The Virginians, by William Makepeace Thackeray


A Little Innocent

George Warrington has mentioned in the letter just quoted, that in spite of my Lord Castlewood’s previous play transactions with Harry, my lord and George remained friends, and met on terms of good kinsmanship. Did George want franks, or an introduction at court, or a place in the House of Lords to hear a debate, his cousin was always ready to serve him, was a pleasant and witty companion, and would do anything which might promote his relative’s interests, provided his own were not prejudiced.

Now he even went so far as to promise that he would do his best with the people in power to provide a place for Mr. George Warrington, who daily showed a greater disinclination to return to his native country, and place himself once more under the maternal servitude. George had not merely a sentimental motive for remaining in England: the pursuits and society of London pleased him infinitely better than any which he could have at home. A planter’s life of idleness might have suited him, could he have enjoyed independence with it. But in Virginia he was only the first, and, as he thought, the worst treated, of his mother’s subjects. He dreaded to think of returning with his young bride to his home, and of the life which she would be destined to lead there. Better freedom and poverty in England, with congenial society, and a hope perchance of future distinction, than the wearisome routine of home life, the tedious subordination, the frequent bickerings, the certain jealousies and differences of opinion, to which he must subject his wife so soon as they turned their faces homeward.

So Lord Castlewood’s promise to provide for George was very eagerly accepted by the Virginian. My lord had not provided very well for his own brother to be sure, and his own position, peer as he was, was anything but enviable; but we believe what we wish to believe, and George Warrington chose to put great stress upon his kinsman’s offer of patronage. Unlike the Warrington family, Lord Castlewood was quite gracious when he was made acquainted with George’s engagement to Miss Lambert; came to wait upon her parents; praised George to them and the young lady to George, and made himself so prodigiously agreeable in their company that these charitable folk forgot his bad reputation, and thought it must be a very wicked and scandalous world which maligned him. He said, indeed, that he was improved in their society, as every man must be who came into it. Among them he was witty, lively, good for the time being. He left his wickedness and worldliness with his cloak in the hall, and only put them on again when he stepped into his chair. What worldling on life’s voyage does not know of some such harbour of rest and calm, some haven where he puts in out of the storm? Very likely Lord Castlewood was actually better whilst he stayed with those good people, and for the time being at least no hypocrite.

And, I dare say, the Lambert elders thought no worse of his lordship for openly proclaiming his admiration for Miss Theo. It was quite genuine, and he did not profess it was very deep.

“It don’t affect my sleep, and I am not going to break my heart because Miss Lambert prefers somebody else,” he remarked. Only I wish when I was a young man, madam, I had had the good fortune to meet with somebody so innocent and good as your daughter. I might have been kept out of a deal of harm’s way: but innocent and good young women did not fall into mine, or they would have made me better than I am.”

“Sure, my lord, it is not too late!” says Mrs. Lambert, very softly.

Castlewood started back, misunderstanding her.

“Not too late, madam?” he inquired.

She blushed. “It is too late to court my dear daughter, my lord, but not too late to repent. We read, ’tis never too late to do that. If others have been received at the eleventh hour, is there any reason why you should give up hope?”

“Perhaps I know my own heart better than you,” he says in a plaintive tone. “I can speak French and German very well, and why? because I was taught both in the nursery. A man who learns them late can never get the practice of them on his tongue. And so ’tis the case with goodness, I can’t learn it at my age. I can only see others practise it, and admire them. When I am on — on the side opposite to Lazarus, will Miss Theo give me a drop of water? Don’t frown! I know I shall be there, Mrs. Lambert. Some folks are doomed so; and I think some of our family are amongst these. Some people are vacillating, and one hardly knows which way the scale will turn. Whereas some are predestined angels, and fly Heavenwards naturally, and do what they will.”

“Oh, my lord, and why should you not be of the predestined? Whilst there is a day left — whilst there is an hour — there is hope!” says the fond matron.

