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CHAPTER III.

MONSIEUR PERROTIN'S PATRONESS. MRS. SCROPE's intentions in marrying her daughters had been correctly described by Walter Cobham.

Herself of aristocratic birth, and a wealthy heiress when she espoused a gentleman of equal rank and estate, she never for an instant admitted the idea of derogation in her family. Her husband had died within three years of her marriage, leaving only the two girls, Edith and Agatha, to succeed to his large unentailed possessions, and thus, from their infancy, Mrs. Scrope began to expect for them matches with the highest in the land. As their fortunes accumulated, during their minority, with great personal beauty also for their share, this expectation, if it did not acquire force, certainly did not diminish. In the pride of hereditary station Mrs. Scrope considered the world as composed of only two classes, her equals and her inferiors, whose positions she regarded as immutable.

She admitted no qualification of money, genius, success, or--as she phrased it—"any other accident,” to raise to her level those not born to the distinction. However condescending, familiar, or friendly her behaviour to people whom she looked upon as of inferior condition to herself, the law she had made she never broke: her identity was kept quite distinct from theirs. She was liberal enough of patronage, but the persons who were the objects of it always felt that they had a patron. To assume an equality with Mrs. Scrope, unless you were of the privi. leged order, was to lose her protection for ever.

If such was the principle on which she acted towards society in general, it may easily be believed that its strictness underwent no relaxation where the affairs of her own family were concerned. No one, she felt assured, would venture to think of her daughter without first addressing her. It did not enter into her mind to conceive the possibility that anybody could aspire to mingle his blood with that of her race who did not boast an equally illustrious descent, and she took less than the ordinary precautions against so very possible a contingency.

It was owing to this circumstance that Mrs. Scrope had never perceived what consequences might arise from the intercourse which was permitted between Edith and Walter Cobham during her summer sojourn in the Isle of Wight. She found the young officer in the houses where she visited, and saw him, with others, attentive to her daughters, but drew no inference from the fact. Had she been told that there was danger in such attention, she would have ridiculed the idea with contemptuous scorn. There was nothing, then, to prevent Edith and Walter from falling in love.

It was as well, perhaps, for his own prospect of success -as ill, it may be, for the issue that Walter Cobham's choice had fallen upon the elder instead of the younger sister, for Agatha had much of her mother's pride, and held lineage in high esteem. Edith, on the contrary, never gave the subject a thought. According to her belief, her lover had in him all “ those noble qualities that merit love ;"—of the nobility of birth she made no account. Who he was she never asked; what he was alone she cared for. VOL. XLIII.

C

Only when it was too late, when they had mutually pledged their faith, Edith remembered her mother's opinions, and questioned Walter about himself. His answer was not of a kind to remove her suddenlyawakened fear. He was the orphan son of a brave soldier, who had died in the service of his country with only the rank of captain ; but of his father's family there was only the tradition, from Ireland, that it was ancient and had been wealthy, and his mother, he knew, was the only child of a merchant in one of our colonies who left no fortune behind him. Walter Cobham stood, therefore, literally alone, with nothing in his favour but his good looks, his good heart, and the abilities which, at Sandhurst, had—at an earlier age than usual-secured him a commission in the army.

Small recommendations these to the notice of Mrs. Scrope.

In Edith's relation to her mother, the feeling which predominated was dread. There was too much ambition in Mrs. Scrope's haughty nature to leave room in her breast for the expansion of maternal love : those who belonged to her were simply parts of a system which she governed ; and the true, deep, and earnest affection which should have subsisted between parent and child, was entirely wanting. Hence Edith's apprehension of her mother's wrath if she prematurely disclosed her engagement to Walter Cobham; hence her desire to gain time, the great delusion of all who have only hope to live on.

Mrs. Scrope and her daughters were severally employed when the arrival of Monsieur Perrotin was announced. Edith was practising an air--perfect already in some one's belief, but which she thought capable of being made more so; Agatha was painting flowers; and Mrs. Scrope herself was engaged in writing letters, a bracket filled with unanswered ones standing before her: amongst the latter was not the missive of Monsieur Perrotin, the sagacity of the post-office clerks having failed to decipher the superscription.

All looked round with surprise on hearing the French teacher's name. Mrs. Scrope expressed hers audibly.

