most reasonable hope of her being
ridiculous, and despised by every man who sees her.

Artlessness will never do in love matters; and that girl is born a
simpleton who has it either by nature or affectation. I am not yet certain
that Reginald sees what she is about, nor is it of much consequence. She is
now an object of indifference to him, and she would be one of contempt were
he to understand her emotions. Her beauty is much admired by the Vernons,
but it has no effect on him. She is in high favour with her aunt
altogether, because she is so little like myself, of course. She is exactly
the companion for Mrs. Vernon, who dearly loves to be firm, and to have
all the sense and all the wit of the conversation to herself: Frederica
will never eclipse her. When she first came I was at some pains to prevent
her seeing much of her aunt; but I have relaxed, as I believe I may depend
on her observing the rules I have laid down for their discourse. But do not
imagine that with all this lenity I have for a moment given up my plan of
her marriage. No; I am unalterably fixed on this point, though I have not
yet quite decided on the manner of bringing it about. I should not chuse to
have the business brought on here, and canvassed by the wise heads of Mr.
and Mrs. Vernon; and I cannot just now afford to go to town. Miss Frederica
must therefore wait a little.

Yours ever,

S. VERNON.

XX

MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY

Churchhill

We have a very unexpected guest with us at present, my dear Mother: he
arrived yesterday. I heard a carriage at the door, as I was sitting with my
children while they dined; and supposing I should be wanted, left the
nursery soon afterwards, and was half-way downstairs, when Frederica, as
pale as ashes, came running up, and rushed by me into her own room. I
instantly followed, and asked her what was the matter. "Oh!" said she, "he
is come--Sir James is come, and what shall I do?" This was no explanation;
I begged her to tell me what she meant. At that moment we were interrupted
by a knock at the door: it was Reginald, who came, by Lady Susan's
direction, to call Frederica down. "It is Mr. De Courcy!" said she,
colouring violently. "Mamma has sent for me; I must go." We all three went
down together; and I saw my brother examining the terrified face of
Frederica with surprize. In the breakfast-room we found Lady Susan, and a
young man of gentlemanlike appearance, whom she introduced by the name of
Sir James Martin--the very person, as you may remember, whom it was said
she had been at pains to detach from Miss Mainwaring; but the conquest, it
seems, was not designed for herself, or she has since transferred it to her
daughter; for Sir James is now desperately in love with Frederica, and with
full encouragement from mamma. The poor girl, however, I am sure, dislikes
him; and though his person and address are very well, he appears, both to
Mr. Vernon and me, a very weak young man. Frederica looked so shy, so
confused, when we entered the room, that I felt for her exceedingly. Lady
Susan behaved with great attention to her visitor; and yet I thought I
could perceive that she had no particular pleasure in seeing him. Sir James
talked a great deal, and made many civil excuses to me for the liberty he
had taken in coming to Churchhill--mixing more frequent laughter with his
discourse than the subject required--said many things over and over again,
and told Lady Susan three times that he had seen Mrs. Johnson a few
evenings before. He now and then addressed Frederica, but more frequently
her mother. The poor girl sat all this time without opening her lips--her
eyes cast down, and her colour varying every instant; while Reginald
observed all that passed in perfect silence. At length Lady Susan, weary, I
believe, of her situation, proposed walking; and we left the two gentlemen
together, to put on our pelisses. As we went upstairs Lady Susan begged
permission to attend me for a few moments in my dressing-room, as she was
anxious to speak with me in private. I led her thither accordingly, and as
soon as the door was closed, she said: "I was never more surprized in my
life than by Sir James's arrival, and the suddenness of it requires some
apology to you, my dear sister; though to ME, as a mother, it is highly
flattering. He is so extremely attached to my daughter that he could not
exist longer without seeing her. Sir James is a young man of an amiable
disposition and excellent character; a little too much of the rattle,
perhaps, but a year or two will rectify THAT: and he is in other respects
so very eligible a match for Frederica, that I have always observed his
attachment with the greatest pleasure; and am persuaded that you and my
brother will give the alliance your hearty approbation. I have never
before mentioned the likelihood of its taking place to anyone, because I
thought that whilst Frederica continued at school it had better not be
known to exist; but now, as I am convinced that Frederica is too old ever
to submit to school confinement, and have, therefore, begun to consider her
union with Sir James as not very distant, I had intended within a few days
to acquaint yourself and Mr. Vernon with the whole business. I am sure, my
dear sister, you will excuse my remaining silent so long, and agree with me
that such circumstances, while they continue from any cause in suspense,
cannot be too cautiously concealed. When you have the happiness of
bestowing your sweet little Catherine, some years hence, on a man who in
connection and character is alike unexceptionable, you will know what I
feel now; though, thank Heaven, you cannot have all my reasons for
rejoicing in such an event. Catherine will be amply provided for, and not,
like my Frederica, indebted to a fortunate establishment for the comforts
of life." She concluded by demanding my congratulations. I gave them
somewhat awkwardly, I believe; for, in fact, the sudden disclosure of so
important a matter took from me the power of speaking with any clearness,
She thanked me, however, most affectionately, for my kind concern in the
welfare of herself and daughter; and then said: "I am not apt to deal in
professions, my dear Mrs. Vernon, and I never had the convenient talent of
affecting sensations foreign to my heart; and therefore I trust you will
believe me when I declare, that much as I had heard in your praise before I
knew you, I had no idea that I should ever love you as I now do; and I must
further say that your friendship towards me is more particularly gratifying
because I have reason to believe that some attempts were made to prejudice
you against me. I only wish that they, whoever they are, to whom I am
indebted for such kind intentions, could see the terms on which we now are
together, and understand the real affection we feel for each other; but I
will not detain you any longer. God bless you, for your goodness to me and
my girl, and continue to you all your present happiness." What can one say
of such a woman, my dear mother? Such earnestness such solemnity of
expression! and yet I cannot help suspecting the truth of everything she
says. As for Reginald, I believe he does not know what to make of the
matter. When Sir James came, he appeared all astonishment and perplexity;
the folly of the young man and the confusion of Frederica entirely
engrossed him; and though a little private discourse with Lady Susan has
since had its effect, he is still hurt, I am sure, at her allowing of such
a man's attentions to her daughter. Sir James invited himself with great
composure to remain here a few days--hoped we would not think it odd, was
aware of its being very impertinent, but he took the liberty of a relation;
and concluded by wishing, with a laugh, that he might be really one very
soon. Even Lady Susan seemed a little disconcerted by this forwardness; in
her heart I am persuaded she sincerely wished him gone. But something must
be done for this poor girl, if her feelings are such as both I and her
uncle believe them to be. She must not be sacrificed to policy or ambition,
and she must not be left to suffer from the dread of it. The girl whose
heart can distinguish Reginald De Courcy, deserves, however he may slight
her, a better fate than to be Sir James Martin's wife. As soon as I can get
her alone, I will discover the real truth; but she seems to wish to avoid
me. I hope this does not proceed from anything wrong, and that I shall not
find out I have thought too well of her. Her behaviour to Sir James
certainly speaks the greatest consciousness and embarrassment, but I see
nothing in it more like encouragement. Adieu, my dear mother.