“I know what is passing in your mind, my dear madam — nay, I read your prayers in your looks; but how can they avail?” Lord Castlewood asked sadly. “You don’t know all, my good lady. You don’t know what a life ours is of the world; how early it began; how selfish Nature, and then necessity and education, have made us. It is Fate holds the reins of the chariot, and we can’t escape our doom. I know better: I see better people: I go my own way. My own? No, not mine — Fate’s: and it is not altogether without pity for us, since it allows us, from time to time, to see such people as you.” And he took her hand and looked her full in the face, and bowed with a melancholy grace. Every word he said was true. No greater error than to suppose that weak and bad men are strangers to good feelings, or deficient of sensibility. Only the good feeling does not last — nay, the tears are a kind of debauch of sentiment, as old libertines are said to find that the tears and grief of their victims add a zest to their pleasure. But Mrs. Lambert knew little of what was passing in this man’s mind (how should she?), and so prayed for him with the fond persistence of woman. He was much better — yes, much better than he was supposed to be. He was a most interesting man. There were hopes, why should there not be the most precious hopes for him still?

It remains to be seen which of the two speakers formed the correct estimate of my lord’s character. Meanwhile, if the gentleman was right, the lady was mollified, and her kind wishes and prayers for this experienced sinner’s repentance, if they were of no avail for his amendment, at least could do him no harm. Kind-souled doctors (and what good woman is not of the faculty?) look after a reprobate as physicians after a perilous case. When the patient is converted to health their interest ceases in him, and they drive to feel pulses and prescribe medicines elsewhere.

But, while the malady was under treatment, our kind lady could not see too much of her sick man. Quite an intimacy sprung up between my Lord Castlewood and the Lamberts. I am not sure that some worldly views might not suit even with good Mrs. Lambert’s spiritual plans (for who knows into what pure Eden, though guarded by flaming-sworded angels, worldliness will not creep?). Her son was about to take orders. My Lord Castlewood feared very much that his present chaplain’s, Mr. Sampson’s, careless life and heterodox conversations might lead him to give up his chaplaincy: in which case, my lord hinted the little modest cure would be vacant, and at the service of some young divine of good principles and good manners, who would be content with a small stipend, and a small but friendly congregation.

Thus an acquaintance was established between the two families, and the ladies of Castlewood, always on their good behaviour, came more than once to make their curtseys in Mrs. Lambert’s drawing-room. They were civil to the parents and the young ladies. My Lady Castlewood’s card assemblies were open to Mrs. Lambert and her family. There was play, certainly — all the world played — his Majesty, the Bishops, every Peer and Peeress in the land. But nobody need play who did not like; and surely nobody need have scruples regarding the practice, when such august and venerable personages were daily found to abet it. More than once Mrs. Lambert made her appearance at her ladyship’s routs, and was grateful for the welcome which she received, and pleased with the admiration which her daughters excited.

Mention has been made, in a foregoing page and letter, of an American family of Dutch extraction, who had come to England very strongly recommended by Madam Esmond, their Virginian neighbour, to her sons in Europe. The views expressed in Madam Esmond’s letter were so clear, that that arch match-maker, Mrs. Lambert, could not but understand them. As for George, he was engaged already; as for poor Hetty’s flame, Harry, he was gone on service, for which circumstance Hetty’s mother was not very sorry perhaps. She laughingly told George that he ought to obey his mamma’s injunctions, break off his engagement with Theo, and make up to Miss Lydia, who was ten times — ten times! a hundred times as rich as her poor girl, and certainly much handsomer. “Yes, indeed,” says George, “that I own: she is handsomer, and she is richer, and perhaps even cleverer.” (All which praises Mrs. Lambert but half liked.) “But say she is all these? So is Mr. Johnson much cleverer than I am: so is, whom shall we say? — so is Mr. Hagan the actor much taller and handsomer: so is Sir James Lowther much richer: yet pray, ma’am, do you suppose I am going to be jealous of any one of these three, or think my Theo would jilt me for their sakes? Why should I not allow that Miss Lydia is handsomer, then? and richer, and clever, too, and lively, and well bred, if you insist on it, and an angel if you will have it so? Theo is not afraid: art thou, child?”

