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O mercy, God! what masking stuff is here?
Taming of the Shrew. "It is a very extraordinary thing, Susan, that the laundress never will send home my things right. Every week there is sure to be some mistake."
“I'm sure I'm very sorry, mem! I always desires her to be so particular.”
“She seems to pay no attention then to what you say to her. Last week she lost one of my best cambric handkerchiefs ; the week before she could not account for that pretty fichu, and now there's another article missing."
“ Indeed, mem! Why I counted the linen over when it came home, and it quite agreed with the bill. I'm sure the number was all right.”
“The number-yes-perhaps so ;—but what do you call this? This thing certainly can't be mine. It looks as if it belonged to a man!"
"Good gracious me, mem, and so it does! Well, I never! As sure as I live, it's a gentleman's-what's-his-name. How could it have got there ?"
“Through the woman's carelessness, of course. Look at it, Susan, and see if there's any name or mark upon it that you may discover whose it is.”
“Oh dear me, mem, I should not like to touch it. I knows nothing about gentlemen's wearing apparel."
“You know my things from other people's, I hope. Stuff and nonsense, do as I tell you. I dare say it belongs to the person's husband.”
“Oh no, mem, that it can't. They're very poor people, mem, He couldn't afford to wear any thing half so good as this. Look at the fineness of the linning, mem, and then the frill is real Bristles lace !"
“Indeed !-it's marked, I suppose."
“Oh, yes, mem, here in the corner. Gracious goodness, if it ain't a crownet most beautifully worked, and the letter N under it. To think of that !"
“ A coronet indeed ! and the letter N! Do you know who she washes for?
“Oh dear me, no, mem, -I never asked such a question.”
“ Well, make a point of asking now. Take the thing away and be sure you desire Mrs. Jones—if that's her name—to take it back directly, and send home my proper garment. It's perfectly ridiculous.”
The above colloquy took place one morning in the dressing-room of Mrs. Trevelyan, a very pretty young widow who occupied the first and second floors of 53, Harley-street. In early life-when barely eighteenshe had made a mariage de convenance, or rather it had been made for her, for she had no voice in the matter, an uncle, upon whom she depended being the sole arbiter of her fate. The gentleman who espoused her, in spite of his sixty years and disparities not less remarkable than age, looked forward to a long life of happiness with the beautiful Ethe
linde Maltravers, and such was the charm of her disposition, and the natural sweetness of her temper, that he might not perhaps have been deceived, but for one of those accidents to which flesh is unfortunately heir to, and which grow thicker round our path as it draws nearer to the goal: the fact is, he died one day of influenza, after a brief union of little more than a year.
That he was sincerely attached to Ethelinde, the manner in which he disposed of his property made sufficiently clear. He left her sole executrix, and the succession consisted of a fine landed estate in Devonshire, and the sum of twenty thousand pounds in the Three Per Cents. But Mrs. Trevelyan did not come into the property without opposition; the will was disputed by the nearest male relative, and a law-suit was the consequence. This was the cause of her being in a temporary residence in London at the time when the preceding conversation occurred, for had she consulted her own inclination her footsteps would never have wandered in the month of June from her beautiful groves and gardens at Torcombe, in spite of the attractions of the London season. In London, however, she was ; and much of her time was taken up in interviews with lawyers and men of business, so that except a late drive in the park, or an occasional party to dinner, or at the opera, Mrs. Trevelyan saw little of the gay life in which she was so well qualified, both by nature and accomplishments, to shine. Of the claimant to her late husband's estates, she knew nothing more than that he was a young man of rank who, like many of his class, was in want of money to meet expenses and relieve incumbrances, and she believed he was abroad, though probably hastening homeward as the period drew near for bringing the law-suit, in which he had embarked by the advice of friends, to a close. Though naturally unwilling to forego all the advantages of her position, which she had gained by her own exemplary conduct, and conscious at the same time that her retention of Mr. Trevelyan's bequest was no ruinous deprivation of the rights of the next heir, Ethelinde would willingly have agreed to an amicable compromise, by the advance of any reasonable sum of money to meet the alleged necessities of the young nobleman her antagonist. But the affair was so entirely in the hands of the lawyers that no opportunity offered of proposing terms to the principal, and, moreover, Mrs. Trevelyan was so uncertain of his “ whereabouts" that she could find no direct means of communicating with him.
Matters were, therefore, left to take their course.
Why, what, o' devil's name, tailor, call'st thou this ?—Taming of the Shrew.