Yours, &c.,

C. VERNON.

XXI

MISS VERNON TO MR DE COURCY

Sir,--I hope you will excuse this liberty; I am forced upon it by the
greatest distress, or I should be ashamed to trouble you. I am very
miserable about Sir James Martin, and have no other way in the world of
helping myself but by writing to you, for I am forbidden even speaking to
my uncle and aunt on the subject; and this being the case, I am afraid my
applying to you will appear no better than equivocation, and as if I
attended to the letter and not the spirit of mamma's commands. But if you
do not take my part and persuade her to break it off, I shall be half
distracted, for I cannot bear him. No human being but YOU could have any
chance of prevailing with her. If you will, therefore, have the unspeakably
great kindness of taking my part with her, and persuading her to send Sir
James away, I shall be more obliged to you than it is possible for me to
express. I always disliked him from the first: it is not a sudden fancy, I
assure you, sir; I always thought him silly and impertinent and
disagreeable, and now he is grown worse than ever. I would rather work for
my bread than marry him. I do not know how to apologize enough for this
letter; I know it is taking so great a liberty. I am aware how dreadfully
angry it will make mamma, but I remember the risk.

I am, Sir, your most humble servant,

F. S. V.

XXII

LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON

Churchhill.

This is insufferable! My dearest friend, I was never so enraged before,
and must relieve myself by writing to you, who I know will enter into all
my feelings. Who should come on Tuesday but Sir James Martin! Guess my
astonishment, and vexation--for, as you well know, I never wished him to be
seen at Churchhill. What a pity that you should not have known his
intentions! Not content with coming, he actually invited himself to remain
here a few days. I could have poisoned him! I made the best of it, however,
and told my story with great success to Mrs. Vernon, who, whatever might be
her real sentiments, said nothing in opposition to mine. I made a point
also of Frederica's behaving civilly to Sir James, and gave her to
understand that I was absolutely determined on her marrying him. She said
something of her misery, but that was all. I have for some time been more
particularly resolved on the match from seeing the rapid increase of her
affection for Reginald, and from not feeling secure that a knowledge of
such affection might not in the end awaken a return. Contemptible as a
regard founded only on compassion must make them both in my eyes, I felt by
no means assured that such might not be the consequence. It is true that
Reginald had not in any degree grown cool towards me; but yet he has lately
mentioned Frederica spontaneously and unnecessarily, and once said
something in praise of her person. HE was all astonishment at the
appearance of my visitor, and at first observed Sir James with an attention
which I was pleased to see not unmixed with jealousy; but unluckily it was
impossible for me really to torment him, as Sir James, though extremely
gallant to me, very soon made the whole party understand that his heart was
devoted to my daughter. I had no great difficulty in convincing De Courcy,
when we were alone, that I was perfectly justified, all things considered,
in desiring the match; and the whole business seemed most comfortably
arranged. They could none of them help perceiving that Sir James was no
Solomon; but I had positively forbidden Frederica complaining to Charles
Vernon or his wife, and they had therefore no pretence for interference;
though my impertinent sister, I believe, wanted only opportunity for doing
so. Everything, however, was going on calmly and quietly; and, though I
counted the hours of Sir James's stay, my mind was entirely satisfied with
the posture of affairs. Guess, then, what I must feel at the sudden
disturbance of all my schemes; and that, too, from a quarter where I had
least reason to expect it. Reginald came this morning into my dressing-room
with a very unusual solemnity of countenance, and after some preface
informed me in so many words that he wished to reason with me on the
impropriety and unkindness of allowing Sir James Martin to address my
daughter contrary to her inclinations. I was all amazement. When I found
that he was not to be laughed out of his design, I calmly begged an
explanation, and desired to know by what he was impelled, and by whom
commissioned, to reprimand me. He then told me, mixing in his speech a few
insolent compliments and ill-timed expressions of tenderness, to which I
listened with perfect indifference, that my daughter had acquainted him
with some circumstances concerning herself, Sir James, and me which had
given him great uneasiness. In short, I found that she had in the first
place actually written to him to request his interference, and that, on
receiving her letter, he had conversed with her on the subject of it, in
order to understand the particulars, and to assure himself of her real
wishes. I have not a doubt but that the girl took this opportunity of
making downright love to him. I am convinced of it by the manner in which
he spoke of her. Much good may such love do him! I shall ever despise the
man who can be gratified by the passion which he never wished to inspire,
nor solicited the avowal of. I shall always detest them both. He can have
no true regard for me, or he would not have listened to her; and SHE, with
her little rebellious heart and indelicate feelings, to throw herself into
the protection of a young man with whom she has scarcely ever exchanged two
words before! I am equally confounded at HER impudence and HIS credulity.
How dared he believe what she told him in my disfavour! Ought he not to
have felt assured that I must have unanswerable motives for all that I had
done? Where was his reliance on my sense and goodness then? Where the
resentment which true love would have dictated against the person defaming
me--that person, too, a chit, a child, without talent or education, whom he
had been always taught to despise? I was calm for some time; but the
greatest degree of forbearance may be overcome, and I hope I was afterwards
sufficiently keen. He endeavoured, long endeavoured, to soften my
resentment; but that woman is a fool indeed who, while insulted by
accusation, can be worked on by compliments. At length he left me, as
deeply provoked as myself; and he showed his anger more. I was quite cool,
but he gave way to the most violent indignation; I may therefore expect it
will the sooner subside, and perhaps his may be vanished for ever, while
mine will be found still fresh and implacable. He is now shut up in his
apartment, whither I heard him go on leaving mine. How unpleasant, one
would think, must be his reflections! but some people's feelings are
incomprehensible. I have not yet tranquillised myself enough to see
Frederica. SHE shall not soon forget the occurrences of this day; she shall
find that she has poured forth her tender tale of love in vain, and exposed
herself for ever to the contempt of the whole world, and the severest
resentment of her injured mother.

Your affectionate

S. VERNON.

XXIII

MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY

Churchhill.

