“You must know, Mr. Grey, that this is my favourite walk, and I therefore expect that it will be yours.”
“It cannot indeed fail to be such, the favourite as it alike is of nature and Mrs. Felix Lorraine.”
“On my word, a very pretty sentence! And who taught you, young sir, to bandy words so fairly?”
“I never can open my mouth, except in the presence of a woman,” observed Vivian, with impudent mendacity; and he looked interesting and innocent.
“Indeed! And what do you know about such wicked work as talking to women?” and here Mrs. Felix Lorraine imitated Vivian’s sentimental voice. “Do you know,” she continued, “I feel quite happy that you have come down here; I begin to think that we shall be great friends.”
“Nothing appears to me more evident,” said Vivian.
“How delicious is friendship!” exclaimed Mrs. Felix Lorraine; “delightful sentiment, that prevents life from being a curse! Have you a friend, Mr. Vivian Grey?”
“Before I answer that question, I should like to know what meaning Mrs. Felix Lorraine attaches to that important monosyllable, friend.”
“Oh, you want a definition. I hate definitions; and of all the definitions in the world, the one I have been most unfortunate in has been a definition of friendship; I might say” (and here her voice sunk), “I might say of all the sentiments in the world, friendship is the one which has been must fatal to me; but I must not inoculate you with my bad spirits, bad spirits are not for young blood like yours, leave them to old persons like myself.”
“Old!” said Vivian, in a proper tone of surprise.
“Old! ay old; how old do you think I am?”
“You may have seen twenty summers,” gallantly conjectured Vivian.
The lady looked pleased, and almost insinuated that she had seen one or two more.
“A clever woman,” thought Vivian, “but vain; I hardly know what to think of her.”
“Mr. Grey, I fear you find me in bad spirits to-day; but alas! I— I have cause. Although we see each other to-day for the first time, yet there is something in your manner, something in the expression of your eyes, that make me believe my happiness is not altogether a matter of indifference to you.” These words, uttered in one of the sweetest voices by which ever human being was fascinated, were slowly and deliberately spoken, as if it were intended that they should rest on the ear of the object to whom they were addressed.
“My dearest madam! it is impossible that I can have but one sentiment with regard to you, that of — ”
“Of what, Mr. Grey?”
“Of solicitude for your welfare.”
The lady gently took the arm of the young man, and then with an agitated voice, and a troubled spirit, dwelt upon the unhappiness of her lot, and the cruelty of her fortunes. Her husband’s indifference was the sorrowful theme of her lamentations; and she ended by asking Mr. Vivian Grey’s advice, as to the line of conduct which she should pursue with regard to him; first duly informing Vivian that this was the only time and he the only person to whom this subject had been ever mentioned.
“And why should I mention it here, and to whom? The Marquess is the best of men, but — ” and here she looked up in Vivian’s face, and spoke volumes; “and the Marchioness is the most amiable of women: at least, I suppose her lap-dog thinks so.”
The advice of Vivian was concise. He sent the husband to the devil in two seconds, and insisted upon the wife’s not thinking of him for another moment; and then the lady dried her eyes, and promised to do her best.
“And now,” said Mrs. Felix Lorraine, “I must talk about your own affairs. I think your plan excellent.”
“Yes, plan, sir! the Marquess has told me all. I have no head for politics, Mr. Grey; but if I cannot assist you in managing the nation, I perhaps may in managing the family, and my services are at your command. Believe me, you will have enough to do: there, I pledge you my troth. Do you think it a pretty hand?”
Vivian did think it a very pretty hand, and he performed due courtesies in a becoming style.
“And now, good even to you,” said the lady; “this little gate leads to my apartments. You will have no difficulty in finding your way back.” So saying, she disappeared.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07