HALF-PAST seven was striking by the clock of St. James's Church, as Lord Norham dismounted at the foot of the steps leading into the Albany in Piccadilly. After glancing admiringly at the beautiful thoroughbred bay which he had ridden, and examining, with some care, one of the animal's shoulders, which seemed less glossy than the rest of his coat, Lord Norham patted the “ poor fellow" on the neck, and with a word of instruction consigned him to his groom, and went in to dress for dinner.
“ This," he said, as he walked towards letter D., where he was housed in a friend's chambers; “ this is one of the great discomforts of civilised life! To be compelled to put on a formal dress for the hours which offer the greatest enjoyment; to case one's self up in a starched cravat and stiff coat when inclination would lead one rather to throw both aside. These are amongst the penalties one must pay for living in the society of great cities. Oh, the unspeakable comfort of wearing the loose, easy robes of the East, or the negligé of the shores of the Mediterranean! Oh, the delicious nights on the roof-tops of Damascus, on the deck of my own Gulnare, or in the patios of Grenada! What a contrast to the fettered existence to which I have been compelled to return! But, unluckily, one can obtain nothing in this world without money, and money I certainly want. I wish I could have lingered through another winter in Malta, in Greece, in Sicily, in dearest Naples—anywhere rather than have returned home, though it is the season! But those friends, those friends-who will take greater care of
do yourself, and who make you follow the customs of the world, accusing you of apathy, disregard of selfrespect, and want of consideration for others, if you fail to adopt their views or act up to their wishes ! But for them I should never have entered into this troublesome law-suit. What did it signify to me to whom my old cousin, Trevelyan, left his money! He had a right to do as he liked with it, for he made the greater part of it in India by the sweat of his brow. And forsooth, because he succeeded to a landless house-all his patrimony-and made it, by his wealth, the centre of a large estate, the lawyers must interpose and say that the nearest of kin has a claim. Not that I should have had the slightest objection to his property if he had left it to me in his will; on the contrary, for it would have prevented me from doing what, most likely, I shall be obliged one day to do, marry an heiress for the sake of her money; but I hate the bore of a law-suit, ripping up all one's private concerns, and laying them open to the staring public, besides a world of misconstruction as to conduct and motives. I know nothing of Mrs. Trevelyan, but from what I have heard, she always conducted herself very well, and, to say the least of it, she deserved some compensation for the sacrifice she made in marrying a man so old and yellow as my cousin. They say, too, she is very pretty ; it's the money makes people say that, I'll be bound. I'd lay a heavy wager she is not half so lovely as that fascinating creature who was so frightened to-day in the Park. I wonder who she can be! The carriage had only a simple cypher on the panels, and the servants were in the plainest possible livery, but she is certainly somebody! So much beauty and such dignity of manner cannot belong to a parvenue. It was lucky I rode up as I did, or that stupid coachman
would decidedly have upset the carriage into the Serpentine. I was afraid Conrad had hurt his shoulder, as he rushed past the tree into the water, but we got off with a few plunges and splashes. She looked pale certainly, but when she smiled her thanks her colour came back, and even my own loved Damascus roses are not brighter than the glow on her cheek.”
Lord Norham had by this time reached his apartments, where his attentive valet-de-chambre, an Italian, who had travelled with him for three years, was in readiness for his toilet. The young nobleman, in a somewhat abstracted mood, proceeded with his task, but his abstraction was not so great as to prevent him from making a sudden exclamation when he had got about half-way through the operation.
" Why what the devil's this, Antonio ?” he cried out, abruptly : “ I'm not going to a masquerade!" “ Milor!” ejaculated the astonished valet.
Yes, you may well stare; see here! Why it's something you must have picked up in the Levant. What a ridiculous shape! It looks as if it was made for a woman !" And Lord Norham, as he spoke, displayed a very delicately-wrought article of raiment of the finest linen with a frill running round the top of the most transparent cambric edged with the richest Valenciennes lace. It was, moreover, "curiously cut,” so as to give a very graceful contour to the upper part of the garment, and a little way down in the centre appeared two small crimson letters.
“ Corpo di bacco !” exclaimed the Italian, who was a married man, though he led a bachelor's life ; “è una camicia da donna !"
« À camicia is it ! How the deuce did it get here? You didn't open Mr. Percival's wardrobe by mistake; that, perhaps, would have accounted for it."
