“You quite misunderstand me,” said Mary, with increasing vexation. “I did not mean to say anything against Colonel Lennox. I did not wish—I never once thought whether he liked me or not.”
“That says very little for you. You must have a very bad taste if you care more for the mother’s liking than the son’s. Then what vexes you so much? Is it at having made the discovery that your good old friend is a—a—I beg your pardon—a bit of a goose? Well, never mind—since you don’t care for the man, there’s no mischief done. You have only to change the dramatis personae. Fancy that you overheard mere commending you to Dr. Redgill for your skill in cookery—you’d only have laughed at that—so why should you weep at t’other. However, one thing I must tell you, whether it adds to your grief or not, I did remark that Charles Lennox looked very lover-like towards you; and, indeed, this sentimental passion he has put you in becomes you excessively. I really never saw you look so handsome before—it has given an energy and esprit to your countenance, which is the only thing it wants. You are very much obliged to him, were it only for having kindled such a fire in your eyes, and raised such a carnation in your cheek. It would have been long before good larmoyante, Mrs. Lennox would have done as much for you. I shouldn’t wonder were he to fall in love with you after all.”
Lady Emily little thought how near she was the the truth when she talked in this random way. Colonel Lennox saw the wound he had innocently inflicted on Mary’s feelings, and a warmer sentiment than any he had hitherto experienced had sprung up in his heart. Formerly he had merely looked upon her as an amiable sweet-tempered girl; but when he saw he roused to a sense of her own dignity, and marked the struggle betwixt tender affection and offended delicacy he, formed a higher estimate of her character, and a spark was kindled that wanted but opportunity to blaze into a flame, pure and bright as the shrine on which it burned. Such is the waywardness and price of even the best affections of the human breast.
“C’est a moi de choisir mon gendre; Toi, tel qu’il est, c’est a it toi de Ie prendre; De vous aimer, si vous pouvez tous deux, Et d’obeir a tout ce que je veux.” L’Enfant Prodigue.
“AND now,” said Lady Emily, “that I have listened to your story, which after all is really a very poor affair, do you listen to mine. The heroine in both is the same, but the hero differs by some degrees. Know, then, as the ladies in novels say, that the day which saw you depart from Beech Park was the day destined to decide your fate, and dash your hopes, if ever you had any, of becoming Duchess of Altamont. The Duke arrived, I know, for the express purpose of being enamoured of you; but, alas! you were not. And there was Adelaide so sweet—so gracious—so beautiful—the poor gull was caught, and is now, I really believe, as much in love as it is in the nature of a stupid man to be. I must own she has played her part admirably, and has made more use of her time than I, with all my rapidity, could have thought possible. In fact, the Duke is now all but her declared lover, and that merely stands upon a point of punctilio.”