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Marcus of Heroncliff was nearly of an age with Vibert, and was perhaps still more popular with the heads of families, if not with the younger branches; for he had the advantage of an ample fortune. His person, also, was well formed, and his features were, for the most part, handsome; but the first had none of the grace of Vibert, and the last had a far different expression. His front, instead of being cast in that fine expansive mould, was contracted and low, and denoted more cunning than talent. His eye was too deeply sunk to indicate openness or generosity; and the tout ensemble gave an idea of sulkiness and double-dealing. It was held by many that this outward appearance was not a fair index of his disposition, which was said to be liberal and good natured. The only fault which they found with him was, that his conversation seemed over-much guarded for one of his age. He appeared unwilling to shew himself as he really was, and the greatest confidence which could be reposed in him produced no corresponding return. He walked in society like one who came to look on rather than to mix in it; and although his dependants lived in profusion, his table was rarely enlivened save by the dogs which had been the companions of his sport.
Vibert, whose character it was to judge always favourably, believed that his manner and mode of life proceeded from the consciousness of a faulty education, and a mistrust of his capacity to redeem lost time. He felt a friendliness for him, bordering upon compassion ; and
their near neighbourhood affording him frequent opportunities of throwing himself in his way, a considerable degree of intimacy was, in course of time, established between them. Vibert was right, as far as he went, in his estimate of his friend's mind; but he never detected its grand feature. Marcus was sensible that he was below par amongst those of his rank, and a proud heart made him bitterly jealous of all who had the advantage of him. It was this that gave verity to the expression which we have before noticed in his features ; made him a torment to himself; and rendered him incapable of sympathising with others. If a word were addressed to him, he believed that it was designed to afford an opportunity of ridiculing his reply; if contradiction was opposed to him, his visage blackened as though he felt that he had been insulted. Vibert, so open to examination, was the only person whom he did not suspect and dread. They hunted, shot, and went into society together; and it was observed that Marcus lost nothing by the contact. His confidence increased, his reserve in some degree disappeared, and Vibert secretly congratulated himself on having fashioned a battery to receive the flattering attentions from which he was anxious to escape. His ambition, indeed, was otherwise directed.
At a few miles distance from Hazledell was a pretty estate, called Silvermere, from a small lake, which reflected the front of the dwelling and the high grounds and rich timber behind it. It was inhabited by persons of consideration in the county, who were too happy at home to mix much with their neighbours. In fact, of a numerous family, there was but one daughter old enough to be introduced ; and she was of a beauty so rare, that there was little danger in keeping her upon hand until her sister was of an age to accompany her into society.
In this family, Vibert had been for some time a favourite, and had been fascinated on his first introduction to it. The beauty of whom we have made mention, and her sister, a year or two younger, were placed on either side of him ; and it was hard to know whether most to admire the wild tongue and laughing loveliness of the youngerthe fair-haired Edith ; or the retiring, but smiling dignity of the black eyes and pale fine features of the elder—the graceful Marion. They were, perhaps, both pleased to see the hero of the county conversations; but the younger one was the foremost to display it: without being a flirt, she was frank, and had the rare, natural gift of saying and doing what she pleased without danger of misconstruction.
The daring but feminine gaiety of this speedily dispelled from the mind of Vibert all idea of his recent acquaintance. On his making some mention of it, she assured him that, on her part, the acquaintance was by no means recent, for she had heard him discussed as often as any Knight of the Round Table.
“To place you upon an equality with us,” she said, “ I will tell you what sort of persons we are, and you
can judge whether at any future time, when your horse happens to knock up in our neighbourhood, and your dinner to be five miles off, you will condescend to take advantage of us. Papa and mamma, who you see have been a handsome couple, and would think themselves so still, if they had not such a well grown family, are by no means rigid, exacting, fault-finding and disagreeable, like papas and mammas in general. They have had the good taste to discover our precose talents, and profit by being our companions instead of our rulers, from the time we learned the art of spelling words of one syllable, and doing as we were not bidden. Instead of scolding us for our misdeeds, they used to reason with us as to their propriety, and generally got the worst of the argument; so, saving that in virtue of our old companionship we make them the confidants of most of our dilemmas, they have brought us up charmingly undutiful and selfwilled.
“As for Marion, she is a young lady erroneously supposed to be the pride of the family, and who presumes to regard me with a patronising complacency which seems to intimate an idea that, one of these days, I shall really learn to talk. She is a sedate personage, who tries to reflect upon things; but as the same deep study has shaded her brow as long as I can recollect, I imagine that she does not often come to a conclusion. Yet the falsely-styled pride of Silvermere does not blanch her cheeks in the unwholesome atmosphere of learned tomes;
nor by spinning the globes, nor by hunting the stars. Her character is a little touched with romance, and her study is how to mend a bad world, which continues ailing in spite of her. She gives all her consolation, and half of her pin-money, to a tribe of old dames and young damsels, who, under such patronage, only pull our hedges in greater security, or add fresh colours to the costume which is to flaunt triumphant on the fair day. The urchins whom she teaches “ to guess their lessons,” and buys off from aiding in the toils of their parents, are the most mischievous in the neighbourhood; and, in short, things go on worse and worse,
poor Marion does not know what to make of it. From the humbler world, so different from the Arcadian affair of her imagination, she turns with despair to the sphere in which she is herself move, and shudders at the prospect of disappointment there also. Where amongst such a community of young ladies battling for precedence, and young gentlemen vowing eternal constancy to a dozen at a time, can she look for the friend of her soul, or the more favoured being who is to console her for the want of one! Alas, the pride of Silvermere! with feelings so delicate that a gossamer might wound them, how can she accommodate herself to any world but that of the fairy tales which delighted our nursery, or expect tranquillity in any place but a cloister ?”
Vibert's calls were repeated often, each one affording a pretext for another, and each visit growing longer than