Let me congratulate you, my dearest Mother! The affair which has given
us so much anxiety is drawing to a happy conclusion. Our prospect is most
delightful, and since matters have now taken so favourable a turn, I am
quite sorry that I ever imparted my apprehensions to you; for the pleasure
of learning that the danger is over is perhaps dearly purchased by all that
you have previously suffered. I am so much agitated by delight that I can
scarcely hold a pen; but am determined to send you a few short lines by
James, that you may have some explanation of what must so greatly astonish
you, as that Reginald should be returning to Parklands. I was sitting about
half an hour ago with Sir James in the breakfast parlour, when my brother
called me out of the room. I instantly saw that something was the matter;
his complexion was raised, and he spoke with great emotion; you know his
eager manner, my dear mother, when his mind is interested. "Catherine,"
said he, "I am going home to-day; I am sorry to leave you, but I must go:
it is a great while since I have seen my father and mother. I am going to
send James forward with my hunters immediately; if you have any letter,
therefore, he can take it. I shall not be at home myself till Wednesday or
Thursday, as I shall go through London, where I have business; but before I
leave you," he continued, speaking in a lower tone, and with still greater
energy, "I must warn you of one thing--do not let Frederica Vernon be made
unhappy by that Martin. He wants to marry her; her mother promotes the
match, but she cannot endure the idea of it. Be assured that I speak from
the fullest conviction of the truth of what I say; I Know that Frederica is
made wretched by Sir James's continuing here. She is a sweet girl, and
deserves a better fate. Send him away immediately; he is only a fool: but
what her mother can mean, Heaven only knows! Good bye," he added, shaking
my hand with earnestness; "I do not know when you will see me again; but
remember what I tell you of Frederica; you MUST make it your business to
see justice done her. She is an amiable girl, and has a very superior mind
to what we have given her credit for." He then left me, and ran upstairs. I
would not try to stop him, for I know what his feelings must be. The nature
of mine, as I listened to him, I need not attempt to describe; for a minute
or two I remained in the same spot, overpowered by wonder of a most
agreeable sort indeed; yet it required some consideration to be tranquilly
happy. In about ten minutes after my return to the parlour Lady Susan
entered the room. I concluded, of course, that she and Reginald had been
quarrelling; and looked with anxious curiosity for a confirmation of my
belief in her face. Mistress of deceit, however, she appeared perfectly
unconcerned, and after chatting on indifferent subjects for a short time,
said to me, "I find from Wilson that we are going to lose Mr. De Courcy--is
it true that he leaves Churchhill this morning?" I replied that it was. "He
told us nothing of all this last night," said she, laughing, "or even this
morning at breakfast; but perhaps he did not know it himself. Young men are
often hasty in their resolutions, and not more sudden in forming than
unsteady in keeping them. I should not be surprised if he were to change
his mind at last, and not go." She soon afterwards left the room. I trust,
however, my dear mother, that we have no reason to fear an alteration of
his present plan; things have gone too far. They must have quarrelled, and
about Frederica, too. Her calmness astonishes me. What delight will be
yours in seeing him again; in seeing him still worthy your esteem, still
capable of forming your happiness! When I next write I shall be able to
tell you that Sir James is gone, Lady Susan vanquished, and Frederica at
peace. We have much to do, but it shall be done. I am all impatience to
hear how this astonishing change was effected. I finish as I began, with
the warmest congratulations.

Yours ever, &c.,

CATH. VERNON.

XXIV

FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME

Churchhill.

Little did I imagine, my dear Mother, when I sent off my last letter,
that the delightful perturbation of spirits I was then in would undergo so
speedy, so melancholy a reverse. I never can sufficiently regret that I
wrote to you at all. Yet who could have foreseen what has happened? My dear
mother, every hope which made me so happy only two hours ago has vanished.
The quarrel between Lady Susan and Reginald is made up, and we are all as
we were before. One point only is gained. Sir James Martin is dismissed.
What are we now to look forward to? I am indeed disappointed; Reginald was
all but gone, his horse was ordered and all but brought to the door; who
would not have felt safe? For half an hour I was in momentary expectation
of his departure. After I had sent off my letter to you, I went to Mr.
Vernon, and sat with him in his room talking over the whole matter, and
then determined to look for Frederica, whom I had not seen since breakfast.
I met her on the stairs, and saw that she was crying. "My dear aunt," said
she, "he is going--Mr. De Courcy is going, and it is all my fault. I am
afraid you will be very angry with me. but indeed I had no idea it would
end so." "My love," I replied, "do not think it necessary to apologize to
me on that account. I shall feel myself under an obligation to anyone who
is the means of sending my brother home, because," recollecting myself, "I
know my father wants very much to see him. But what is it you have done to
occasion all this?" She blushed deeply as she answered: "I was so unhappy
about Sir James that I could not help--I have done something very wrong, I
know; but you have not an idea of the misery I have been in: and mamma had
ordered me never to speak to you or my uncle about it, and--" "You
therefore spoke to my brother to engage his interference," said I, to save
her the explanation. "No, but I wrote to him--I did indeed, I got up this
morning before it was light, and was two hours about it; and when my letter
was done I thought I never should have courage to give it. After breakfast
however, as I was going to my room, I met him in the passage, and then, as
I knew that everything must depend on that moment, I forced myself to give
it. He was so good as to take it immediately. I dared not look at him, and
ran away directly. I was in such a fright I could hardly breathe. My dear
aunt, you do not know how miserable I have been." "Frederica" said I,
"you ought to have told me all your distresses. You would have found in me
a friend always ready to assist you. Do you think that your uncle or I
should not have espoused your cause as warmly as my brother?" "Indeed, I
did not doubt your kindness," said she, colouring again, "but I thought Mr.
De Courcy could do anything with my mother; but I was mistaken: they have
had a dreadful quarrel about it, and he is going away. Mamma will never
forgive me, and I shall be worse off than ever." "No, you shall not," I
replied; "in such a point as this your mother's prohibition ought not to
have prevented your speaking to me on the subject. She has no right to make
you unhappy, and she shall NOT do it. Your applying, however, to Reginald
can be productive only of good to all parties. I believe it is best as it
is. Depend upon it that you shall not be made unhappy any longer." At that
moment how great was my astonishment at seeing Reginald come out of Lady
Susan's dressing-room. My heart misgave me instantly. His confusion at
seeing me was very evident. Frederica immediately disappeared. "Are you
going?" I said; "you will find Mr. Vernon in his own room." "No,
Catherine," he replied, "I am not going. Will you let me speak to you a
moment?" We went into my room. "I find," he continued, his confusion
increasing as he spoke, "that I have been acting with my usual foolish
impetuosity. I have entirely misunderstood Lady Susan, and was on the point
of leaving the house under a false impression of her conduct. There has
been some very great mistake; we have been all mistaken, I fancy. Frederica
does not know her mother. Lady Susan means nothing but her good, but she
will not make a friend of her. Lady Susan does not always know, therefore,
what will make her daughter happy. Besides, I could have no right to
interfere. Miss Vernon was mistaken in applying to me. In short, Catherine,
everything has gone wrong, but it is now all happily settled. Lady Susan, I
believe, wishes to speak to you about it, if you are at leisure."
"Certainly," I replied, deeply sighing at the recital of so lame a story. I
made no comments, however, for words would have been vain.