“No, George,” says Theo, with such an honest look of the eyes as would convince any scepticism, or shame any jealousy. And if, after this pair of speeches, mamma takes occasion to leave the room for a minute to fetch her scissors, or her thimble, or a bootjack and slippers, or the cross and ball on the top of St. Paul’s, or her pocket-handkerchief which she has forgotten in the parlour — if, I say, Mrs. Lambert quits the room on any errand or pretext, natural or preposterous, I shall not be in the least surprised, if, at her return in a couple of minutes, she finds George in near proximity to Theo, who has a heightened colour, and whose hand George is just dropping — I shall not have the least idea of what they have been doing. Have you, madam? Have you any remembrance of what used to happen when Mr. Grundy came a-courting? Are you, who, after all, were not in the room with our young people, going to cry out fie and for shame? Then fie and for shame upon you, Mrs. Grundy!

Well, Harry being away, and Theo and George irrevocably engaged, so that there was no possibility of bringing Madam Esmond’s little plans to bear, why should not Mrs. Lambert have plans of her own; and if a rich, handsome, beautiful little wife should fall in his way, why should not Jack Lambert from Oxford have her? So thinks mamma, who was always thinking of marrying and giving in marriage, and so she prattles to General Lambert, who, as usual, calls her a goose for her pains. At any rate, Mrs. Lambert says beauty and riches are no objection; at any rate, Madam Esmond desired that this family should be hospitably entertained, and it was not her fault that Harry was gone away to Canada. Would the General wish him to come back; leave the army and his reputation, perhaps; yes, and come to England and marry this American, and break poor Hetty’s heart — would her father wish that? Let us spare further arguments, and not be so rude as to hint that Mr. Lambert was in the right in calling a fond wife by the name of that absurd splay-footed bird, annually sacrificed at the Feast of St. Michael.

In those early days, there were vast distinctions of rank drawn between the court and city people: and Mr. Van den Bosch, when he first came to London, scarcely associated with any but the latter sort. He had a lodging near his agent’s in the city. When his pretty girl came from school for a holiday, he took her an airing to Islington or Highgate, or an occasional promenade in the Artillery Ground in Bunhill Fields. They went to that Baptist meeting-house in Finsbury Fields, and on the sly to see Mr. Garrick once or twice, or that funny rogue Mr. Foote, at the Little Theatre. To go to a Lord Mayor’s feast was a treat to the gentleman of the highest order: and to dance with a young mercer at Hampstead Assembly. gave the utmost delight to the young lady. When George first went to wait upon his mother’s friends, he found our old acquaintance, Mr. Draper, of the Temple, sedulous in his attentions to her; and the lawyer, who was married, told Mr. Warrington to look out, as the young lady had a plumb to her fortune. Mr. Drabshaw, a young Quaker gentleman, and nephew of Mr. Trail, Madam Esmond’s Bristol agent, was also in constant attendance upon the young lady, and in dreadful alarm and suspicion when Mr. Warrington first made his appearance. Wishing to do honour to his mother’s neighbours, Mr. Warrington invited them to an entertainment at his own apartments; and who should so naturally meet them as his friends from Soho? Not one of them but was forced to own little Miss Lydia’s beauty. She had the foot of a fairy: the arms, neck, flashing eyes of a little brown huntress of Diana. She had brought a little plaintive accent from home with her — of which I, moi qui vous parle, have heard a hundred gross Cockney imitations, and watched as many absurd disguises, and which I say (in moderation) is charming in the mouth of a charming woman. Who sets up to say No, forsooth? You dear Miss Whittington, with whose h’s fate has dealt so unkindly? — you lovely Miss Nicol Jarvie, with your northern burr? — you beautiful Miss Molony, with your Dame Street warble? All accents are pretty from pretty lips, and who shall set the standard up? Shall it be a rose, or a thistle, or a shamrock, or a star and stripe? As for Miss Lydia’s accent, I have no doubt it was not odious even from the first day when she set foot on these polite shores, otherwise Mr. Warrington, as a man of taste, had certainly disapproved of her manner of talking, and her schoolmistress at Kensington had not done her duty by her pupil.

