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She smiled. "0, Frederick, Frederick, what an enigma you are! but, as you have assured me that you are not angry with me, I will rest contented.” So saying, she arose, adding, that she wished to return home, lest her mother should be alarmed.
There was no alternative for Frederick; he could not but accompany
her. As they continued to walk together, the young people seemed both to become more easy; and Augusta, purposely leading the way to the subject of her proposed marriage with Robert, said, “I do not think, Frederick, I ever can bring my mind to consent to it.”
“You wonder, perhaps, at my saying so," she added : “but, though I have some friendship for Robert, I dread his violent temper; I fear I could not be happy with him.”
“You must judge for yourself in this respect," said Frederick. “No one, in such cases," added he, decide for another."
“Not in points of mere taste, I grant,” said Augusta; “but every one may judge of the effects of a violent temper. Tell me, Frederick, what do you think of Robert Lambert? Is he a man calculated to make a woman happy?”
Frederick had never felt a stronger struggle in his mind than at this moment. Robert had lately behaved to him with extreme insolence, and it was now in his power to take a signal revenge: but he hesitated not a moment on the subject, secretly praying that he might be directed to say what was best on the occasion. He turned to Augusta, by whose side he was walking, and, looking steadily at her, “You ask my opinion, dear Lady Augusta,” he said. “I will give it you sincerely -I think there is much that is valuable in Robert Lambert; and I think that a wise, affectionate, and virtuous wife, might render him at once, humanly speaking, a good and happy man. He has had great difficulties to encounter, which may account for what seems unpleasing in his character. But I have this persuasion, that if you should condescend to honour him with your hand, you would have no reason to repent of your choice."
“You seem very warm in Robert Lambert's cause,”
said Lady Augusta, reddening; "you seem very anxious to see me married to him."
“I wish to see you happy, and Robert also,” answered Frederick.
“ Then, if you wish my happiness, you must not unite me with Robert Lambert," returned the lady, pettishly.
“ And wherefore?” asked Frederick.
“Because I have no proper regard for him,” she replied. “I dislike him; I like others better.”
“O! that alters the case," replied Frederick. “If you actually like any other person better, no friend of yours, or of Robert Lambert's, could wish you united.”
Lady Augusta blushed. She had said more than she meant to do, and she was at that moment unable to speak from vexation.
Frederick looked at her, and a tear was trickling down her cheek. “My dear Lady Augusta, my sister, he said, “have I offended you in pleading for Robert? But you
introduced the subject yourself: I never should have ventured on such a liberty.”
“Nobody accuses you, Frederick,” replied Augusta, “of being impertinent, interfering, or forward ; your friends, perhaps, think you just the reverse, and would sooner charge you with distance and coldness: but at any rate, Mr. Falconer, Robert Lambert is much obliged to you, and it is not your fault if I do not marry him.'
“And make him the happiest of men?” said Frederick.
“No, Mr. Falconer," said the young lady, “I should never make Robert happy, were I to marry him. Unless persons are happy themselves, they can never administer to the happiness of another."
The conversation was now becoming every moment increasingly painful to Frederick, and he hardly knew how to carry it on, or how to control his own uneasy feelings; when he was relieved by the appearance of Mr. Day, who, having met Lady Augusta's servant and horses, and heard of the rencontre in the wood, hastened to put a period to a téte-à-tête of which he dreaded the consequence.
Mr Day and Frederick attended the young lady to the Castle-gate, where they took leave, notwithstanding the entreaties of Augusta, who would have had them spend the rest of the day with her parents.
Some slight rumour of Lady Augusta's accident, and of the adventure in the wood, had reached the Castle before her arrival.
Lady V was apxious to hear if her daughter were hurt. But as soon as Augusta had assured her parents that she had escaped entirely uninjured, the subject was dropped, as if by general consent, nor was the least reference inade to it either by the earl or Lady V- during the rest of the day.
This circumstance, in connexion with some others which she had observed, rather puzzled Augusta, and led her to form certain conjectures relative to Frederick, of a nature quite different from any that had previously occurred to her mind. She now thought she saw at once the reason of Frederick's being so entirely kept in the back-ground, and of the apparent coldness of her family towards him; and she also concluded that she had now found the clew to his excessive embarrassment, when she questioned him in the wood on the cause of his withdrawing himself so entirely from the companions of his youth. • However,” said the young lady to herself, “all these arts are totally unnecessary. I ought never to have seen Frederick, if I was ever to become Robert Lambert's wife.”