Reginald was glad to get away, and I went to Lady Susan, curious,
indeed, to hear her account of it. "Did I not tell you," said she with a
smile, "that your brother would not leave us after all?" "You did, indeed,"
replied I very gravely; "but I flattered myself you would be mistaken." "I
should not have hazarded such an opinion," returned she, "if it had not at
that moment occurred to me that his resolution of going might be
occasioned by a conversation in which we had been this morning engaged, and
which had ended very much to his dissatisfaction, from our not rightly
understanding each other's meaning. This idea struck me at the moment, and
I instantly determined that an accidental dispute, in which I might
probably be as much to blame as himself, should not deprive you of your
brother. If you remember, I left the room almost immediately. I was
resolved to lose no time in clearing up those mistakes as far as I could.
The case was this--Frederica had set herself violently against marrying Sir
James." "And can your ladyship wonder that she should?" cried I with some
warmth; "Frederica has an excellent understanding, and Sir James has none."
"I am at least very far from regretting it, my dear sister," said she; "on
the contrary, I am grateful for so favourable a sign of my daughter's
sense. Sir James is certainly below par (his boyish manners make him appear
worse); and had Frederica possessed the penetration and the abilities which
I could have wished in my daughter, or had I even known her to possess as
much as she does, I should not have been anxious for the match." "It is odd
that you should alone be ignorant of your daughter's sense!" "Frederica
never does justice to herself; her manners are shy and childish, and
besides she is afraid of me. During her poor father's life she was a spoilt
child; the severity which it has since been necessary for me to show has
alienated her affection; neither has she any of that brilliancy of
intellect, that genius or vigour of mind which will force itself forward."
"Say rather that she has been unfortunate in her education!" "Heaven knows,
my dearest Mrs. Vernon, how fully I am aware of that; but I would wish to
forget every circumstance that might throw blame on the memory of one whose
name is sacred with me." Here she pretended to cry; I was out of patience
with her. "But what," said I, "was your ladyship going to tell me about
your disagreement with my brother?" "It originated in an action of my
daughter's, which equally marks her want of judgment and the unfortunate
dread of me I have been mentioning--she wrote to Mr. De Courcy." "I know
she did; you had forbidden her speaking to Mr. Vernon or to me on the cause
of her distress; what could she do, therefore, but apply to my brother?"
"Good God!" she exclaimed, "what an opinion you must have of me! Can you
possibly suppose that I was aware of her unhappiness! that it was my object
to make my own child miserable, and that I had forbidden her speaking to
you on the subject from a fear of your interrupting the diabolical scheme?
Do you think me destitute of every honest, every natural feeling? Am I
capable of consigning HER to everlasting: misery whose welfare it is my
first earthly duty to promote? The idea is horrible!" "What, then, was your
intention when you insisted on her silence?" "Of what use, my dear sister,
could be any application to you, however the affair might stand? Why should
I subject you to entreaties which I refused to attend to myself? Neither
for your sake nor for hers, nor for my own, could such a thing be
desirable. When my own resolution was taken I could nor wish for the
interference, however friendly, of another person. I was mistaken, it is
true, but I believed myself right." "But what was this mistake to which
your ladyship so often alludes! from whence arose so astonishing a
misconception of your daughter's feelings! Did you not know that she
disliked Sir James?" "I knew that he was not absolutely the man she would
have chosen, but I was persuaded that her objections to him did not arise
from any perception of his deficiency. You must not question me, however,
my dear sister, too minutely on this point," continued she, taking me
affectionately by the hand; "I honestly own that there is something to
conceal. Frederica makes me very unhappy! Her applying to Mr. De Courcy
hurt me particularly." "What is it you mean to infer," said I, "by this
appearance of mystery? If you think your daughter at all attached to
Reginald, her objecting to Sir James could not less deserve to be attended
to than if the cause of her objecting had been a consciousness of his folly;
and why should your ladyship, at any rate, quarrel with my brother for an
interference which, you must know, it is not in his nature to refuse when
urged in such a manner?"

"His disposition, you know, is warm, and he came to expostulate with me;
his compassion all alive for this ill-used girl, this heroine in distress!
We misunderstood each other: he believed me more to blame than I really
was; I considered his interference less excusable than I now find it. I
have a real regard for him, and was beyond expression mortified to find
it, as I thought, so ill bestowed We were both warm, and of course both to
blame. His resolution of leaving Churchhill is consistent with his general
eagerness. When I understood his intention, however, and at the same time
began to think that we had been perhaps equally mistaken in each other's
meaning, I resolved to have an explanation before it was too late. For any
member of your family I must always feel a degree of affection, and I own
it would have sensibly hurt me if my acquaintance with Mr. De Courcy had
ended so gloomily. I have now only to say further, that as I am convinced
of Frederica's having a reasonable dislike to Sir James, I shall instantly
inform him that he must give up all hope of her. I reproach myself for
having even, though innocently, made her unhappy on that score. She shall
have all the retribution in my power to make; if she value her own
happiness as much as I do, if she judge wisely, and command herself as she
ought, she may now be easy. Excuse me, my dearest sister, for thus
trespassing on your time, but I owe it to my own character; and after this
explanation I trust I am in no danger of sinking in your opinion." I could
have said, "Not much, indeed!" but I left her almost in silence. It was
the greatest stretch of forbearance I could practise. I could not have
stopped myself had I begun. Her assurance! her deceit! but I will not allow
myself to dwell on them; they will strike you sufficiently. My heart
sickens within me. As soon as I was tolerably composed I returned to the
parlour. Sir James's carriage was at the door, and he, merry as usual, soon
afterwards took his leave. How easily does her ladyship encourage or
dismiss a lover! In spite of this release, Frederica still looks unhappy:
still fearful, perhaps, of her mother's anger; and though dreading my
brother's departure, jealous, it may be, of his staying. I see how closely
she observes him and Lady Susan, poor girl! I have now no hope for her.
There is not a chance of her affection being returned. He thinks very
differently of her from what he used to do; he does her some justice, but
his reconciliation with her mother precludes every dearer hope. Prepare, my
dear mother, for the worst! The probability of their marrying is surely
heightened! He is more securely hers than ever. When that wretched event
takes place, Frederica must belong wholly to us. I am thankful that my last
letter will precede this by so little, as every moment that you can be
saved from feeling a joy which leads only to disappointment is of
consequence.

Yours ever, &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON.

XXV

LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON

Churchhill.

I call on you, dear Alicia, for congratulations: I am my own self, gay
and triumphant! When I wrote to you the other day I was, in truth, in high
irritation, and with ample cause. Nay, I know not whether I ought to be
quite tranquil now, for I have had more trouble in restoring peace than I
ever intended to submit to--a spirit, too, resulting from a fancied sense
of superior integrity, which is peculiarly insolent! I shall not easily
forgive him, I assure you. He was actually on the point of leaving
Churchhill! I had scarcely concluded my last, when Wilson brought me word
of it. I found, therefore, that something must be done; for I did not
choose to leave my character at the mercy of a man whose passions are so
violent and so revengeful. It would have been trifling with my reputation
to allow of his departing with such an impression in my disfavour; in this
light, condescension was necessary. I sent Wilson to say that I desired to
speak with him before he went; he came immediately. The angry emotions
which had marked every feature when we last parted were partially subdued.
He seemed astonished at the summons, and looked as if half wishing and half
fearing to be softened by what I might say. If my countenance expressed
what I aimed at, it was composed and dignified; and yet, with a degree of
pensiveness which might convince him that I was not quite happy. "I beg
your pardon, sir, for the liberty I have taken in sending for you," said I;
"but as I have just learnt your intention of leaving this place to-day, I
feel it my duty to entreat that you will not on my account shorten your
visit here even an hour. I am perfectly aware that after what has passed
between us it would ill suit the feelings of either to remain longer in the
same house: so very great, so total a change from the intimacy of
friendship must render any future intercourse the severest punishment; and
your resolution of quitting Churchhill is undoubtedly in unison with our
situation, and with those lively feelings which I know you to possess. But,
at the same time, it is not for me to suffer such a sacrifice as it must be
to leave relations to whom you are so much attached, and are so dear. My
remaining here cannot give that pleasure to Mr. and Mrs. Vernon which your
society must; and my visit has already perhaps been too long. My removal,
therefore, which must, at any rate, take place soon, may, with perfect
convenience, be hastened; and I make it my particular request that I may
not in any way be instrumental in separating a family so affectionately
attached to each other. Where I go is of no consequence to anyone; of very
little to myself; but you are of importance to all your connections." Here
I concluded, and I hope you will be satisfied with my speech. Its effect on
Reginald justifies some portion of vanity, for it was no less favourable
than instantaneous. Oh, how delightful it was to watch the variations of
his countenance while I spoke! to see the struggle between returning
tenderness and the remains of displeasure. There is something agreeable in
feelings so easily worked on; not that I envy him their possession, nor
would, for the world, have such myself; but they are very convenient when
one wishes to influence the passions of another. And yet this Reginald,
whom a very few words from me softened at once into the utmost submission,
and rendered more tractable, more attached, more devoted than ever, would
have left me in the first angry swelling of his proud heart without
deigning to seek an explanation. Humbled as he now is, I cannot forgive him
such an instance of pride, and am doubtful whether I ought not to punish
him by dismissing him at once after this reconciliation, or by marrying and
teazing him for ever. But these measures are each too violent to be adopted
without some deliberation; at present my thoughts are fluctuating between
various schemes. I have many things to compass: I must punish Frederica,
and pretty severely too, for her application to Reginald; I must punish
him for receiving it so favourably, and for the rest of his conduct. I must
torment my sister-in-law for the insolent triumph of her look and manner
since Sir James has been dismissed; for, in reconciling Reginald to me, I
was not able to save that ill-fated young man; and I must make myself
amends for the humiliation to which I have stooped within these few days.
To effect all this I have various plans. I have also an idea of being soon
in town; and whatever may be my determination as to the rest, I shall
probably put THAT project in execution; for London will be always the
fairest field of action, however my views may be directed; and at any rate
I shall there be rewarded by your society, and a little dissipation, for a
ten weeks' penance at Churchhill. I believe I owe it to my character to
complete the match between my daughter and Sir James after having so long
intended it. Let me know your opinion on this point. Flexibility of mind, a
disposition easily biassed by others, is an attribute which you know I am
not very desirous of obtaining; nor has Frederica any claim to the
indulgence of her notions at the expense of her mother's inclinations. Her
idle love for Reginald, too! It is surely my duty to discourage such
romantic nonsense. All things considered, therefore, it seems incumbent on
me to take her to town and marry her immediately to Sir James. When my own
will is effected contrary to his, I shall have some credit in being on good
terms with Reginald, which at present, in fact, I have not; for though he
is still in my power, I have given up the very article by which our quarrel
was produced, and at best the honour of victory is doubtful. Send me your
opinion on all these matters, my dear Alicia, and let me know whether you
can get lodgings to suit me within a short distance of you.

