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Her friend's energies, once excited, were less easily put to sleep.
"I am not so accommodating as you are, Laura," she observed, "and feel a great desire to rouse him to activity, as well as to uproot his prejudices. It is the only subject upon which he speaks harshly. Until I came here, I fancied an English cottage a kind of paradise; but these rustic dwellings are terribly comfortless, and the aspect of the poor morose and I cannot understand Sir Frederick, who seems so goodnatured, being content to live with such dissatisfied-looking people around him."
"It must be a more energetic will than mine which governs his indolent nature:" said Laura. "I must confess that I am sadly disappointed. Hitherto, all duties, all responsibilities, have been lightened to me. It is now when I am so dreadfully weak and helplesswhen I have no one else to whom I can look for guidance and counsel,-that my father's
representative, though I love him dearly, appears to me the last person in the world to whom I could appeal for either."
The poor girl wept bitterly. Clarice scarcely knew how to comfort her. She had, however, from earliest childhood been compelled to think and act, not only for herself but for others. No timid irresolution clouded her bright vision. Her clear glance rested upon the landscape, foreign to her as it was, with an earnest, searching expression, as if Laura's mournful words had given an interest, previously unfelt, to the thatched roofs of Maydwell, dimly visible through the trees of the park. Knowing even less than her friend, of the requirements for such a task as Lewis had recommended, she saw in an instant how much it would benefit Laura to engage in it.
Carefully and religiously educated as she had been by affectionate parents, Laura Derwent, on the contrary, was ill qualified for the part in life which she was called upon to per
form. If her mother's habitual charity had brought her in contact with poverty, she had seen it only in its most picturesque aspect,under southern skies, and among trailing vineyards. The natural timidity of her disposition had increased, from the reliance she placed on the counsels of Colonel and Mrs. Derwent; while their affection had spared her, hitherto, every painful conflict with the harsher elements of which society is composed.
In spite of Sir Frederick's invitation, and a great inclination to see more of the visitors at the Place, Mrs. Holcombe did not think it correct to call upon Miss Derwent, until after she had seen her at church. She was irreproachable in all matters of etiquette, and had determined to do exactly what was proper by Sir Frederick's niece. Before leaving the house, she looked into her husband's study to enquire whether he had any message to send to the Baronet, or suggestion to make; and had the satisfaction of hearing that her somewhat
studied costume was precisely what suited the occasion. She was aware of the fact, but it was agreeable to have it confirmed. Mr. Holcombe, when he thought it worth while to trouble himself about it, had excellent taste in dress. It was true that they had been married too long for the Rector, generally speaking, to deal much in compliments; but he lifted his head from the letters he was writing, on her entrance, and admired his wife's quiet, and, at the same time, elegant appearance; watching her take her way through the garden, with unmistakeable approbation.
Mrs. Holcombe made use of none of the private keys, and profited by none of the short cuts, which Sir Frederick's good nature had usually emboldened the family at the Parsonage to consider at their command. Though the day was intensely hot, and the hour precisely that when there was scarcely any shadow on either side of the dusty road, she did not even cast a glance at the shady path through
the grove, which would have shortened by one half her toilsome walk. She knew perfectly well the right course to pursue, and went through the martyrdom of her broiling progress with the patience of a saint. Even the children had gone to play in cool recesses among the trees. There was scarcely a person stirring in the village street.
The tall hedges of evergreen, at Maydwell Place, stood out in the sunshine, with their bright burnished leaves sparkling; and the white blossoms of the Portugal laurels emitted a powerful fragrance, seeming to belong to a more southern clime than that wherein they had grown almost to the height of the old trees, which, farther from the house, were throwing their shadows on the Clarice grass. and Laura were conversing in Italian, when the old butler, who had been standing at the halldoor at the time of Mrs. Holcombe's approach, ushered her into the drawingroom.
Miss Derwent appeared to be very nervous,