“There certainly must be some fascination about you, otherwise I should never have sat so long listening to you,” said Mary, as she rose from the table at which she had been assisting to dash off the at-homes.
“But you must listen to me a little longer,” cried her cousin, seizing her hand to detain her. “I have not got half through my detestables yet; but to humour you, I shall let them go for the present. And now, that you mayn’t suppose I am utterly insensible to excellence, you must suffer me to show you that I can and do appreciate worth when I can find it. I confess my talent lies fully as much in discovering the ridiculous as the amiable; and I am equally ready to acknowledge it is a fault, and no mark of superior wit or understanding; since it is much easier to hit off the glaring caricature line of deformity than the finer and more exquisite touches of beauty, especially for one who reads as he run—–the sign-posts are sure to catch the eye. But now for my favourite—no matter for her name—it would frighten you if were you to hear it. In the first place, she is, as some of your old divines say, hugely religious; ’but then she keeps her piety in its proper place, and where it ought to be—in her very soul. It is never a stumbling-block in other people’s way, or interfering with other people’s affairs. Her object is to be, not to seem, religious; and there is neither hypocrisy nor austerity necessary for that. She is forbearing, without meanness—gentle, without insipidity—sincere, without rudeness. She practises all the virtues herself, and seems quite unconscious that others don’t do the same. She is, if I may trust the expression of her eye, almost as much alive to the ridiculous as I am; but she is only diverted where I am provoked. She never bestows false praise even upon her friends; but a simple approval from her is of more value than the finest panegyric from another. She never finds occasion to censure or condemn the conduct of anyone, however flagrant it may be in the eyes of others; because she seems to think virtue is better expressed by her own actions than by her neighbour’s vices. She cares not for admiration, but is anxious to do good and give pleasure. To sum up the whole, she could listen with patience to Lady Placid; she could bear to be advised by Mrs. Wiseacre; she could stand the scrutiny of Mrs. Downe Wright; and, hardest task of all” (throwing her arms around Mary’s neck), “she can bear with all my ill-humour and impertinence.”
“Have I then no fears
for thee, my mother?
Can I forget thy cares, from helpless years—
Thy tenderness for me? an eye still beamed