Your most attached

S. VERNON.

XXVI

MRS. JOHNSON TO LADY SUSAN

Edward Street.

I am gratified by your reference, and this is my advice: that you come
to town yourself, without loss of time, but that you leave Frederica
behind. It would surely be much more to the purpose to get yourself well
established by marrying Mr. De Courcy, than to irritate him and the rest of
his family by making her marry Sir James. You should think more of yourself
and less of your daughter. She is not of a disposition to do you credit in
the world, and seems precisely in her proper place at Churchhill, with the
Vernons. But you are fitted for society, and it is shameful to have you
exiled from it. Leave Frederica, therefore, to punish herself for the
plague she has given you, by indulging that romantic tender-heartedness
which will always ensure her misery enough, and come to London as soon as
you can. I have another reason for urging this: Mainwaring came to town
last week, and has contrived, in spite of Mr. Johnson, to make
opportunities of seeing me. He is absolutely miserable about you, and
jealous to such a degree of De Courcy that it would be highly unadvisable
for them to meet at present. And yet, if you do not allow him to see you
here, I cannot answer for his not committing some great imprudence--such as
going to Churchhill, for instance, which would be dreadful! Besides, if you
take my advice, and resolve to marry De Courcy, it will be indispensably
necessary to you to get Mainwaring out of the way; and you only can have
influence enough to send him back to his wife. I have still another motive
for your coming: Mr. Johnson leaves London next Tuesday; he is going for
his health to Bath, where, if the waters are favourable to his constitution
and my wishes, he will be laid up with the gout many weeks. During his
absence we shall be able to chuse our own society, and to have true
enjoyment. I would ask you to Edward Street, but that once he forced from
me a kind of promise never to invite you to my house; nothing but my being
in the utmost distress for money should have extorted it from me. I can get
you, however, a nice drawing-room apartment in Upper Seymour Street, and we
may be always together there or here; for I consider my promise to Mr.
Johnson as comprehending only (at least in his absence) your not sleeping
in the house. Poor Mainwaring gives me such histories of his wife's
jealousy. Silly woman to expect constancy from so charming a man! but she
always was silly--intolerably so in marrying him at all, she the heiress of
a large fortune and he without a shilling: one title, I know, she might
have had, besides baronets. Her folly in forming the connection was so
great that, though Mr. Johnson was her guardian, and I do not in general
share HIS feelings, I never can forgive her.

Adieu. Yours ever,

ALICIA.

XXVII

MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY

Churchhill.

This letter, my dear Mother, will be brought you by Reginald. His long
visit is about to be concluded at last, but I fear the separation takes
place too late to do us any good. She is going to London to see her
particular friend, Mrs. Johnson. It was at first her intention that
Frederica should accompany her, for the benefit of masters, but we
overruled her there. Frederica was wretched in the idea of going, and I
could not bear to have her at the mercy of her mother; not all the masters
in London could compensate for the ruin of her comfort. I should have
feared, too, for her health, and for everything but her principles--there
I believe she is not to be injured by her mother, or her mother's friends;
but with those friends she must have mixed (a very bad set, I doubt not),
or have been left in total solitude, and I can hardly tell which would have
been worse for her. If she is with her mother, moreover, she must, alas! in
all probability be with Reginald, and that would be the greatest evil of
all. Here we shall in time be in peace, and our regular employments, our
books and conversations, with exercise, the children, and every domestic
pleasure in my power to procure her, will, I trust, gradually overcome this
youthful attachment. I should not have a doubt of it were she slighted for
any other woman in the world than her own mother. How long Lady Susan will
be in town, or whether she returns here again, I know not. I could not be
cordial in my invitation, but if she chuses to come no want of cordiality
on my part will keep her away. I could not help asking Reginald if he
intended being in London this winter, as soon as I found her ladyship's
steps would be bent thither; and though he professed himself quite
undetermined, there was something in his look and voice as he spoke which
contradicted his words. I have done with lamentation; I look upon the event
as so far decided that I resign myself to it in despair. If he leaves you
soon for London everything will be concluded.

Your affectionate, &c.,

C. VERNON.

XXVIII

MRS. JOHNSON TO LADY SUSAN

Edward Street.

My dearest Friend,--I write in the greatest distress; the most
unfortunate event has just taken place. Mr. Johnson has hit on the most
effectual manner of plaguing us all. He had heard, I imagine, by some means
or other, that you were soon to be in London, and immediately contrived to
have such an attack of the gout as must at least delay his journey to Bath,
if not wholly prevent it. I am persuaded the gout is brought on or kept off
at pleasure; it was the same when I wanted to join the Hamiltons to the
Lakes; and three years ago, when I had a fancy for Bath, nothing could
induce him to have a gouty symptom.

I am pleased to find that my letter had so much effect on you, and that
De Courcy is certainly your own. Let me hear from you as soon as you
arrive, and in particular tell me what you mean to do with Mainwaring. It
is impossible to say when I shall be able to come to you; my confinement
must be great. It is such an abominable trick to be ill here instead of at
Bath that I can scarcely command myself at all. At Bath his old aunts
would have nursed him, but here it all falls upon me; and he bears pain
with such patience that I have not the common excuse for losing my temper.