After the six months were over, during which, according to her father’s calculation, she was to learn all the accomplishments procurable at the Kensington Academy, Miss Lydia returned nothing loth to her grandfather, and took her place in the world. A narrow world at first it was to her; but she was a resolute little person, and resolved to enlarge her sphere in society; and whither she chose to lead the way, the obedient grandfather followed her. He had been thwarted himself in early life, he said, and little good came of the severity he underwent. He had thwarted his own son, who had turned out but ill. As for little Lyddy, he was determined she should have as pleasant a life as was possible. Did not Mr. George think he was right? ’Twas said in Virginia — he did not know with what reason — that the young gentlemen of Castlewood had been happier if Madam Esmond had allowed them a little of their own way. George could not gainsay this public rumour, or think of inducing the benevolent old gentleman to alter his plans respecting his granddaughter. As for the Lambert family, how could they do otherwise than welcome the kind old man, the parent so tender and liberal, Madam Esmond’s good friend?

When Miss came from school, grandpapa removed from Monument Yard to an elegant house in Bloomsbury; whither they were followed at first by their city friends. There were merchants from Virginia Walk; there were worthy tradesmen, with whom the worthy old merchant had dealings; there were their ladies and daughters and sons, who were all highly gracious to Miss Lyddy. It would be a long task to describe how these disappeared one by one — how there were no more junketings at Belsize, or trips to Highgate, or Saturday jaunts to Deputy Higgs’ villa, Highbury, or country-dances at honest Mr. Lutestring’s house at Hackney. Even the Sunday practice was changed; and, oh, abomination of abominations! Mr. Van den Bosch left Bethesda Chapel in Bunhill Row, and actually took a pew in Queen Square Church!

Queen Square Church, and Mr. George Warrington lived hard by in Southampton Row! ’Twas easy to see at whom Miss Lyddy was setting her cap, and Mr. Draper, who had been full of her and her grandfather’s praises before, now took occasion to warn Mr. George, and gave him very different reports regarding Mr. Van den Bosch to those which had first been current. Mr. Van d. B., for all he bragged so of his Dutch parentage, came from Albany, and was nobody’s son at all. He had made his money by land speculation, or by privateering (which was uncommonly like piracy), and by the Guinea trade. His son had married — if marriage it could be called, which was very doubtful — an assigned servant, and had been cut off by his father, and had taken to bad courses, and had died, luckily for himself, in his own bed.

“Mr. Draper has told you bad tales about me,” said the placid old gentleman to George. “Very likely we are all sinners, and some evil may be truly said of all of us, with a great deal more that is untrue. Did he tell you that my son was unhappy with me? I told you so too. Did he bring you wicked stories about my family? He liked it so well that he wanted to marry my Lyddy to his brother. Heaven bless her! I have had a many offers for her. And you are the young gentleman I should have chose for her, and I like you none the worse because you prefer somebody else; though what you can see in your Miss, as compared to my Lyddy, begging your honour’s pardon, I am at a loss to understand.”

“There is no accounting for tastes, my good sir,” said Mr. George, with his most superb air.

“No, sir; ’tis a wonder of nature, and daily happens. When I kept store to Albany, there was one of your tiptop gentry there that might have married my dear daughter that was alive then, and with a pretty piece of money, whereby — for her father and I had quarrelled — Miss Lyddy would have been a pauper, you see: and in place of my beautiful Bella, my gentleman chooses a little homely creature, no prettier than your Miss, and without a dollar to her fortune. The more fool he, saving your presence, Mr. George.”

“Pray don’t save my presence, my good sir,” says George, laughing. “I suppose the gentleman’s word was given to the other lady, and he had seen her first, and hence was indifferent to your charming daughter.”

