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heard from Mr. Winning and his friend with the pretty name, Mr. Hyacinth Primrose, who was always so lively and entertaining ? She knew he had been studying very hard, he was pale. Had he any time for drawing ? Had he taken any more views of the cathedral ? And she hoped he had not given up the pleasant magazine of which she had seen one or two speci
Had he been writing at all lately? He was not long in confessing his latest production, the essay on shoemakers of genius, and modestly yielded to the strong wish she expressed to read it, though stipulating that nobody should see it but herself.
Then she went on painting in silence for a few minutes, examining the lines of his countenance between the touches, as if it was but the statue of a boy that sat before her; then suddenly she paused, and feared she was detaining him too long, but she would soon release him.
He had no wish to be released; but Blanche had probably other engagements, for she now looked at her watch, rose hastily, wondered what had become of her sisters, and fixing a day for the next sitting, terminated the present one almost abruptly.
Reuben was extremely dissatisfied with himself for his behaviour upon
this occasion. He had been so sheepish, so stupid, while Blanche had been so agreeable, so encouraging, so every way charming. He determined to act a more manly and gallant part the next time.
But the next sitting was not a tête-à-tête like the former. The sisters were provokingly present. Blanche was in her walking-dress, all but her parasol and gloves, which lay on a sofa beside her. Nothing could be more uncomfortable; and at last in bustled Mrs. Barsac herself, richly shawled and bonneted, nodded to Reuben, glanced at the picture, and swept away Blanche along with her so rapidly, as scarcely to give her time to put up her brushes and appoint a time for the third séance. He had brought his essay with him, but had no opportunity of placing it in her hands unobserved by the other members of the family.
The third sitting was pleasanter than the second, though not so private as the first. He presented her with his MS. She was now painting his hair.
“I wish,” she exclaimed, “it were not cropped so very close, it is so beautiful; it would look so well suffered to fall down upon your shoulders like mine ;” and as she spoke she touched her own hair, which was light brown and very bright and abun. dant. The compliment and the comparison together damasked Reuben's cheek very deeply indeed. With the slightest conceive able smile upon her lip, Blanche withdrew her eyes from him and fixed them again upon her work. After a few touches, she spoke again.
“ Did you never wear it long ?"
Reuben now made an effort to tell her the tale of the outrage which his grandfather had perpetrated with the scissors the day before he went to school. Blanche was evidently diverted, though she said she could perfectly understand how provoked his mother must have been. He must have looked a positive fright.
This extracted the sequel of the tale, all about Mademoiselle Louise, which Reuben told in so confused a way, and with so much stammering and blushing, that Blanche could not help raising her finger, shaking her head, looking mysterious, and then apologising for having betrayed him into making her the confidante of what was evidently a sentimental business.
He was seriously parrying this attack, when a maid entered the room and put a little slip of paper into Blanche's hand, which seemed to have an electrical effect upon her. She jumped up, hastily covered the unfinished portrait, and was running out of her studio, without fixing a day for Reuben to sit again, but he followed, and, overtaking her at the door of the drawing-room, with throbbing nerves reminded her of what she had probably only forgotten in her hurry. She was forced to stop, and was rapidly running over on her fingers her engagements for the few following days, when the door opened behind them, and furth came Mrs. Barsac, her eldest daughter, and his grandfather. The Dean blew a terrific gale
when he saw Reuben, although he had not a notion that he was there for any purpose but to pay an idle morning visit. That, however, was enough to raise the tempest, with the ideas he had of schools and schoolboys. He scolded Reuben, scolded Mr. Brough, and so abused Mrs. Barsac that she became quite disconcerted, and in her perplexity made matters worse by assuring the Dean that his grandson was not so much to blame as he seemed to be, and that she would explain every thing presently. On hearing this, the Dean blustered again, puffed his cheeks like Æolus, and after frowning like night upon every body in succession, but most upon Reuben, returned with Mrs. Barsac into the drawing-room. The three girls remained for a moment outside, the two eldest whispering and laughing together in a subdued tone, while Blanche, sincerely pitying Reuben's humiliation, shook his hand with the utmost good-nature, and even accompanied him part of the way to the hall-door.
The Dean's anger on trifling occasions like this was a very "short madness” indeed. Even when he heard from Mrs. Barsac how Reuben had been sitting for his picture to Blanche, he merely called them all a pack of fools two or three times over, desired to have no more such nonsense, and appeared to have forgotten all about it before dinner.
But Reuben did not so soon recover his composure. He had a more serious cause for anxiety than the humiliation he bad met with from his choleric and eccentric relative. He had placed more that day in the hands of Blanche than one of his literary efforts—he had slipped into the folds of the MS. a full confession of the resistless power of her charms with a frank and honorable declaration of love.