Yours ever,

ALICIA.

XXIX

LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MRS. JOHNSON

Upper Seymour Street.

My dear Alicia,--There needed not this last fit of the gout to make me
detest Mr. Johnson, but now the extent of my aversion is not to be
estimated. To have you confined as nurse in his apartment! My dear Alicia,
of what a mistake were you guilty in marrying a man of his age! just old
enough to be formal, ungovernable, and to have the gout; too old to be
agreeable, too young to die. I arrived last night about five, had scarcely
swallowed my dinner when Mainwaring made his appearance. I will not
dissemble what real pleasure his sight afforded me, nor how strongly I felt
the contrast between his person and manners and those of Reginald, to the
infinite disadvantage of the latter. For an hour or two I was even
staggered in my resolution of marrying him, and though this was too idle
and nonsensical an idea to remain long on my mind, I do not feel very eager
for the conclusion of my marriage, nor look forward with much impatience to
the time when Reginald, according to our agreement, is to be in town. I
shall probably put off his arrival under some pretence or other. He must
not come till Mainwaring is gone. I am still doubtful at times as to
marrying; if the old man would die I might not hesitate, but a state of
dependance on the caprice of Sir Reginald will not suit the freedom of my
spirit; and if I resolve to wait for that event, I shall have excuse enough
at present in having been scarcely ten months a widow. I have not given
Mainwaring any hint of my intention, or allowed him to consider my
acquaintance with Reginald as more than the commonest flirtation, and he is
tolerably appeased. Adieu, till we meet; I am enchanted with my lodgings.

Yours ever,

S. VERNON.

XXX

LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MR. DE COURCY

Upper Seymour Street.

I have received your letter, and though I do not attempt to conceal that
I am gratified by your impatience for the hour of meeting, I yet feel
myself under the necessity of delaying that hour beyond the time originally
fixed. Do not think me unkind for such an exercise of my power, nor accuse
me of instability without first hearing my reasons. In the course of my
journey from Churchhill I had ample leisure for reflection on the present
state of our affairs, and every review has served to convince me that they
require a delicacy and cautiousness of conduct to which we have hitherto
been too little attentive. We have been hurried on by our feelings to a
degree of precipitation which ill accords with the claims of our friends or
the opinion of the world. We have been unguarded in forming this hasty
engagement, but we must not complete the imprudence by ratifying it while
there is so much reason to fear the connection would be opposed by those
friends on whom you depend. It is not for us to blame any expectations on
your father's side of your marrying to advantage; where possessions are so
extensive as those of your family, the wish of increasing them, if not
strictly reasonable, is too common to excite surprize or resentment. He has
a right to require a woman of fortune in his daughter-in-law, and I am
sometimes quarrelling with myself for suffering you to form a connection so
imprudent; but the influence of reason is often acknowledged too late by
those who feel like me. I have now been but a few months a widow, and,
however little indebted to my husband's memory for any happiness derived
from him during a union of some years, I cannot forget that the indelicacy
of so early a second marriage must subject me to the censure of the world,
and incur, what would be still more insupportable, the displeasure of Mr.
Vernon. I might perhaps harden myself in time against the injustice of
general reproach, but the loss of HIS valued esteem I am, as you well know,
ill-fitted to endure; and when to this may be added the consciousness of
having injured you with your family, how am I to support myself? With
feelings so poignant as mine, the conviction of having divided the son from
his parents would make me, even with you, the most miserable of beings. It
will surely, therefore, be advisable to delay our union--to delay it till
appearances are more promising--till affairs have taken a more favourable
turn. To assist us In such a resolution I feel that absence will be
necessary. We must not meet. Cruel as this sentence may appear, the
necessity of pronouncing it, which can alone reconcile it to myself, will
be evident to you when you have considered our situation in the light in
which I have found myself imperiously obliged to place it. You may be--you
must be--well assured that nothing but the strongest conviction of duty
could induce me to wound my own feelings by urging a lengthened separation,
and of insensibility to yours you will hardly suspect me. Again, therefore,
I say that we ought not, we must not, yet meet. By a removal for some
months from each other we shall tranquillise the sisterly fears of Mrs.
Vernon, who, accustomed herself to the enjoyment of riches, considers
fortune as necessary everywhere, and whose sensibilities are not of a
nature to comprehend ours. Let me hear from you soon--very soon. Tell me
that you submit to my arguments, and do not reproach me for using such. I
cannot bear reproaches: my spirits are not so high as to need being
repressed. I must endeavour to seek amusement, and fortunately many of my
friends are in town; amongst them the Mainwarings; you know how sincerely
I regard both husband and wife.

I am, very faithfully yours,

S. VERNON

XXXI

LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON

Upper Seymour Street.

My dear Friend,--That tormenting creature, Reginald, is here. My letter,
which was intended to keep him longer in the country, has hastened him to
town. Much as I wish him away, however, I cannot help being pleased with
such a proof of attachment. He is devoted to me, heart and soul. He will
carry this note himself, which is to serve as an introduction to you, with
whom he longs to be acquainted. Allow him to spend the evening with you,
that I may be in no danger of his returning here. I have told him that I am
not quite well, and must be alone; and should he call again there might be
confusion, for it is impossible to be sure of servants. Keep him,
therefore, I entreat you, in Edward Street. You will not find him a heavy
companion, and I allow you to flirt with him as much as you like. At the
same time, do not forget my real interest; say all that you can to convince
him that I shall be quite wretched if he remains here; you know my
reasons--propriety, and so forth. I would urge them more myself, but that I
am impatient to be rid of him, as Mainwaring comes within half an hour.
Adieu!

S VERNON

XXXII

MRS. JOHNSON TO LADY SUSAN

Edward Street.

My dear Creature,--I am in agonies, and know not what to do. Mr. De
Courcy arrived just when he should not. Mrs. Mainwaring had that instant
entered the house, and forced herself into her guardian's presence, though
I did not know a syllable of it till afterwards, for I was out when both
she and Reginald came, or I should have sent him away at all events; but
she was shut up with Mr. Johnson, while he waited in the drawing-room for
me. She arrived yesterday in pursuit of her husband, but perhaps you know
this already from himself. She came to this house to entreat my husband's
interference, and before I could be aware of it, everything that you could
wish to be concealed was known to him, and unluckily she had wormed out of
Mainwaring's servant that he had visited you every day since your being in
town, and had just watched him to your door herself! What could I do! Facts
are such horrid things! All is by this time known to De Courcy, who is now
alone with Mr. Johnson. Do not accuse me; indeed, it was impossible to
prevent it. Mr. Johnson has for some time suspected De Courcy of intending
to marry you, and would speak with him alone as soon as he knew him to be
in the house. That detestable Mrs. Mainwaring, who, for your comfort, has
fretted herself thinner and uglier than ever, is still here, and they have
been all closeted together. What can be done? At any rate, I hope he will
plague his wife more than ever. With anxious wishes,
Yours faithfully,

ALICIA.

XXXIII

LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON

Upper Seymour Street.

