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markably good-looking, his ingrained selfishness was fostered by the attentions showered on him upon his entrance into the fashionable world, where a liberal allowance rendered his life a pleasant one; and but that, at a Hunt-ball, one snowy Christmas, at which, his lady-mother being patroness, he was obliged to exhibit the light of his countenance, he had allowed his fancy to be captivated by the fair face of the eldest daughter of Sir Harry Woolston, he would probably have gone on mounting guard through a score of London seasons, till he attained that fossil condition which, in time of peace, characterizes the higher grade of household epaulets.
In a London ball-room, he would have seen her without peril. But viewed in all the distinction of her debât in a country ball-room, where, his own two sisters being still unpresented, she was the heroine of the night, his heart was slightly singed. A few days at Harrals, where both the stable and billiard-table were ing that, on the continent, their income of vingt cinq mille francs de rentes would place every luxury within their reach, they accordingly established themselves at Paris ;-where six pleasant months exhausted their year's income.
A lucky, or rather unlucky coup at play kept them going for a time; and enabled Emma to perfect herself in the art of dress and other superficial accomplishments, no where so readily acquired as in the atmosphere of the Faubourg St. Honoré. But the moment Fortunatus's purse was exhausted, he discovered that, with empty pockets, a metropolis which comprehends every earthly delight and enjoyment, save that of credit, was far harder to live in than the more sober-suited capital of his native land ; where his father's son commanded a most unjustifiable margin of trust.
They returned to England, therefore, to quarter themselves and their ennui, throughout the winter, at Molyneux Castle ; and cajole from Lord Dinton the means of spending a brilliant season in one of the little ready-furnished caskets of Belgravia. Their beautiful children were the pets of the neighbouring square, and of their aunts Lady Mary and Lady Jemima ; and Mrs. Woolston when, the following day, she fulfilled her engagement of introducing little Netta to her cousins, felt inexpressibly mortified by the contrast afforded by the poor shy child in her black frock, to the noisy boy and flighty girl, whose
gay but becoming costumes savoured more of the masquerade than of the nursery.
Happy and impetuous, the little Molyneuxes seized upon
their timid little cousin, rather as a victim than a playmate; and Maria, who saw her colour rise and her breath come short, so little was she accustomed to the rough companionship customary to her age, was sadly afraid that a burst of tears would crown the introduction. But poor little Netta was too much frightened
She submitted heroically to have her bonnet torn off, and to be dragged by Edgar
unexceptionable, completed his conquest ; and during a long and perilous sledge-drive with the gay guardsman, the thoughtless Emma pledged herself to become, under sanction of the parental authorities, the wife of a poor Honourable.
If not absolutely withheld, their consent was grudgingly conceded. On the score of family, neither father could object; and if the young couple could make up their minds to live on a thousand a year, (six hundred given by Lord Dinton and three by Sir Harry, were, by tacit consent, called a thousand), it was their own affair. And thus, a boy of three-and-twenty and a girl of eighteen, were launched in a pleasure-boat on the stormy ocean of life, with shipwreck staring them in the face.
Had they settled quietly in the country, in a neighbourhood where the high position of their respective families would have established their own, without striving or struggling to appear richer or greater than they were, their means might have sufficed them. But Gerald, for whom a life of pleasure had far more charm than a life of happiness, pleaded professional necessity for a house in London.
And though, for a time, it was of the smallest, unconscious self-indulgence rendered it as costly as a palace. Handsome, lively, agreeable both to look at and listen to, they were invited every where; and thus universally welcome, appeared to take life and its cares as an excellent joke.
When the birth of a second child rendered their little toy-box of a house too small to hold them, while the agglomerated bills of four years rendered London itself too hot to hold them, the sale of Gerald's commission and the generous assistance of his father so far enfranchised them, that a small country-house might once more have secured their well-being. But both Gerald and the wife whom he had by this time trained to his own views of domestic felicity, shuddered at the idea of what they were pleased to term, a penal settlement. Protest