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and provided all that was necessary without troubling him for minute directions. A good deal of anxiety had been removed from her mind when she found that Miss Derwent did not appear at all anxious to interfere with her functions as housekeeper. Sir Frederick had peremptorily checked the
first approach towards presumption; and had, at the same time, signified to her that he did not wish any alteration to be made in his usual habits. Open and liberal, but by no means ostentatious, the table he kept was one of which he never had reason to be ashamed, though it perhaps lacked the epicurean refinement of modern luxury. In general, luncheon was prepared for Sir Frederick's friends in the house ; but now, the seclusion which his visitors still sought to have preserved, caused him to order all that was required to be provided out of doors.
Voices and steps coming round the house, warned Laura that the game was over. She
closed her book and looked slightly nervous, when Sir Frederick and Mr. Holcombe appeared at the open window. They paused for a few moments, standing on the walk, and talking about the game. It was difficult to say which looked most or rather least clerical. Sir Frederick was in high spirits, and greatly commended his friend's playing. They were both confident of winning the match. Presently, they walked off to put away their cricket bats, and somewhat modify their toilets, in the direction of Sir Frederick's apartments.
Mr. Holcombe looked quite as much like a gentleman, when he entered the drawingroom, as he had done among the rustics on the cricketground. He had laid aside the rather too easy bearing, which Laura thought he had displayed, while he stood talking with Sir Frederick at the window. His object now was, evidently, to make a favourable impression, and, if possible, to atone to the ladies for the dull afternoon they had been spending. At first he
addressed himself principally to Miss Derwent; but her shyness baffled him. After a time, he turned to Clarice.
There was nothing at all objectionable in the tone of his conversation. Miss Le Sage felt disposed to prefer it to his sermons, and was not sure of its being less edifying. He had travelled a great deal, and had observed what came before him. His manner of speaking was pointed, witty and satirical. He did not take the highest view of his subject, but exhibited a considerable stock of information, derived partly from books, partly from real life. His classical acquirements had aided him in giving a purpose to his travels. Though not a studious character, he read the new books and reviews which came out, and kept up a general acquaintance with literature.
Very little doubt assailed him as to his becoming in time a favourite with Sir Frederick guests; though he was quicksighted enough to perceive that neither Clarice who
talked to him, nor Laura who remained silent, was at present inclined to like him. He wished to make himself agreeable, and he admired them both excessively. The chances were, therefore, on his side, that he should force them to change their opinion; and he felt considerable curiosity as to what had prejudiced them against him.
Nothing transpired to enlighten him, during his dialogue with Clarice respecting Etruscán tombs and Roman antiquities, the Campagna, and the Pontine Marshes. Though he was not guilty of saying anything very original, the Rector conversed fluently, sometimes eloquently; and listened with sufficient deference to draw his clever companion into saying more on these subjects than she intended. It was difficult, familiar as she was with the objects and places of which he spoke, the curious and interesting relics of past ages, and the glorious productions of immortal genius, to speak of them coldly, Sir Frederick seemed pleased at
their talking together; and, now and then, by his bold unstudied expression of vigorous and natural ideas, conveyed more, Clarice thought, in a few words, than his friend's elaborate descriptions.
Mr. Holcombe professed himself to be, like Sir Frederick Derwent, a passionate lover of music; yet, for some unexplained reason, the pianoforte remained unopened. His allusions to her supposed skill in the science were thrown away upon Clarice. Laura did not ask her to sing; and Sir Frederick, perceiving their disinclination, was too goodnatured to importune them. Perhaps Holcombe's raillery was not quite forgotten or forgiven; and he was a little glad that his satirical friend had no opportunity of criticising the performance which had, he declared, kept Derwent a prisoner for the last week, listening to “ A te, O cara,” and “Son vergin vezzosa," till the words or the tune were for ever escaping from his lips.
Their visitor was a man of too much tact to