This eclaircissement is rather provoking. How unlucky that you should
have been from home! I thought myself sure of you at seven! I am undismayed
however. Do not torment yourself with fears on my account; depend on it, I
can make my story good with Reginald. Mainwaring is just gone; he brought
me the news of his wife's arrival. Silly woman, what does she expect by
such manoeuvres? Yet I wish she had stayed quietly at Langford. Reginald
will be a little enraged at first, but by to-morrow's dinner, everything
will be well again.

Adieu!

S. V.

XXXIV

MR. DE COURCY TO LADY SUSAN

--- Hotel

I write only to bid you farewell, the spell is removed; I see you as you
are. Since we parted yesterday, I have received from indisputable authority
such a history of you as must bring the most mortifying conviction of the
imposition I have been under, and the absolute necessity of an immediate
and eternal separation from you. You cannot doubt to what I allude.
Langford! Langford! that word will be sufficient. I received my information
in Mr. Johnson's house, from Mrs. Mainwaring herself. You know how I have
loved you; you can intimately judge of my present feelings, but I am not so
weak as to find indulgence in describing them to a woman who will glory in
having excited their anguish, but whose affection they have never been able
to gain.

R. DE COURCY.

XXXV

LADY SUSAN TO MR. DE COURCY

Upper Seymour Street.

I will not attempt to describe my astonishment in reading the note this
moment received from you. I am bewildered in my endeavours to form some
rational conjecture of what Mrs. Mainwaring can have told you to occasion
so extraordinary a change in your sentiments. Have I not explained
everything to you with respect to myself which could bear a doubtful
meaning, and which the ill-nature of the world had interpreted to my
discredit? What can you now have heard to stagger your esteem for me? Have
I ever had a concealment from you? Reginald, you agitate me beyond
expression, I cannot suppose that the old story of Mrs. Mainwaring's
jealousy can be revived again, or at least be LISTENED to again. Come to me
immediately, and explain what is at present absolutely incomprehensible.
Believe me the single word of Langford is not of such potent intelligence
as to supersede the necessity of more. If we ARE to part, it will at least
be handsome to take your personal leave--but I have little heart to jest;
in truth, I am serious enough; for to be sunk, though but for an hour, in
your esteem Is a humiliation to which I know not how to submit. I shall
count every minute till your arrival.

S. V.

XXXVI

MR. DE COURCY TO LADY SUSAN

---- Hotel.

Why would you write to me? Why do you require particulars? But, since it
must be so, I am obliged to declare that all the accounts of your
misconduct during the life, and since the death of Mr. Vernon, which had
reached me, in common with the world in general, and gained my entire
belief before I saw you, but which you, by the exertion of your perverted
abilities, had made me resolved to disallow, have been unanswerably proved
to me; nay more, I am assured that a connection, of which I had never
before entertained a thought, has for some time existed, and still
continues to exist, between you and the man whose family you robbed of its
peace in return for the hospitality with which you were received into it;
that you have corresponded with him ever since your leaving Langford; not
with his wife, but with him, and that he now visits you every day. Can you,
dare you deny it? and all this at the time when I was an encouraged, an
accepted lover! From what have I not escaped! I have only to be grateful.
Far from me be all complaint, every sigh of regret. My own folly had
endangered me, my preservation I owe to the kindness, the integrity of
another; but the unfortunate Mrs. Mainwaring, whose agonies while she
related the past seemed to threaten her reason, how is SHE to be consoled!
After such a discovery as this, you will scarcely affect further wonder at
my meaning in bidding you adieu. My understanding is at length restored,
and teaches no less to abhor the artifices which had subdued me than to
despise myself for the weakness on which their strength was founded.

R. DE COURCY.

XXXVII

LADY SUSAN TO MR. DE COURCY

Upper Seymour Street.

I am satisfied, and will trouble you no more when these few lines are
dismissed. The engagement which you were eager to form a fortnight ago is
no longer compatible with your views, and I rejoice to find that the
prudent advice of your parents has not been given in vain. Your restoration
to peace will, I doubt not, speedily follow this act of filial obedience,
and I flatter myself with the hope of surviving my share in this
disappointment.

S. V.

XXXVIII

MRS. JOHNSON TO LADY SUSAN VERNON

Edward Street

I am grieved, though I cannot be astonished at your rupture with Mr. De
Courcy; he has just informed Mr. Johnson of it by letter. He leaves London,
he says, to-day. Be assured that I partake in all your feelings, and do not
be angry if I say that our intercourse, even by letter, must soon be given
up. It makes me miserable; but Mr. Johnson vows that if I persist in the
connection, he will settle in the country for the rest of his life, and you
know it is impossible to submit to such an extremity while any other
alternative remains. You have heard of course that the Mainwarings are to
part, and I am afraid Mrs. M. will come home to us again; but she is still
so fond of her husband, and frets so much about him, that perhaps she may
not live long. Miss Mainwaring is just come to town to be with her aunt,
and they say that she declares she will have Sir James Martin before she
leaves London again. If I were you, I would certainly get him myself. I had
almost forgot to give you my opinion of Mr. De Courcy; I am really
delighted with him; he is full as handsome, I think, as Mainwaring, and
with such an open, good-humoured countenance, that one cannot help loving
him at first sight. Mr. Johnson and he are the greatest friends in the
world. Adieu, my dearest Susan, I wish matters did not go so perversely.
That unlucky visit to Langford! but I dare say you did all for the best,
and there is no defying destiny.

Your sincerely attached

ALICIA.

XXXIX

LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON

Upper Seymour Street.

My dear Alicia,--I yield to the necessity which parts us. Under
circumstances you could not act otherwise. Our friendship cannot be
impaired by it, and in happier times, when your situation is as independent
as mine, it will unite us again in the same intimacy as ever. For this I
shall impatiently wait, and meanwhile can safely assure you that I never
was more at ease, or better satisfied with myself and everything about me
than at the present hour. Your husband I abhor, Reginald I despise, and I
am secure of never seeing either again. Have I not reason to rejoice?
Mainwaring is more devoted to me than ever; and were we at liberty, I doubt
if I could resist even matrimony offered by HIM. This event, if his wife
live with you, it may be in your power to hasten. The violence of her
feelings, which must wear her out, may be easily kept in irritation. I rely
on your friendship for this. I am now satisfied that I never could have
brought myself to marry Reginald, and am equally determined that Frederica
never shall. To-morrow, I shall fetch her from Churchhill, and let Maria
Mainwaring tremble for the consequence. Frederica shall be Sir James's wife
before she quits my house, and she may whimper, and the Vernons may storm,
I regard them not. I am tired of submitting my will to the caprices of
others; of resigning my own judgment in deference to those to whom I owe no
duty, and for whom I feel no respect. I have given up too much, have been
too easily worked on, but Frederica shall now feel the difference. Adieu,
dearest of friends; may the next gouty attack be more favourable! and may
you always regard me as unalterably yours,

S. VERNON

XL

LADY DE COURCY TO MRS. VERNON

My dear Catherine,--I have charming news for you, and if I had not sent
off my letter this morning you might have been spared the vexation of
knowing of Reginald's being gone to London, for he is returned. Reginald is
returned, not to ask our consent to his marrying Lady Susan, but to tell us
they are parted for ever. He has been only an hour in the house, and I have
not been able to learn particulars, for he is so very low that I have not
the heart to ask questions, but I hope we shall soon know all. This is the
most joyful hour he has ever given us since the day of his birth. Nothing
is wanting but to have you here, and it is our particular wish and entreaty
that you would come to us as soon as you can. You have owed us a visit many
long weeks; I hope nothing will make it inconvenient to Mr. Vernon; and
pray bring all my grand-children; and your dear niece is included, of
course; I long to see her. It has been a sad, heavy winter hitherto,
without Reginald, and seeing nobody from Churchhill. I never found the
season so dreary before; but this happy meeting will make us young again.
Frederica runs much in my thoughts, and when Reginald has recovered his
usual good spirits (as I trust he soon will) we will try to rob him of his
heart once more, and I am full of hopes of seeing their hands joined at no
great distance.

