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offend, as had been his wont, with impunity, against the orderly regulations of his present mode of living. He must pay the penalty of a little consideration for the womanly feelings of the fair girls, who were imparting a domestic aspect to his home.
As quickly as possible, he shook off the unaccustomed weight of self-upbraiding, and told them whatever was likely to interest them respecting the meeting he had attended. He was quite sorry he had not driven them over. The opening of the road was really a pretty sight. The member's carriage and his own, with those of several of the county gentry had passed along it, with the horses gaily decked with ribands and the band playing. All his acquaintances in the neighbourhood were there, and the kindest enquiries had been made after Miss Derwent.
"Holloway had got a capital dinner, and I could scarcely refuse to do like the rest, and patronise the George:" he said, continuing his
excuses. "I never for a moment thought that you would be uneasy. An old bachelor like me, Miss Le Sage, gets into strangely uncomfortable ways, and learns to believe that nobody cares in the least what has become of him. I had not forgotten you, however. Lady Fortescue, and half-a-dozen other county dames, are most anxious to be permitted to pay their respects to you both. The widow says she never heard of such a thing as my shutting up the house for a month; and positively declares that she will not wait longer than next week to bid you welcome to the neighbourhood. It grieves me more than I can express to see you look so pale, Laura, and to think that it is my fault. You must put on your bonnet at once, and let me take you a drive down to the sea, to bring back to your cheeks the colour which my misconduct has frightened away. I came home twice the pace I should otherwise have done, when I saw how gloriously the tide was rolling in, on purpose that you might not lose the plea
sure of making your first acquaintance with the beach at high water. There is no time to spare.
He hurried them off good-naturedly, saying that he had ordered the horses to be put to the phaeton, as he drove into the yard. The carriage would be at the door almost immediately.
Sir Frederick had changed his costume, and had a fresh equipage ready for them, when they rejoined him. He seemed in his best spirits, and as if he did not intend to bear any more scolding; and Miss Derwent was far from wishing to inflict farther punishment upon his sins of inadvertency. She saw that he had felt really penitent, and strove in her turn to appear cheerful. Her young fair face, contrasted with her deep mourning, was always pretty and interesting.
As they drove through the winding lanes, she told her uncle of their walk on the previous evening, and of their meeting Lewis
Pemberton on the threshold of the den of misery and disease which they had been tempted to enter. Sir Frederick vehemently expressed his disgust with Roger Pemberton for his hard usage of his labourers, and neglect of the comfort of his tenantry. He coloured when Laura said, gently, she was sure he did not know that, a few hundred yards further on, one of his own cottages was in an almost equally disconsolate condition.
He did not express, as readily as she had expected, his intention of rectifying what was amiss; though he promised her that something should be done for the widow. He remembered her petition, and that his steward had plagued him about turning her out of the cottage, which he would not allow. Some notion, too, he had that she was a great pet of Mrs. Derwent's, or of young Pemberton, and the rest of that set. He would tell Lambert to see about it; but, unless you went into the matter thoroughly, and heard both sides of the
story, it was impossible to escape being imposed
"Don't say anything before Holcombe of having seen Lewis Pemberton going into one of my cottages:" he said, driving on faster, "Cleras if wishing to get rid of the subject. gymen are, in general, very particular about not interfering with each other, and I scarcely think he would like it. There is a great deal of jealousy between them already. What brings that young fellow out of his own district ?"
He looked somewhat inquisitively at Laura and Clarice alternately. Miss Le Sage was the first to answer.
"You should rather enquire what keeps Mr. Holcombe away from where his presence seems so greatly needed:" she remarked. congratulate himself that it is a minister of our own Church who has taken up his neglected duties. A Roman Catholic priest, or a dissenter of any sect whatsoever, would be warmly