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to London, more than once, merely to hear a favourite prima donna, and come back the next day.”

She stood near the instrument for a few minutes longer, talking on the same subject, and asking questions respecting the opera at Milan and Naples. Miss Derwent hardly joined in the conversation, and was glad when their visitor took leave of them.

“I cannot thank you enough, dearest," she said to Clarice, “ for taking Mrs. Holcombe off my hands. The very tone of her voice annoyed me. I could hear it rising interrogatively at the end of every sentence, while you stood in the garden by the rose-bed, and felt certain that she was asking you all sorts of troublesome questions. She is, I feel convinced, though she looks good-humoured, a dangerous, inquisitive kind of person.”

Laura laughed somewhat nervously. The bad effects of Mrs. Holcombe's presence upon

VOL. I.

K

her sensitive temperament, had evidently not subsided.

“ How unfortunate it is,” she added, " that I should have taken an inveterate dislike, already, to our nearest neighbour, and one who seems anxious to be civil !"

" I do not think Mrs. Holcombe is very partial to either of us :” said Clarice, drily. “I talked too much, and you too little to please her. I am certain, all the deductions she has formed, either from my mirth or your gravity, are unfavourable ones. She would much rather have Sir Frederick, and the moss-roses, at her own disposal, and regards us as interlopers upon her peculiar domain."

“ These people are doing my uncle harm :" said Laura, more energetically than usual. “I wish you would help me, Clarice, to dispute their claim to him. He is too careless, I fear, already, on many points of duty; and this worldly woman, and amusement-seeking clergy

you are

66 But you

man, confirm him in his errors. Do not let us give up the field to them.” “ I am quite ready to assist you,

if in earnest :” replied Clarice. must exert yourself more than you have lately done, if you enter the lists with a wily antagonist, like Mrs. Holcombe. I believe, it is in

your power to do much good to Sir Frederick and all around

you,

if

you assume your proper position in his family."

" I am not sure that the task is as easy as you suppose :” answered Laura, relapsing into timidity. “ All my life, I have been hearing of my

uncle Frederick as a person who never thought seriously. It'is rather late in the day to attempt his reformation."

Her friend did not seem disposed to be so easily discouraged.

“Let us begin with ourselves, Laura. I doubt whether we are either of us good enough, at present, to influence others beneficially. I do not like professions. It does not always

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follow that, because men, on light occasions, bear themselves cheerfully, they cannot assume a graver tone. My experience has been among the dissipated and frivolous; but there is an air of genuine worth and sincerity about Sir Frederick Derwent, which would make me trust him; and I do not think I should be deceived. Your father was of my opinion.”

Miss Derwent looked at her friend's animated countenance.

“ You are sunny and bright as the morning, Clarice. My father always said that Uncle Frederick made every one who approached him happy. You are under the benevolent influence; and are just the kind of person whom this joyous atmosphere suits; but the sunshine is too bright for me.”

She leaned her fair head back languidly and was silent for a moment. Presently, she said :

“And yet you must not fancy that this. ease-loving host of ours has not experienced

SIR FREDERICK DERWENT.

197

his full share of trial. Besides the one of which he speaks so often, my uncle Frederick has suffered the heaviest of all disappointments; and my heart reproached me, the other night, for having teased him about never having been really in love. The long delay of his expectations respecting this property, would have have been less felt, if, at the same time, he had not relinquished nearer and dearer hopes. How much the struggle cost him, my father, in whose behalf it was made, never knew, until, years afterwards, he discovered that his brother's absence from England originated in the pain it cost him to see the woman he had loved the wife of another. This was not all :—to enable his younger brother to marry, he cheerfully gave up a considerable part of his income, averring that he should soon succeed to the family estates. My father would not have accepted of the sacrifice, had he known how doubly painful to that generous heart it was to make it."

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