Your affectionate mother,

C. DE COURCY

XLI

MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY

Churchhill.

My dear Mother,--Your letter has surprized me beyond measure! Can it be
true that they are really separated--and for ever? I should be overjoyed
if I dared depend on it, but after all that I have seen how can one be
secure? And Reginald really with you! My surprize is the greater because on
Wednesday, the very day of his coming to Parklands, we had a most
unexpected and unwelcome visit from Lady Susan, looking all cheerfulness
and good-humour, and seeming more as if she were to marry him when she got
to London than as if parted from him for ever. She stayed nearly two hours,
was as affectionate and agreeable as ever, and not a syllable, not a hint
was dropped, of any disagreement or coolness between them. I asked her
whether she had seen my brother since his arrival in town; not, as you may
suppose, with any doubt of the fact, but merely to see how she looked. She
immediately answered, without any embarrassment, that he had been kind
enough to call on her on Monday; but she believed he had already returned
home, which I was very far from crediting. Your kind invitation is accepted
by us with pleasure, and on Thursday next we and our little ones will be
with you. Pray heaven, Reginald may not be in town again by that time! I
wish we could bring dear Frederica too, but I am sorry to say that her
mother's errand hither was to fetch her away; and, miserable as it made the
poor girl, it was impossible to detain her. I was thoroughly unwilling to
let her go, and so was her uncle; and all that could be urged we did urge;
but Lady Susan declared that as she was now about to fix herself in London
for several months, she could not be easy if her daughter were not with her
for masters, &c. Her manner, to be sure, was very kind and proper, and Mr.
Vernon believes that Frederica will now be treated with affection. I wish I
could think so too. The poor girl's heart was almost broke at taking leave
of us. I charged her to write to me very often, and to remember that if she
were in any distress we should be always her friends. I took care to see
her alone, that I might say all this, and I hope made her a little more
comfortable; but I shall not be easy till I can go to town and judge of her
situation myself. I wish there were a better prospect than now appears of
the match which the conclusion of your letter declares your expectations
of. At present, it is not very likely

Yours ever, &c.,

C. VERNON

CONCLUSION

This correspondence, by a meeting between some of the parties, and a
separation between the others, could not, to the great detriment of the
Post Office revenue, be continued any longer. Very little assistance to the
State could be derived from the epistolary intercourse of Mrs. Vernon and
her niece; for the former soon perceived, by the style of Frederica's
letters, that they were written under her mother's inspection! and
therefore, deferring all particular enquiry till she could make it
personally in London, ceased writing minutely or often. Having learnt
enough, in the meanwhile, from her open-hearted brother, of what had passed
between him and Lady Susan to sink the latter lower than ever in her
opinion, she was proportionably more anxious to get Frederica removed from
such a mother, and placed under her own care; and, though with little hope
of success, was resolved to leave nothing unattempted that might offer a
chance of obtaining her sister-in-law's consent to it. Her anxiety on the
subject made her press for an early visit to London; and Mr. Vernon, who,
as it must already have appeared, lived only to do whatever he was desired,
soon found some accommodating business to call him thither. With a heart
full of the matter, Mrs. Vernon waited on Lady Susan shortly after her
arrival in town, and was met with such an easy and cheerful affection, as
made her almost turn from her with horror. No remembrance of Reginald, no
consciousness of guilt, gave one look of embarrassment; she was in
excellent spirits, and seemed eager to show at once by ever possible
attention to her brother and sister her sense of their kindness, and her
pleasure in their society. Frederica was no more altered than Lady Susan;
the same restrained manners, the same timid look in the presence of her
mother as heretofore, assured her aunt of her situation being
uncomfortable, and confirmed her in the plan of altering it. No unkindness,
however, on the part of Lady Susan appeared. Persecution on the subject of
Sir James was entirely at an end; his name merely mentioned to say that he
was not in London; and indeed, in all her conversation, she was solicitous
only for the welfare and improvement of her daughter, acknowledging, in
terms of grateful delight, that Frederica was now growing every day more
and more what a parent could desire. Mrs. Vernon, surprized and
incredulous, knew not what to suspect, and, without any change in her own
views, only feared greater difficulty in accomplishing them. The first hope
of anything better was derived from Lady Susan's asking her whether she
thought Frederica looked quite as well as she had done at Churchhill, as
she must confess herself to have sometimes an anxious doubt of London's
perfectly agreeing with her. Mrs. Vernon, encouraging the doubt, directly
proposed her niece's returning with them into the country. Lady Susan was
unable to express her sense of such kindness, yet knew not, from a variety
of reasons, how to part with her daughter; and as, though her own plans
were not yet wholly fixed, she trusted it would ere long be in her power to
take Frederica into the country herself, concluded by declining entirely to
profit by such unexampled attention. Mrs. Vernon persevered, however, in
the offer of it, and though Lady Susan continued to resist, her resistance
in the course of a few days seemed somewhat less formidable. The lucky
alarm of an influenza decided what might not have been decided quite so
soon. Lady Susan's maternal fears were then too much awakened for her to
think of anything but Frederica's removal from the risk of infection; above
all disorders in the world she most dreaded the influenza for her
daughter's constitution!

Frederica returned to Churchhill with her uncle and aunt; and three
weeks afterwards, Lady Susan announced her being married to Sir James
Martin. Mrs. Vernon was then convinced of what she had only suspected
before, that she might have spared herself all the trouble of urging a
removal which Lady Susan had doubtless resolved on from the first.
Frederica's visit was nominally for six weeks, but her mother, though
inviting her to return in one or two affectionate letters, was very ready
to oblige the whole party by consenting to a prolongation of her stay, and
in the course of two months ceased to write of her absence, and in the
course of two or more to write to her at all. Frederica was therefore fixed
in the family of her uncle and aunt till such time as Reginald De Courcy
could be talked, flattered, and finessed into an affection for her which,
allowing leisure for the conquest of his attachment to her mother, for his
abjuring all future attachments, and detesting the sex, might be reasonably
looked for in the course of a twelvemonth. Three months might have done it
in general, but Reginald's feelings were no less lasting than lively.
Whether Lady Susan was or was not happy in her second choice, I do not see
how it can ever be ascertained; for who would take her assurance of it on
either side of the question? The world must judge from probabilities; she
had nothing against her but her husband, and her conscience. Sir James may
seem to have drawn a harder lot than mere folly merited; I leave him,
therefore, to all the pity that anybody can give him. For myself, I confess
that I can pity only Miss Mainwaring; who, coming to town, and putting
herself to an expense in clothes which impoverished her for two years, on
purpose to secure him, was defrauded of her due by a woman ten years older
than herself.

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