He was not long without a reply, under her own hand and seal.
The lessons of the following day were disposed of, and Reuben was hurrying to regain his room, and bury himself in solitude, when he saw a servant of the Barsacs, and observed him inquiring for somebody or something. Reuben ran over to the man, who put a note and small paper parcel into his hand, touched his hat, and went away. In an instant Reuben was in his closet, and had already torn the parcel open.
It was his MS., with a few lines from Blanche, to the effect that she had read it with the greatest pleasure, and thought it exceedingly clever and interesting. With respect to a detached paper which she had found enclosed, she had read that also, but not with the same satisfaction ; she begged him to excuse her for observing that it did not appear to her to be as well considered as his other essay.
The other note was from Mrs. Barsac, suggesting the expediency of discontinuing the sittings to her daughter, at least for the present; indeed, she was happy to acquaint him that Blanche was in hopes of even finishing it without giving him any
further trouble, and was very thankful to him for the sittings with which he had favoured her.
AN AFFLICTING DISCOVERY, WHICA OUGHT TO HAVE BEEN MADE
REUBEN was not long in ignorance of the overwhelming truth which the sagacious reader has probably already divined. Schoolboys are great proficients in the art of ingeniously tormenting. The
very next day, while the smart was fresh of the wounds received in the last chapter, Reuben overheard the following dia. logue, which had in all probability been concerted expressly to be overheard by him.
“Tbink of dry sherry,” said one, “ being Medlicott's grandmamma! She will keep him in precious order, won't she ?”
" That she will, and no mistake,” replied another.
“ Why, it's pale sherry he is in love with ; to be in love with his grandmother would be capital fun."
This was the first hint. Confirmation followed quickly enough, and in only too great an abundance.
Reuben often laughed, in his maturer years, at the follies and miseries of this period of his life. It seemed to him, as it has done to most men, hardly credible that his puerile infatuation should have carried him to such preposterous lengths, anıl still harder to understand how he could have made himself so wretched as he did by his incomparable absurdities.
The notion of that grim old grandfather marrying the fair young Blanche, with those sweet, calm, bewitching eyes, almost overset his reason. The principal fact was so horrible, that he took little or no interest in the subordinate events connected with it. The marriage, although decided on, was not to take place for some time; there were delays and difficulties, as usual in hymeneal transactions, and rumour ascribed them to various causes, among others to the true one, the embarrassed state of the Dean's private circumstances, notwithstanding his rich preferments in the Church. Blanche Barsac went on a visit at this time to friends in London, and Reuben knew nothing of it for several weeks, during which interval his correspondence with his parents, and the letters he received from his Aunt Mountjoy, and his friends Winning and Primrose, helped to familiarise his mind, in some measure, with the subject that was most painful to reflect on, and gradually to extract the sting of his anguish. Primrose wrote him a very pleasant letter, in which he paralleled the Dean and his bride with Tithonus and Aurora, and discussed in a most amusing manner the singular passion which young women sometimes conceive for men who might be their fathers. Neither Hyacinth nor Winning had the slightest notion of their friend Reuben's competition with his grandfather for the lady's affections; and as they had both met Blanche in town, it was perfectly plain she had kept his secret with the most amiable fidelity.
The truth, indeed, was that Blanche was very fond of Reuben, and had the sincerest regard for him, which she afterwards showed upon many an occasion, as the course of this history will prove.
Meanwhile his schoolboy days were nearly numbered. He was actually now within three months of the period which had been fixed upon for his leaving Finchley, where he had learned as much as his preceptors professed to teach, and more a great deal than was necessary as preparation for either of the universities. The period of his departure, however, was precipitated by the good-nature of Mr. Brough, who, having noticed that Reuben was looking ill, mentioned it one morning to his grandfather, whom he chanced to meet, adding that change of air and relaxation for a week or two would (with deference to the Dean's better judgment) be of the greatest service to him.
“ You think so," said the Dean, who was propitious at the moment, “ very well, let it be so,—Chichester is a great way off, but I'm going down to-night to see how the alterations are going on in my house at Westbury, and I'll take him with me. He shall have a gun to shoot the rabbits, and Mrs. Reeves, my
housekeeper, will make dandelion tea for him." "No plan could be better," said Mr. Brough. But
you had better," said the Dean, “ give him a book of Virgil to get by heart; he can't shoot rabbits all the day long."
“With great respect, sir,” said the complaisant but humane schoolmaster, “ Mrs. Reeves and the rabbits will do him more good just now than a book of Virgil."
Perhaps you are right,” said the Dean, “and as the coach office is at hand, I'll book the boy now and secure his place.”
So Reuben was booked like a parcel, without having a voice