“I suppose when a young fellow gives his word to perform a cursed piece of folly, he always sticks to it, my dear sir, begging your pardon. But Lord, Lord, what am I speaking of? I am aspeaking of twenty year ago. I was well-to-do then, but I may say Heaven has blessed my store, and I am three times as well off now. Ask my agents how much they will give for Joseph Van den Bosch’s bill at six months on New York — or at sight may be for forty thousand pound? I warrant they will discount the paper.”

“Happy he who has the bill, sir!” says George, with a bow, not a little amused with the candour of the old gentleman.

“Lord, Lord, how mercenary you young men are!” cries the elder, simply. “Always thinking about money nowadays! Happy he who has the girl, I should say — the money ain’t the question, my dear sir, when it goes along with such a lovely young thing as that — though I humbly say it, who oughtn’t, and who am her fond silly old grandfather. We were talking about you, Lyddy darling — come, give me a kiss, my blessing! We were talking about you, and Mr. George said he wouldn’t take you with all the money your poor old grandfather can give you.”

“Nay, sir,” says George.

“Well, you are right to say nay, for I didn’t say all, that’s the truth. My Blessing will have a deal more than that trifle I spoke of, when it shall please Heaven to remove me out of this world to a better — when poor old Gappy is gone, Lyddy will be a rich little Lyddy, that she will. But she don’t wish me to go yet, does she?”

“Oh, you darling dear grandpapa!” says Lyddy.

“This young gentleman won’t have you.” (Lyddy looks an arch “Thank you, sir,” from her brown eyes.) “But at any rate he is honest, and that is more than we can say of some folks in this wicked London. Oh, Lord, Lord, how mercenary they are! Do you know that yonder, in Monument Yard, they were all at my poor little Blessing for her money? There was Tom Lutestring; there was Mr. Draper, your precious lawyer; there was actually Mr. Tubbs, of Bethesda Chapel; and they must all come buzzing like flies round the honey-pot. That is why we came out of the quarter where my brother-tradesmen live.”

“To avoid the flies — to be sure!” says Miss Lydia, tossing up her little head.

“Where my brother-tradesmen live,” continues the old gentleman. “Else who am I to think of consorting with your grandees and fine folk? I don’t care for the fashions, Mr. George; I don’t care for plays and poetry, begging your honour’s pardon; I never went to a play in my life, but to please this little minx.”

“Oh, sir, ’twas lovely! and I cried so, didn’t I, grandpapa?” says the child.

“At what, my dear?”

“At — at Mr. Warrington’s play, grandpapa.”

“Did you, my dear? I dare say; I dare say! It was mail day: and my letters had come in: and my ship the Lovely Lyddy had just come into Falmouth; and Captain Joyce reported how he had mercifully escaped a French privateer; and my head was so full of thanks for that escape, which saved me a deal of money, Mr. George — for the rate at which ships is underwrote this war-time is so scandalous that I often prefer to venture than to insure — that I confess I didn’t listen much to the play, sir, and only went to please this little Lyddy.”

“And you did please me, dearest Gappy!” cries the young lady.

“Bless you! then it’s all I want. What does a man want more here below than to please his children, Mr. George? especially me, who knew what was to be unhappy when I was young, and to repent of having treated this darling’s father too hard.”

“Oh, grandpapa!” cries the child, with more caresses.

“Yes, I was too hard with him, dear; and that’s why I spoil my little Lydkin so!”

More kisses ensue between Lyddy and Gappy. The little creature flings the pretty polished arms round the old man’s neck, presses the dark red lips on his withered cheek, surrounds the venerable head with a halo of powder beaten out of his wig by her caresses; and eyes Mr. George the while, as much as to say, There, sir! should you not like me to do as much for you?

We confess; — but do we confess all? George certainly told the story of his interview with Lyddy and Gappy, and the old man’s news regarding his granddaughter’s wealth; but I don’t think he told everything; else Theo would scarce have been so much interested, or so entirely amused and good-humoured with Lyddy when next the two young ladies met.

