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Laura's eyes glistened with emotion, but she seemed unusually roused and interested. She talked over, with her friend, what they had heard from Lewis Pemberton of the state of the poor, and agreed to visit their cottages. At the same time, Clarice suggested that they should choose their opportunity better for telling the result of their investigations to Sir Frederick, and enter into his kind wish to amuse them more cheerfully.
Laura herself proposed that, in the evening, as Mrs. Holcombe had raised her voice, at the end of the sentence, sufficiently for her to hear of his fondness for music, Clarice should sing to him.
MRS. HOLCOMBE did not stop at any cottage in the village, on her return to the Rectory. Her countenance was less good-humoured than when she set out on her walk. She entered the pleasant morning-room, looking into the garden, where Sir Frederick had found them at breakfast, and said, somewhat abruptly, to her husband, who was lying on the sofa, reading a novel :
“ Well! I have tired myself to death by walking, in the heat of the day, to call on Miss Derwent; and I heartily wish I had not gone."
She waited a moment, but her husband did
not look up.
" It was very evident that she neither expected nor desired to see me, and that the pleasure of visiting at Maydwell is over.”
“I felt certain that you would not like each other:" replied Mr. Holcombe. " Ladies always contrive to dislike, at the first glance, and to quarrel with, at the first word, those persons whom it is desirable they should conciliate. I thought them both handsome, amiable looking girls enough, in church; particularly the young lady whom Miss Derwent has engaged as companion. Rather too striking in appearance, all things considered, for the situation.”
“Of course!” said Mrs. Holcombe, emphatically. “Miss Derwent must be a simpleton to bring such a girl into the house of her bachelor uncle, and then to allow her to take the upper hand in everything. She turned me over to her immediately. I do not believe she said ten words during my visit. Rely upon it, that foreign-looking créature will be mistress over all in that house, before she
has been settled there for a month. I read both spirit and firmness in her countenance.”
Mr. Holcombe looked at his wife attentively.
Oh, Derwent will never marry !” he said, after a pause, during which he seemed to be collecting his ideas.' 6 There are too many reasons to render it inconvenient, for a crotchetty old fellow, such as he is becoming, to make up his mind to such a step. Our Charley is just as likely as not, to come in for a handsome egacy from his godfather. He will leave nothing that he can avoid bestowing upon them, to the Pembertons."
“I used to think so:” replied his wife. “Not that one would put such an idea into the child's mind; but he certainly is a great favourite with Sir Frederick. That has nothing to do with what I was saying. As Sir Frederick's friend, I should rejoice to see him suitably married ;—to such a person as your sister Penelope, for instance, to whom he paid great attention, last summer. But it would be an
extreme disappointment and inconvenience to have a Lady Derwent, whom I disliked, at Maydwell Place; and I made up my mind, most decidedly, on the evening when he stopped the carriage to speak to us, that Miss Le Sage was a very unfit person for him to have staying there."
“I think you are right :” observed the Rector. " But Derwent is too old a bird to be caught with chaff ;--besides, he cannot marry without money. If he has any one, it will be the widow. Lady Fortescue was making desperate love to him, at the opening of the road, last week.”
“He is not, by any means, an elderly man yet :” said Mrs. Holcombe.
66 Most women would call him handsome, and he has a soft heart. I hope that artful Italian-eyed girl may not make a complete fool of him. I tried to sound her on the subject, but she was very reserved.
ed. However, she praised him for his kindness."