« AnteriorContinuar »
“ What is the world to them,
Or on the mind, or mind-illumined face;
“Ah!" she exclaimed, kissing the page, “ that happiness is ours.” At that instant, Lord Herbert, driving four in hand, appeared standing up, like another Phaeton, and gracefully managing his high-mettled steeds; he circled round and round the area before the window at which she was placed his eye fixed upon the horses, who, indeed, did seem to require all his skill and attention; and, having breathed them, he at length stopped before the door, and sent in to say he waited for Lady Herbert. She flew out; but paused at the step of the carriage, and looking up to her husband, said, “Francis, love, are you not coming in?"
“No, dear, I would not allow any one to drive you but myself; these horses have not been properly exercised, and they are rather hot.”
Lady Herbert therefore got in-alone.
“ Are you cold, Mabel?” said her conductor, seeing her look rather pale, “ wrap these cloaks round you, which I had put in for you; I was afraid you might feel chilly coming home.”
“ Yoi ho, yo ho there; softly, my lads!” he said to his horses: and again he turned his attention to them.
Lady Herbert thought she would rather have had it turned upon herself; and she continued for a long fourteen miles drive, to ruminate on the pleasure of being alone in a barouche; one's husband personifying coachman. At length they came to a high ground, overlooking the sea, and as the sun sank low in the horizon, surrounded by the gorgeous tints of his setting rays, she felt a burst of admiration which she could not control, and, rising up from her seat, and touching her husband's shoulder, she exclaimed,
“ Francis, Francis, look at that! is it not fine?”
thing but his horses. It is no easy matter, I assure you, to conduct mine.”
Lady Herbert sank down again. There was a sort of indescribable blank in her sensations, for which there is no name; and from this she was only roused by arriving in the grounds of Mount Easton.
Mount Easton was an old brick house, with long windows and white stone facings around them; it was not without its own peculiar character of beauty, had that character been preserved; but it was not, and so the whole thing was incongruous. Immediately opposite the entrance door the broken line of what had once been a fine avenue, and in its original intention afforded the visitant a speedy arrival at the house, was now exchanged for a circuitous road which turned off to the left, and, after going at least a mile out of the way through a dull park, conducted to the house. Sir Philip Gregory was standing on the steps which led to the entrance door, his hand shading his eyes to admire the coachmanship of his friend, as Lord Herbert circled round a difficult entrance and just neared the curbstone without grazing it, in capital style.
"A clever turn-out this, Herbert; why, you have got a new stud, I think. Lady Herbert, I am happy to have the honour of receiving you; Lady Gregory will be delighted, and my daughters-allow me to show you the way,” giving her his arm. “ Herbert, you are well acquainted with the house. I need not do the honours to you."
“If you allow me, I will just see my horseš put up at the Crown, and be with you directly. They are young and very hot, and I do not like to trust them to any one but myself.”
“By all means. We will order some luncheon for you, and the moment I have handed Lady Herbert to the drawing-room, I will follow you."
Lady Herbert looked after her husband, and said, in a low voice, “ Pray, Francis, do not stay long away;" then suffered herself to be conducted into the presence of Lady Gregory. The usual compliments were exchanged, and Sir Philip apologized for leaving her.
Lady Gregory hoped the roads were in good order, and that her ladyship had not been frightened at Higham Hill;
and that she had not suffered from the cold: “ we have had most unseasonable weather hitherto. All our crocuses and mezereons were in full bloom at this time last year; but now we have not a single blossom out, of the earliest kind. Laura, my eldest daughter, is in despair: she says she has nothing to paint from. Does your ladyship paint?"
“I am fond of the art, but I have had so little success in it, that I should rather at once say no-than give my attempts any pretension to be called paintings.”
“Here comes Laura. Laura, Lady Herbert. Lady Herbert, allow me--Miss Gregory.” Lady Herbert said something civil, alluding to the talent she had been told she possessed, and requested to be allowed to see some of her
works. Lady Gregory was delighted. The portfolio was · quickly found; and its contents were neither good enough
to praise, nor bad enough to laugh at; it was difficult to know how to treat the subjects of expected commendation, looking upon them, but Lady Herbert was gentle and sweet, and got through the task much to the satisfaction of the Gregories; and, afterwards, having exhausted all the common-place topics of common-place acquaintance, her spirits failed her, and she knew not what to have recourse to for conversation. Breaking out at once, she said,
S“ I am afraid, Lady Gregory, it will be very late before we reach home. Lord Herbert has surely forgotten the hour in the agreeable society of Sir Philip. May I request the favour of your letting him know I am waiting for him?"