They met now pretty frequently, especially after the old American gentleman took up his residence in Bloomsbury. Mr. Van den Bosch was in the city for the most part of the day, attending to his affairs, and appearing at his place upon ‘Change. During his absence Lyddy had the command of the house, and received her guests there like a lady, or rode abroad in a fine coach, which she ordered her grandpapa to keep for her, and into which he could very seldom be induced to set his foot. Before long Miss Lyddy was as easy in the coach as if she had ridden in one all her life. She ordered the domestics here and there; she drove to the mercer’s and the jeweller’s, and she called upon her friends with the utmost stateliness, or rode abroad with them to take the air. Theo and Hetty were both greatly diverted with her: but would the elder have been quite as well pleased had she known all Miss Lyddy’s doings? Not that Theo was of a jealous disposition — far otherwise; but there are cases when a lady has a right to a little jealousy, as I maintain, whatever my fair readers may say to the contrary.

It was because she knew he was engaged, very likely, that Miss Lyddy permitted herself to speak so frankly in Mr. George’s praise. When they were alone — and this blessed chance occurred pretty often at Mr. Van den Bosch’s house, for we have said he was constantly absent on one errand or the other — it was wonderful how artlessly the little creature would show her enthusiasm, asking him all sorts of simple questions about himself, his genius, his way of life at home and in London, his projects of marriage, and so forth.

“I am glad you are going to be married, oh, so glad!” she would say, heaving the most piteous sigh the while; “for I can talk to you frankly, quite frankly as a brother, and not be afraid of that odious politeness about which they were always scolding me at boarding-school. I may speak to you frankly; and if I like you, I may say so, mayn’t I, Mr. George?”

“Pray, say so,” says George, with a bow and a smile. “That is a kind of talk which most men delight to hear, especially from such pretty lips as Miss Lydia’s.”

“What do you know about my lips?” says the girl, with a pout and an innocent look into his face.

“What, indeed?” asks George. “Perhaps I should like to know a great deal more.”

“They don’t tell nothin’ but truth, anyhow!” says the girl; “that’s why some people don’t like them! If I have anything on my mind, it must come out. I am a country-bred girl, I am — with my heart in my mouth — all honesty and simplicity; not like your English girls, who have learned I don’t know what at their boarding-schools, and from the men afterwards.”

“Our girls are monstrous little hypocrites, indeed!” cries George.

“You are thinking of Miss Lamberts? and I might have thought of them; but I declare I did not then. They have been at boarding-school; they have been in the world a great deal — so much the greater pity for them, for be certain they learned no good there. And now I have said so, of course you will go and tell Miss Theo, won’t you, sir?”

“That she has learned no good in the world? She has scarce spoken to men at all, except her father, her brother, and me. Which of us would teach her any wrong, think you?”

“Oh, not you! Though I can understand its being very dangerous to be with you!” says the girl, with a sigh.

“Indeed there is no danger, and I don’t bite!” says George, laughing.

“I didn’t say bite,” says the girl, softly. “There’s other things dangerous besides biting, I should think. Aren’t you very witty? Yes, and sarcastic, and clever, and always laughing at people? Haven’t you a coaxing tongue? If you was to look at me in that kind of way, I don’t know what would come to me. Was your brother like you, as I was to have married? Was he as clever and witty as you? I have heard he was like you: but he hadn’t your coaxing tongue. Heigho! ’Tis well you are engaged, Master George, that is all. Do you think if you had seen me first, you would have liked Miss Theo best?”

“They say marriages were made in Heaven, my dear, and let us trust that mine has been arranged there,” says George.

“I suppose there was no such thing never known, as a man having two sweethearts?” asks the artless little maiden. “Guess it’s a pity. O me! What nonsense I’m a-talking; there now! I’m like the little girl who cried for the moon; and I can’t have it. ’Tis too high for me — too high and splendid and shining: can’t reach up to it nohow. Well, what a foolish, wayward, little spoilt thing I am now! But one thing you promise.-on your word and your honour, now, Mr. George?”

“And what is that?”

“That you won’t tell Miss Theo, else she’ll hate me.”

“Why should she hate you?”

