“Unthought of frailties cheat
us in the wise;
The fool lies hid in inconsistencies.”
SUCH were the female members of the family to whom Mary was about to be introduced. In her mother’s heart she had no place, for of her absent husband and neglected daughter she seldom thought; and their letters were scarcely read, and rarely answered. Even good Miss Grizzy’s elaborate epistle, in which were curiously entwined the death of her brother and the birth and christening of her grand-nephew, in a truly Gordian manner, remained disentangled. Had her Ladyship only read to the middle of the seventh page she would have learned the indisposition of her daughter, with the various opinions thereupon; but poor Miss Grizzy’s labours were vain, for her letter remains a dead letter to this day. Mrs. Douglas was therefore the first to convey the unwelcome intelligence, and to suggest to the mind of the mother that her alienated daughter still retained some claims upon her care and affection; and although this was done with all the tenderness and delicacy of a gentle and enlightened mind, it called forth the most bitter indignation from Lady Juliana.
She almost raved at what she termed the base ingratitude and hypocrisy of her sister-in-law. After the sacrifice she had made in giving up her child to her when she had none of her own, it was a pretty return to send her back only to die. But she saw through it. She did not believe a word of the girl’s silliness; that was a trick to get rid of her. Now they had a child of their own, they had no use for hers; but she was not to be made a fool of in such a way, and by such people, etc. etc.
“If Mrs. Douglas is so vile a woman,” said the provoking Lady Emily, “the sooner my cousin is taken from her the better.”
“You don’t understand these things, Emily,” returned her aunt impatiently.
“The trouble and annoyance it will occasion me to take charge of the girl at this time.”
“Why at this time more than at any other?”
“Absurd, my dear! how can you ask so foolish a question? Don’t you know that you and Adelaide are both to bring out this winter, and how can I possibly do you justice with a dying girl upon my hands?”
“I thought you suspected it was all a trick,” continued the persecuting Lady Emily.
“So I do; I haven’t the least doubt of it. The whole story is the most improbable stuff I ever heard.”
“Then you will have less trouble than you expect.”
“But I hate to be made a dupe of, and imposed upon by low cunning. If Mrs. Douglas had told me candidly she wished me to take the girl, I would have thought nothing of it; but I can’t bear to be treated like a fool.”
“I don’t see anything at all unbecoming in Mrs. Douglas’s treatment.”