- Monsieur Perrotin !" she exclaimed. “What has brought you to England ?”

" Alas ! madame,” he said, “I perceive that my infortune is unknown. Never has my letter reach you.”

- There has been no letter,” replied Mrs. Scrope. write?”

Monsieur Perrotin explained the circumstances, and was about to suggest that he had made a mistake in the address, but remembering who had set him right in that respect, he checked himself in time, and presumed that his letter had not beeu forwarded. Mrs. Scrope scarcely heard his answer, having resumed her occupation, and the poor teacher was still standing—stricken with the awe which her presence always caused him—when Edith, rising from her music, came forward and gave him her hand.

“ I am so glad to see you again,” she said; “pray sit down !"

Mrs. Scrope raised her head with an expression on her countenance which Monsieur Perrotin perfectly understood. She looked at him steadfastly for a few moments.

“ You may sit down,” she said; " I will speak to you presently, when I

- When did you

am quite disengaged. Go back to your music, Edith. It is a pity that the elder sister should have to learn from the younger.”

She alluded to Agatha, who, after the first momentary surprise at Monsieur Perrotin's appearance, had continued painting.

The Teacher of Languages suppressed a sigh, less for himself than Edith, and his desire to serve his accidental friend increased. For the present he remained silent, watehing Mrs. Scrope.

The great lady finished her letter at last.
“Well!” she said, “ how came you to leave Paris ?”
“But, madame, this fatal revolution.”
“What had you to do with it? How did it affect you ?”

Madame, I lose all the friends I have. There remain to me only those which are of England. Besides, I love not Paris. I follow after my king."

These last words—the natural expression of Monsieur Perrotin's political sentiments-operated favourably with his patroness.

“In that respect,” she said, "you did right. The people of Paris are vraie canaille. Those who have no respect for station ought at once to be put down by the strong arm. I would have shown them no mercy! But I am not surprised at what has happened. France has never recovered from the blow which was struck at the nobility in the first revolution. Without an hereditary peerage how can a country prosper!”

** It is true, madame, what you say. Where there are no great ones upon who can depend the poor!”

“ And what do you mean to do in England ?"

“I will exert myself, madame, to teach my tong, and those language with who I am acquaint.”

“Pupils ! Well, I dare say I can procure you some amongst my friends. My daughters are now almost beyond the age. But your French is very pure, I know; they may still profit by your accent. You will begin by coming here next week; the days we can fix on by-and-by. Have you got a lodging ?"

“ I am descended for the moment at the Hotel of White Bear, Piccadilly."

“Of course for the moment only. That is not a proper address. You must live in a private house. There are plenty to suit your means in London. I dare say you are in want of money. Take this !"

It was in form the same offer that Walter Cobham had made, but how different in reality! One was the spontaneous effusion of a generous heart, which pride had made him refuse, the other, the dole of careless wealth, which poverty compelled him to accept; but the few sovereigns in Walter Cobham's purse were far more precious in the eyes of Monsieur Perrotin, than Mrs. Scrope's twenty-pound note—even if it had been increased fivefold.

“You will stay to luncheon, Monsieur Perrotin,” continued Mrs. Scrope, in her great condescension, "and then I can hear the history of your escape : at present I am too busy. Take a French play, one of Molière's there is an edition in that case and one of my daughters shall read to you. You want to copy those flowers, Agatha, while they are fresh ? Then it must be you, Edith. Reading differs from music ; it distracts one's attention more. Sit at the other end of the next room; near the conservatory; I shall not hear you, then."

The reading began. Here was the opportunity for delivering Walter Cobham's note which Monsieur Perrotin had hoped for, but now that it presented itself, he, for the first time, doubted if he were doing right in availing himself of it. Mrs. Scrope was his benefactress, however unpalatable the way in which she showed her kindness. Should he repay an obligation by an act that resembled, if it were not, treachery ? Miss Scrope's lover was an utter stranger to him until that morning, and his project was clandestine.

Strong both against the deed. On the other hand, all his sympathies were with Edith and Walter Cobham. He had, moreover, made a promise ; rashly, perhaps, but still a promise, and that concerned his honour. He must keep it, coûte que coûte : but he would not lend himself to such a scheme again : the old excuse for going wrong when inclination is at war with principle. And, like all who do wrong, the consequences came home one day to the wrong-doer.

