“Duchess of Altamont, to be sure,” said Mary: “and then such a man! Oh! such a man!”
“For marriage is a matter
of more worth
Than to be dealt with in attorneyship.”
“ALLOW me to introduce to you, ladies, that most high and puissant Princess, her Grace the Duchess of Altamont, Marchioness of Norwood, Countess of Penrose, Baroness of, etc. etc.,” cried Lady Emily, as she threw open the drawing-room door, and ushered Mary into the presence of her mother and sister, with all the demonstrations of ceremony and respect. The one frowned-the other coloured.
“How vastly absurd!” cried Lady Juliana angrily.
“How vastly amusing!” cried Adelaide contemptuously.
“How vastly annoying!” cried Lady Emily; “to think that this little Highlander should bear a loft the ducal crown, while you and I, Adelaide, must sneak about in shabby straw bonnets,” throwing down her own in pretended indignation. “Then to think, which is almost certain, of her Viceroying it someday; and you and I, and all of us, being presented to her Majesty—having the honour of her hand to kiss—retreating from the royal presence upon our heels.
“Oh! ye Sylphs and Gnomes!” and she pretended to sink down overwhelmed with mortification.
Lady Emily delighted in tormenting her aunt and cousin, and she saw that she had completely succeeded. Mary was disliked by her mother, and despised by her sister; and any attempt to bring her forward, or raise her to a level with themselves, never failed to excite the indignation of both. The consequences were always felt by her in the increased ill-humour and disdainful indifference with which she was treated; and on the present occasion her injudicious friend was only brewing phials of wrath for her. But Lady Emily never looked to future consequences—present effect was all she cared for; and she went on to relate seriously, as she called it, but in the most exaggerated terms, the admiration which the Duke had expressed for Mary, and her own firm belief that she might be Duchess when she chose; “that is, after the expiry of his mourning for the late Duchess. Everyone knows that he is desirous of having a family, and is determined to marry the moment propriety permits; he is now decidedly on the look-out, for the year must be very near a close; and then, hail Duchess of Altamont!”
“I must desire, Lady Emily, you will find some other subject for your wit, and not fill the girl’s head with folly and nonsense; there is a great deal too much of both already.”
“Take care what you say of the future representative of majesty of this may be high treason yet; only I trust your Grace will be as generous as Henry the Fifth was, and that the Duchess of Altamont will not remember the offences committed against Mary Douglas.”
Lady Juliana, to whom a jest was an outrage, and raillery incomprehensible, now started up, and, as she passionately swept out of the room, threw down a stand of hyacinths, which, for the present, put a stop to Lady Emily’s diversion.