It happened, that Sir Anthony and Robert were to dine at the Castle on that very day. Whenever Robert was present, Augusta made a point of being particularly silent and reserved : and as she had almost resolved never to accept of the young man, we cannot blame her for the adoption of this line of conduct; nay, perhaps it would have been better if she had acted in a manner still more decided, and put an end to the hopes of Robert, through her parents, even before he had made her an open declaration of his regard. But Augusta was not a pious young woman; she had great vanity, and some degree of pride. The immense fortune to which Robert was heir had many attractions in her estimation; and even at the moment when her heart was powerfully inclined towards another person, she felt it almost impossible for her to renounce those elegancies and that splendour which would attend the wife of Robert Lambert.
Another reason which made her unwilling to destroy at once all the hopes that Robert cherished of obtaining
her was, that she plainly saw there was a person who was even more anxious than herself to become the mistress of the immense property to which'he was heir; and this person was no other than Lady Frances Courbillon, who was secretly detested by Augusta, as one who dared to contend with her for the palm of universal admiration, although she was sufficiently polite to conceal this dislike from every person but the object of it.
Lady Frances was, however, fully convinced of Augusta's dislike of her; but, as it did not suit her, at that time, to appear to recognize this feeling of her cousin's, she affected to have it supposed that she believed herself to be the object of her tender regard. She therefore always addressed her in the petted language of spoiled child, she prattled to her apparently with the most amiable simplicity, she pretended to open all her heart to her, and even to make confession of her faults, and ask her advice.
It was in the evening of the same day on which the adventure took place in the wood, (while the ladies were assembled in the drawing-room, and at the moment when the gentlemen might be expected to join them,) that Lady Frances, seeing her cousin seated in a pensive attitude, in one of the Gothic windows of the apartment, drew towards her, and, placing herself by her side, began, in apparently the most undesigning way in the world, to amuse her with some of her little expressions of fondness, and professions of pretty helplessness and want of prudence. “Dear Augusta,” she said, “I have been so giddy, so very thoughtless; I have affronted that good lady who sits by Lady V-: I don't recollect her name; but the lady in the wreath of white
Well, I have affronted her, past forgiveness, by asking her from what shop in the town she got her rouge; adding, that I thought the tinge beautiful. And what do you think she declared to me?—that she never used rouge; that the colour was entirely her own, perfectly natural; and that she would not use rouge on any account whatever.”
“But don't you know, Lady Frances,” said Augusta, “that English ladies don't like to have it supposed that they rouge ?”
“0, I know it; that is, I should know it: but I have
been so long abroad, where, with all their faults, they are as open and undisguised in this respect as in many others, that I had forgotten all your punctilios. One is not fit for England when one has been for any length of time abroad: but you must tell me, my dear, when I transgress- when am injudicious; you, who are all dignity, all decorum, all sweetness.” So saying, she laid her hand, with an expression of fondness, on Augusta's arm, and added, “But perhaps I tire you; you look fatigued. I fear you have not overcome your feelings of alarm. Well, we have reason to be very
thankful that you were not hurt. But I have not heard how it was: let me know something of this knight of the wood."
Lady Frances was aware, though Augusta was not, that within the last minute the gentlemen had entered the room, and that Robert Lambert had advanced towards the place where they were seated, and was standing in the rear of their little couch, which was turned towards the window with its back to the company, in that style of elegant carelessness that has been in fashion for some years past; and she had timed her question so accurately, that the first words which Robert heard as he approached were, “Now do let me hear something of this knight of the wood :” to which request Lady Frances added, “You cannot think, Augusta, in what glowing colours I have painted this hero, this youth who seemed to drop from the clouds so apropos, at the moment when the danger was most urgent.
I know that he must be tall and fait à peindre; but I have been at a loss, whether to give him dark blue eyes or black, for on this circumstance, you know, the colour of his hair and complexion must depend. I have been used to dark hair in France, but, as our hero is an Englishman, I am inclined to give him the blue eyes and the brown hair of the Saxon; and I fancy him rushing from the trees, at the instant when you were in the most imminent danger, and seizing the bridle of your rampant steed, &c. &c.”
“O, Frances,” said Lady Augusta, interrupting her, “what nonsense you are talking.”
“Nonsense!” said Lady Frances, “what is life without nonsense ? But, seriously, who is the young man