Yours, with the warmest affection,
An early April sun was shining brightly through one of the windows of an elegantly furnished boudoir of a distinguished-looking mansion, in the vicinity of Piccadilly. There was somewhat in the aspect of the room, in the variety of toys scattered on every side, in the selection of the newest novels which were arranged on the table, and an indescribable air which pervaded the whole, that might have aroused a suspicion, in any keen observer who could discover character by trifles, that the lady to whom that apartment belonged possessed not the very strongest or most sensible mind. A taste which frivolous trifles could alone gratify appeared evident; and the countenance of the lady, who was reclining listlessly on the couch, would have confirmed these surmises. She did not look above forty, if as much, but her features told a tale of lassitude and weariness, at variance with the prime of life, which was then her own. No intellect, no emotion was expressed on her countenance; it never varied, except, perhaps, to denote peevishness or sullenness when domestic affairs annoyed her, which appeared to be the case at present. A volume of the last new novel was in her hand, in which she appeared sufficiently interested as to feel still more annoyed at the interruption she was constantly receiving from a young lady, who was also an inmate of her room.
Striking, indeed, was the contrast exhibited in the features of the mother and daughter, for so nearly were they connected, and yet to some the inanimate expression of the former would have been far preferable to the handsome but scornful countenance of the latter. She could not have been more than eighteen, but the expression of the features and the tone of character were already decided to no ordinary degree. There was an air of fashion in her every movement; an easy assurance and independence of spirit which might have made her mother respected, but which in one so young were intolerable to all save those whom she had contrived to make her devoted admirers. Spite of the natural beauty of her face, haughtiness, pride, and some of the baser passions of human nature, were there visibly impressed; at least whenever she appeared in her natural character, when no concealed designs caused her to veil these less amiable emotions in eloquent smiles and a manner whose fascination was felt and unresisted, even by those who perhaps had been before prejudiced against her. Various were the characters she assumed in society—assumed to suit her own purpose, made up of art; even at home she sometimes found herself seeking for design, as if it were impossible to go straightforward, to act without some reason. We shall find, however, as we proceed, that she had one confidant at home, to whom, when exhausted by the fatigue of planning, she would confess herself, and who was generally the hearer and abettor of the young lady’s schemes. This was a person who had lived for many years in the family as governess; although that office with the elder of her charges had ever been but nominal, and with the younger it was neglected for the office of friend and confidant, which Miss Malison very much preferred.