“No, that will not do,” said Henrietta. “Something must be actually wrong. Mamma, do say what you think.”
“I think, my dear, that woman has been mercifully endowed with an instinct which discerns unconsciously what is becoming or not, and whatever at the first moment jars on that sense is unbecoming in her own individual case. The fineness of the perception may be destroyed by education, or wilful dulling, and often on one point it may be silent, though alive and active on others.”
“Yes,” said Henrietta, as if satisfied.
“And above all,” said her mother, “it, like other gifts, grows dangerous, it may become affectation.”
“Pruding,” said Beatrice, “showing openly that you like it to be observed how prudent and proper you are.”
“Whereas true delicacy would shrink from showing that it is conscious of anything wrong,” said Henrietta. “Wrong I do not exactly mean, but something on the borders of it.”
“Yes,” said Aunt Mary, “and above all, do not let this delicacy show itself in the carping at other people, which only exalts our own opinion of ourselves, and very soon turns into ’judging our neighbour.’”
“But there is false delicacy, aunt.”
“Yes, but it would be false kindness to enter on a fresh discussion tonight, when you ought to be fast asleep.”
The Queen Bee, usually undisputed sovereign of Knight Sutton, found in her cousin Roger a formidable rival. As son and heir, elder brother, and newly arrived after five years’ absence, he had considerable claims to attention, and his high spirits, sailor manners, sea stories, and bold open temper, were in themselves such charms that it was no wonder that Frederick and Alexander were seduced from their allegiance, and even grandpapa was less than usual the property of his granddaughter.
This, however, she might have endured, had the sailor himself been amenable to her power, for his glories would then have become hers, and have afforded her further opportunities of coquetting with Fred. But between Roger and her there was little in common: he was not, and never had been, accessible to her influence; he regarded her, indeed, with all the open-hearted affection of cousinly intercourse, but for the rest, thought her much too clever for him, and far less attractive than either Henrietta or Jessie.
If she would, Henrietta might have secured his devotion, for he was struck with her beauty, and considered it a matter of credit to himself to engross the prettiest person present. Had Beatrice been in her place, it may be doubted how far love of power, and the pleasure of teasing, might have carried her out of her natural character in the style that suited him; but Henrietta was too simple, and her mind too full of her own affairs even to perceive that he distinguished her. She liked him, but she showed none of the little airs which