The first midnight.
Well, if anything be damned,
It will be twelve o’clock at night; that twelve
Will never scape.
Cyril tourneur.—The Revenger’s Tragedy.
Letters arrived at Arnstead generally while the family was seated at breakfast. One morning, the post-bag having been brought in, Mr. Arnold opened it himself, according to his unvarying custom; and found, amongst other letters, one in an old-fashioned female hand, which, after reading it, he passed to Euphra.
“You remember Mrs. Elton, Euphra?”
“Quite well, uncle — a dear old lady!”
But the expression which passed across her face, rather belied her words, and seemed to Hugh to mean: “I hope she is not going to bore us again.”
She took care, however, to show no sign with regard to the contents of the letter; but, laying it beside her on the table, waited to hear her uncle’s mind first.
“Poor, dear girl!” said he at last. “You must try to make her as comfortable as you can. There is consumption in the family, you see,” he added, with a meditative sigh.
“Of course I will, uncle. Poor girl! I hope there is not much amiss though, after all.”
But, as she spoke, an irrepressible flash of dislike, or displeasure of some sort, broke from her eyes, and vanished. No one but himself seemed to Hugh to have observed it; but he was learned in the lady’s eyes, and their weather-signs. Mr. Arnold rose from the table and left the room, apparently to write an answer to the letter. As soon as he was gone, Euphra gave the letter to Hugh. He read as follows: —
“My dear Mr. Arnold,
“Will you extend the hospitality of your beautiful house to me and my young friend, who has the honour of being your relative, Lady Emily Lake? For some time her health has seemed to be failing, and she is ordered to spend the winter abroad, at Pau, or somewhere in the south of France. It is considered highly desirable that in the meantime she should have as much change as possible; and it occurred to me, remembering the charming month I passed at your seat, and recalling the fact that Lady Emily is cousin only once removed to your late most lovely wife, that there would be no impropriety in writing to ask you whether you could, without inconvenience, receive us as your guests for a short time. I say us; for the dear girl has taken such a fancy to unworthy old me, that she almost refuses to set out without me. Not to be cumbersome either to our friends or ourselves, we shall bring only our two maids, and a steady old man-servant, who has been in my family for many years. — I trust you will not hesitate to refuse my request, should I happen to have made it at an unsuitable season; assured, as you must be, that we cannot attribute the refusal to any lack of hospitality or friendliness on your part. At all events, I trust you will excuse what seems — now I have committed it to paper — a great liberty, I hope not presumption, on mine. I am, my dear Mr. Arnold,