“Because I hate her, and wish she was dead!” breaks out the young lady. And the eyes that were looking so gentle and lachrymose but now, flame with sudden wrath, and her cheeks flush up. “For shame!” she adds, after a pause. “I’m a little fool to speak! But whatever is in my heart must come out. I am a girl of the woods, I am. I was bred where the sun is hotter than in this foggy climate. And I am not like your cold English girls; who, before they speak, or think, or feel, must wait for mamma to give leave. There, there! I may be a little fool for saying what I have. I know you’ll go and tell Miss Lambert. Well, do!”

But, as we have said, George didn’t tell Miss Lambert. Even from the beloved person there must be some things kept secret; even to himself, perhaps, he did not quite acknowledge what was the meaning of the little girl’s confession; or, if he acknowledged it, did not act on it; except in so far as this, perhaps, that my gentleman, in Miss Lydia’s presence, was particularly courteous and tender; and in her absence thought of her very kindly, and always with a certain pleasure. It were hard, indeed, if a man might not repay by a little kindness and gratitude the artless affection of such a warm young heart.

What was that story meanwhile which came round to our friends, of young Mr. Lutestring and young Mr. Drabshaw the Quaker having a boxing-match at a tavern in the city, and all about this young lady? They fell out over their cups, and fought probably. Why did Mr. Draper, who had praised her so at first, tell such stories now against her grandfather? “I suspect,” says Madame de Bernstein, “that he wants the girl for some client or relation of his own; and that he tells these tales in order to frighten all suitors from her. When she and her grandfather came to me, she behaved perfectly well; and I confess, sir, I thought it was a great pity that you should prefer yonder red-cheeked countrified little chit, without a halfpenny, to this pretty, wild, artless girl, with such a fortune as I hear she has.”

“Oh, she has been with you, has she, aunt?” asks George of his relative.

“Of course she has been with me,” the other replies, curtly. “Unless your brother has been so silly as to fall in love with that other little Lambert girl ——”

“Indeed, ma’am, I think I can say he has not,” George remarks.

“Why, then, when he comes back with Mr. Wolfe, should he not take a fancy to this little person, as his mamma wishes — only, to do us justice, we Esmonds care very little for what our mammas wish — and marry her, and set up beside you in Virginia? She is to have a great fortune, which you won’t touch. Pray, why should it go out of the family?”

George now learned that Mr. Van den Bosch and his granddaughter had been often at Madame de Bernstein’s house. Taking his favourite walk with his favourite companion to Kensington Gardens, he saw Mr. Van den Bosch’s chariot turning into Kensington Square. The Americans were going to visit Lady Castlewood, then? He found, on some little inquiry, that they had been more than once with her ladyship. It was, perhaps, strange that they should have said nothing of their visits to George; but, being little curious of other people’s affairs, and having no intrigues or mysteries of his own, George was quite slow to imagine them in other people. What mattered to him how often Kensington entertained Bloomsbury, or Bloomsbury made its bow at Kensington?

A number of things were happening at both places, of which our Virginian had not the slightest idea. Indeed, do not things happen under our eyes, and we not see them? Are not comedies and tragedies daily performed before us of which we understand neither the fun nor the pathos? Very likely George goes home thinking to himself, “I have made an impression on the heart of this young creature. She has almost confessed as much. Poor artless little maiden! I wonder what there is in me that she should like me?” Can he be angry with her for this unlucky preference? Was ever a man angry at such a reason? He would not have been so well pleased, perhaps, had he known all; and that he was only one of the performers in the comedy, not the principal character by any means; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the Tragedy, the part of Hamlet by a gentleman unknown. How often are our little vanities shocked in this way, and subjected to wholesome humiliation! Have you not fancied that Lucinda’s eyes beamed on you with a special tenderness, and presently become aware that she ogles your neighbour with the very same killing glances? Have you not exchanged exquisite whispers with Lalage at the dinner-table (sweet murmurs heard through the hum of the guests, and clatter of the banquet!) and then overheard her whispering the very same delicious phrases to old Surdus in the drawing-room? The sun shines for everybody; the flowers smell sweet for all noses; and the nightingale and Lalage warble for all ears — not your long ones only, good Brother!

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00