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I do not know anything about the feeling, except what I have read in books; where, to please me, it must be treated as a grand, majestic, absorbing emotion, exalting one's whole nature. I cannot fancy entertaining it for any one who is not dignified either by talent, courage, or misfortune. Those goodlooking people to whom you spoke, to-day, are married; but they never can have been in love with each other."
“I should have been very well content, nevertheless, Laura, if a thoroughly rightminded, agreeable woman like Holcombe's wife, had loved me as she does her husband ;' said Sir Frederick, gravely. “I am certain, I should have returned her affection, and been a much happier man than I am at present. But this was not to be. I have been buffeted about all my life, and because it is more desirable for me than for most men to marry, no woman will ever care for me, and I shall go to my grave a miserable unit in creation.”
“I thought all the widows and spinsters were contending for the prize !” answered Laura, a little more gaily. “I do not in the least expect you to fall in love in a way that will interest me; but I certainly wonder that you are not married.
I remember," she said, with an entire change of manner, very earnestly my poor father desired it. He used to be quite impatient to get letters from England; and I fancied that, latterly, he had found some intelligence contained in them which satisfied him that the point upon which his heart was fixed was very near its accomplishment."
Sir Frederick coloured violently.
“I know what you mean—but there was nothing in it. People love to talk. You will hear a hundred stories of the same kind, before you
have been six months in the country. Holcombe's sister was staying here, last summer, and they got up a match between us directly. Lady Fortescue, the old General's
widow, and I, have been suspected of going up to town to be married, every spring, for the last four years. There is no end to the gossip of these country-places. But the fact is, when a man has wasted the best years of his life, as I have done, he has a very bad chance. Experience makes him cautious; and those women who might be satisfied with such claims to notice as he has to put forward, have lost the blooming freshness which, above every other charm, captivates his fancy."
Unconsciously, perhaps, Sir Frederick's glance rested, while he spoke, on the bright countenance of Clarice, as she sat working at the table. The light of the lamp fell upon her pure complexion, making it seem even fairer than usual. She had been perfectly silent during the conversation of Laura and her uncle, and appeared to have nothing to say on the subject under discussion. The colour in her cheeks did not vary, and she had not once lifted her eyes from her occupation.
Dixon had not made her appearance in the drawingroom, since the first evening of their arrival. Either Miss Derwent or her companion contrived to make the tea and coffee entirely to Sir Frederick's satisfaction. He was beginning to feel perfectly at home with his pretty, graceful inmates; and perhaps, at his time of life, when the age for sudden, imprudent passions is past, and expediency, in questions of this nature, becomes, generally, a principal consideration, the probabilities of his marrying were greatly lessened by the agreeable society which circumstances had procured for him. Roger Pemberton had a better chance than ever of the reversion of Maydwell, now that Sir Frederick, like other indolent mortals, found himself so comfortable at home that he felt little disposed to go abroad in search of maid, wife, or widow. The domestic aspect of the drawingroom filled up a void which had long existed in his heart.
He told the two girls, among other subjects of conversation, several anecdotes referring to the animosity long prevalent between himself and the Pembertons.
“Ask Dixon what she thought of the old lady's iniquitous bequest of the coffee-pot and cream-jug to her own relations !” he said, as Clarice poured out a second cup for him. “Holcombe declares that I look tenderly at the Fortescue plate, and the late Sir Andrew's Indian testimonials, every time I dine with the widow; and advises me not to replace what was spirited off to Languard, as it would be of no use to possess duplicates of the articles. I wonder of what service Mrs. Derwent thought they would be to that pitiful miser, who never has a creature even to drink tea with him, and lives on cold bacon and sour cider, all the year round! I am surprised that his brother, who looks like a gentleman, condescends to live with him. "That surly fellow, Roger,” Sir Frederick
16 did his best to inconvenience me,