Lady Gregory was about to comply, when the gentleman entered.
"Mabel, love,” said Lord Herbert, “Sir Philip has been so kind as to press us to remain here all night, so I have sent off the groom for Martha and your paraphernalia, and accepted Sir Philip's kind invitation."
“I am charmed to hear it,” said Lady Gregory, so warmly, that Lady Herbert was ashamed to feel as sorry as she did, and endeavoured to profess herself exceedingly pleased, although she wondered what could have induced her husband to adopt such a plan. When, however, she heard the encomiums Sir Philip passed upon his horses and equipage, and observed the delight and attention with which the lata
ter listened to him, and, in return, coinplimented him upon his skill and science in all matters connected with the stable, her wonder ceased, for she knew it was a subject which interested Lord Herbert deeply, and she sighed to think how little she was capable of entering into his tastes in this respect; however, she determined to listen and to learn, and, if possible, become fond of that which formed one of the principal occupations of his life. But she could not divest herself of the feeling that it was rather early days after their marriage, to be neglected for horses and dogs; above all, she felt that she did not wish for any other society than her husband's, nay, that all else was irksome to her. Nevertheless, she did not express this feeling, and seemed pleased with his having settled to stay all night at Mount Easton. After dinner the party was enlivened by the arrival of the eldest son, Tom Gregory, as his father called him.
He made apologies for coming home so late, saying, he had rode a steeple-chase with Dick Winstanley.
“ And won it?" asked his father, eagerly.
“ Beat him hollow-his rip of a horse was blown directly, it was hardly any triumph to win, only there was some high betting upon the match. I touched a hundred myself, and as to poor Dick, he's fairly cleared out.” Sir Philip rejoined, - he has not much chance with Tom, that is certain-by the by, we can show Lord Herbert some good sport to-morrow. My gamekeeper tells me that there's a badger down by the water-dam, and the dogs are in excellent order; we can have besides farmer Saunders's terriers -do, my lord, stay; I think you will see as clever a set of varment dogs as ever unearthed a badger.”
“Lady Gregory, I hope you will join your entreaties to ours,” said Sir Philip, “to persuade Lady Herbert to remain with us.” .
“I am sure,” turning to the latter, “ Lady Gregory and Laura will do their best to amuse you. Lady Gregory is not a bad whip herself, she has two as clever little ponies as ever you saw, and will drive you over to Warley. Very good shops there, I am told; do, Lady Herbert, do promise to stay?". .
Lady Herbert lifted her eyes imploringly to her husband; but he did not, or would not understand their meaning;
and, turning to Sir Philip, said, “ Well, then, it is impossible to resist your hospitality. Mabel, dear, you can send for any thing you want to Moreton Park. We will not refuse our kind friend's invitation.”
Lady Gregory expressed her unfeigned delight, and so did Miss Gregory. A sign was made by the former to leave the dining-room, and the ladies were alone, and at liberty to discuss dress and scandal. Unfortunately, neither of these had any charm for Lady Herbert, and she looked forward with dread to the time she was to spend in their society.
Lady Gregory commenced a disputation upon the best mode of feeding and bringing up young turkeys, and lamented that the stable establishment was so large, she never could persuade Sir Philip to let her have a sufficiency of other domestics to do the necessary work of the other departments.
“Young turkeys, your ladyship knows, require almost as much attention as young children.”
“ Indeed, mamma, I don't believe," said Miss Gregory, “ that Lady Herbert either knows or cares any thing about the matter."
“ I'm sure you had better leave her quiet, to take a little rest before the gentlemen join us. Do, Lady Herbert, do put up your feet on the sofa, and let me place the pillows for you."
Lady Herbert was thankful for this interference, and gladly accepted Miss Gregory's kind attention.
Lady Gregory apologized for having entered upon the education of turkeys.
“I assure you,” replied the good-humoured Lady Herbert, “ I am exceedingly fond of animals of every kind, and if I lived much in the country, I should take great pleasure in seeing them; but hitherto I have not had any opportunity of cultivating their acquaintance: I intend to do so, and then I shall hope to profit by your experience, Lady Gregory, if you are so kind as to give me your counsel.”
Thus having made her peace with the latter, she tried to open another source of conversation with the daughter.
“ Have you a good library?” she asked; “ are you fond of reading?"
- You would not call it a good library, for it consists of the Racing Calendar, and Daniel's Book of Sports, and a