He was more occupied with his thoughts than the play which Edith had chosen, though he seemed to listen with close attention ; but having at length made up his mind, he raised an objection to the reading of a particular passage, and, asking for the book, declaimed for a few minutes in rigorous accentuation, and when he returned the volume there rested between the leaves the note of Walter Cobham. To prevent an exclamation from Edith, he repeated a line which had caught his eye:

“Garde-toi de rien dire, et me laisse un peu faire. -Voilà, mademoiselle! Lisez-le comme ça. N'appuyez pas trop sur les mots.

Edith had instantly recognised Walter Cobham's handwriting, and instinct prompted her to conceal the note, wondering all the while how Monsieur Perrotin came to be the bearer of it. She turned again to the page, but her voice was now so agitated, that the effort to read was vain ; Monsieur Perrotin also became embarrassed, and the situation might have been awkward for both if luncheon had not been opportunely announced. Edith rose at the summons, and the séance was broken up. “ Has she preserved her accent ?” asked Mrs. Scrope.

Oh, perfectly, madame," returned Monsieur Perrotin. “A littel timide for the want of practice, but for the prononciation there is noting to say.”

“ Others as well as myself will be glad to hear this, Edith,” said Mrs. Scrope, turning to her daughter with a significant look.

Edith blushed and cast down her eyes, and followed her mother with. out reply.

Mrs. Scrope's solicitude on the subject of Monsieur Perrotin's adventures was not very great, for she never once questioned him about them. Her conversation turned entirely upon the extraordinary merits of a certain Lord Deepdale, the son of one of her dearest friends. He was expected in town in a few days from a long tour on the Continent, and if he had been son of her own, Mrs. Scrope could hardly have expressed greater satisfaction at the prospect of meeting him.

CHAPTER IV.

LOVERS.

As soon as Edith was alone she eagerly read her lover's letter. Too fondly attached, she could not refuse his request, though, in agreeing to meet him, her consent was clogged with the usual maidenly stipulation

- for that once only.” “Indeed,” her answer said, “she should not have consented at all, if something had not occurred which she could not write about."

For Edith's misfortune, her sister's nature was as cold as her own was warm, and thus she had never ventured to confide to Agatha the secret of her engagement with Walter Cobham. But, as a heart-secret must, for its own security, be told to some one, Edith was compelled to make a confidante of her maid, Rachel Loring.

An early walk in Kensington Gardens, with Rachel discreetly distant, afforded Walter the opportunity he sought, on the morning after his arrival in London. Having told Edith by what chance he had encountered Monsieur Perrotin, he anxiously inquired what the “something" was which she had to communicate. To the exclusion of

every

other thought the purport of that little word had haunted him ever since he read it : and yet he had been no lover if his heart had not guessed its meaning

“ Your mother,” he said, " has spoken to you of some one else ?"

“ You are right, Walter,” replied Edith, mournfully, “and she has spoken in a way that, I fear, I cannot misunderstand. How arbitrary her decrees are, I need not remind you.”

“But you will never submit to such tyranny ?" exclaimed Walter. “By what right does she dispose of your affections ?”

“You know well, Walter," said Edith, " that it is not in my mother's power to do that!”

He pressed her hand, and for a few moments both were silent. “And who,” he resumed, “has she named ?"

“A person whom I never saw, though I have heard a great deal of him: Lord Deepdale. He is about your age, Walter, or perhaps a year or two older ; the heir to an earldom and an immense estate. His mother, Lady Delaval, and mamma, were brought up together ; indeed, they are first cousins; and I imagine, from what mamma says, that it has long been a settled thing between them !"

“And where is he now, this Lord Deepdale ?"

“On his way to England after three or four years' absence. Lord Delaval wrote to say that he was expected about the end of next month.”

“ About the end of next month !" repeated Walter Cobham. “Edith,” he continued, “I also have something to tell you. Our regiment has received the route, and by the time you speak of I shall have embarked for Canada.”

“Oh, Walter, this is very sudden!"

“So sudden, Edith, that we must come to a speedy decision. Is every chance to be against me? Am I to lose you altogether?”

“Lose me, Walter ! What do you mean? Do you think I would marry Lord Deepdale? Have I not pledged my word to you ?"

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