“ No, milor! I could not do such ting, for de Signore Percival take his keys along vid him ven he lend your lorship his shamber.”
“ How came it here then ?”
“Upon my vord, milor, I do not know. Perhaps de lavandaja shall have make some mistake, and send you home some lady's dress instead of your own.”
“Well, you must see about it. Meantime give me something that I can wear. Curious, to send me such a thing, and you not to take any notice of it ! It's very fine looking stuff ?" Oh,
yes, milor, I nevare see noting finer, and my vife, she have a great deal to do in dis vay at Napoli.” “ After all, the shape is a very pretty one,
I wonder who the owner is ! I thought I saw some initials ; what are they ?”
“ Eccole, due lettere !-two letters, E. T.-and some figures, a 2 and
“E. T. 24 !" mused Lord Norham; “I wonder who she is! It would be worth while trying to find out. I say, Antonio,” he continued, as he finished the bow of his cravat, for in spite of his objections to modern costume Lord Norham piqued himself on the skill of his tie, an accomplishment really acquired at Oxford,“make a point of asking the laundress what the lady's name is, and, do you hear, don't send the camicia back till I tell you."
“I shall recollect, milor," returned Antonio, with a smile. “ Your lorship’s cab is at de door.” And in a few seconds Lord Norham was whirling through the streets on his way to Grosvenor Square, the images of pretty women and pretty garments contending for mastery over the claims of salmis and suprêmes.
Look to behold this night,
Romeo and Juliet.
The Duke of Derbyshire gave a concert that night at Derbyshire House, at which all London was present. Ethelinde was amongst the guests, chaperoned by her aunt the Honourable Mrs. Rushworth. It was the first great party she had been to since she came to town, for she had refused to go out generally, pendente lite, but Derbyshire House is an exception to all rules: no one refuses to go there. It is not merely on account of the fashion which the duke's parties confer, the positive agrémens which they offer, nor the kind and courteous welcome given by the noble host to his guests, though these are nowhere to be met with in so great a degree, but because there is a charm about them, the secret of which has never yet been discovered, which so completely distinguishes them from all others. At Derbyshire House the light has no glare, the music no noise, the flowers breathe perfume only; every one smiles naturally; there is no gêne, no crowd ; all wear an aspect of happiness ; and as far as society alone can make people happy, they are so there.
In spite of the uncertainty of her position, Ethelinde also felt happy. She was young and beautiful, and the buoyancy of youthful spirits drove back those phantoms of the future which are ever drawing near to deform the prospect with their gloomy shadows. But hers, though she knew it not then, was an incomplete happiness, for she had not yet known the pain of loving, and until that pain be felt, happiness is merely an image reflected in a mirror. Was she destined to remain long in this state of ignorance ? A few minutes decided the question.
After listening with rapture to strains of the most exquisite music, Mrs. Rushworth and Ethelinde left the concert-room to wander through the range of beautiful saloons which extend on either hand, admiring at every step some charming picture, some perfect piece of sculpture, or some work of art as rich as it was rare. They had nearly completed the tour when their progress was slightly obstructed by the tall figure of a young man who was leaning thoughtfully in a doorway. The rustling sound of their dresses, however, recalled his attention, and he drew on one side to allow them to pass. In doing so, he turned towards them, and, to Ethelinde's surprise, she recognised the gentleman who had come to her assistance that afternoon in the park, and he beheld the lady of whom, in spite of himself, he had since then been constantly thinking.
Mrs. Trevelyan could do no less than bow in recognition of the service he had performed, and it was at least a necessity on the part of Lord Norham to speak.
“I hope,” he said, "you have not suffered from the flurry-I suppose I must not say fear—which your unruly horses excited to-day.”
“Oh, you are right to think I was afraid,” replied Ethelinde, earnestly, “ for really the situation seemed dangerous."
“I dread, then,” Lord Norham, smilingly returned, “ lest my ignorance or awkwardness should have contributed to your alarm.”
“On the contrary, I feel perfectly certain that, if you had not seized the horses' heads the carriage would have been overturned. very kind to venture so much for a mere stranger.”
“ That was a common impulse, though accident summoned me to do what I would most have preferred. But, after all, in society, in the world,—there are no strangers. It was decreed by fate that I should meet you here to-night; the same thing would have happened had we both been in Rome or in Cairo."
“Are you so much of a predestinarian ?" laughingly asked Ethelinde. “Does nothing happen but what is pre-ordained ?"
“Nothing of consequence."