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so freely passed on her insufficiency in society, on her contrast to her well-dressed mother, and on the blight she was in those happy moments of confidence after dinner, when ladies sip coffee and talk of absent neighbours, even had she heard them.
An event, however, occurred which, while it lightened up the depressed state of sociability in the neighbourhood, not a little marred the felicitous feelings that were fast stealing over Yolande. Her mother had heard from the Countess of Villaroycountess by a special grant, her husband never having inherited the title-that she had given orders for everything to be got in excellent order at the Park, as with her son, the young Earl, and a small party of intimates, she proposed shortly to be there. Her letter concluded with expressions of pleasure that her son should now have the opportunity of becoming acquainted with his cousin.
Yolande threw the letter down with an affectation of carelessness; but there was a deeper feeling in her bosom. She knew that between the two mothers the desirability of her union with her cousin had been long recognised; Mrs. Villaroy thinking the attainment of the rank, which her father's untimely death frustrated, cause sufficient for Yolande's approbation ; while Lady Villaroy—with the knowledge that a young man, whose childhood had passed in one long struggle with death, and whose weakly constitution and untaught mind told of the contest, could hardly hope to find a bride among the high-born of the land-looked to Yolande as the young woman who, though portionless, by her powers of mind and nerve might give the Earl that weight in society which, with his feeble intellect, even his rank might fail to gain him.
Yolande knew of this, and knew that the two mothers had art enough to work much of their willing in this world. But she also · knew of a spirit within her which would laugh at their machinations, and bear her above them. Consistency was one of the arms with which she would conduct her defence; and accordingly, at her first introducduction, she gave no more attention to the pale, sickly-looking young man, who, in a good-boy voice, called her "cousin Yolande," than his personal or mental attractions called for.
The mothers looked their disappointment. But if ever hope burns bright, it is in mothers' bosoms who are preparing to compass the marriage of their offspring.
There was one cause of satisfaction in this nearing of the Villaroys, to the mind of Yolande. It was one which betokened that she did not yet feel herself of the consequence to Colyton which she desired. She felt that this arrival would show her to him in the light of a courted damsel, and so teach him better to appraise her value. Confiding, happy love, never looks to such means of enhancement.
Yolande was aware that she was not popular among the county young gentlemen. They rather shrunk from those dark enquiring eyes. And, when she did try to be agreeable, and talked of their playthings and used their slang, like other young ladies, it was with so much embarrassment of manner, they always thought she was quizzing, and avoided her accordingly. Now here was a noble Earl, who all the world knew, had come to her wooing. Then surely Dan Colyton must be grateful for the preference she would show for his untitled talents.
Provokingly enough, the first visit which Colyton made to the Park must have revealed to his sharp perceptions how very weak was the head which wore the coronet, and thus betrayed that Yolande's preference of himself was not so striking as she desired he should conceive it.
Colyton had been sitting chatting with her mother and herself—for they were now staying with Lady Villaroy—when the Earl entered to receive the visit, which he had been made to understand was paid to himself, His address was just like other people's. He had received lessons for six months, solely in the ceremonies of greeting and parting; but that was not divulged. And he was so well dressed, and his pale face and light hair, with his slight figure, made him so gentlemanly in appearance, that Yolande looked rather complacently on her cousinship.