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“ No, indeed, sir, I will not.”
Then making her exit, she entered the little bedroom behind, and found strength in her very honest indignation to recount to the palpitating Matilda this terrible termination of her love-affair.
In what way Mr. Foxcroft got out of the house was never known: but it is presumed that he opened the front door for himself very quietly, as the maid, when summoned to run out for twopennyworth of hartshorn, deposed that she had neither seen nor heard any thing of him.
It is so very easy to guess all that Miss Matilda felt, and most of what she said, on this melancholy occasion that it is unnecessary to describe it. One observation, however, which she made at the interval of some days after the scene above described, being more peculiarly her own, shall be repeated.
Feeling herself totally unable to face her gay and blooming friend in Curzon-street, the willow-wearing Matilda had confined herself entirely to the house for four days, saying little on the subject to her sister, with whom, for some reason or other, she did not appear to be well pleased, and appearing to find more consolation in darning a quantity of old stockings than in any thing else. On the fifth day, Patty and her page set off upon a voyage of discovery, and despite the reluctance of the fair sufferer to enter upon the history of her disappointment, her young friend persevered in her affectionate inquiries, till she had got at the fact that Mr. Foxcroft feared that they should not be able to make up enough between them to live upon comfortably.
Of the transition of his affections to her sister, she said nothing, having extracted from Louisa, who felt a good deal ashamed of whole affair, a willing promise never to mention it to any body.
Having listened to this valedictory piece of prudence, Patty indulged in some strong language, expressive of her indignation at what she called such "dirty false-heartedness,” and declared that she was very sure there never had been such an abominable thing done before, since marriage was invented between Adam and Eve in Paradise.
“ But,” she added, with much practical good sense, “there is no use in your breaking your heart, you know, because he is a rogue and a villain; and if I was you, Matilda, I'd make love before his very eyes, with the first man that was in the humour for it."
“And so I would, my dear,” replied Matilda, roused by this agreeable project of revenge into a more lively frame of mind ihan she had enjoyed since her misfortune; “only it is so monstrous disagreeable to have the same thing happen, over and over again.”
“I am sure that's nonsense, Matilda, for it isn't very likely that such a queer thing should happen twice to the same person. However, to make that safe, I would always take care that every body should know exactly how much I had goi-and then you know there can't be any mistake. And I'll tell you what, my dear, 'tis as clear as light that papa means to have lots of men coming of an evening just as he did at Brighton, you know, and we shall have capital fun' again, if you'll only snap your fingers at Foxcroft, as I shall do at Sir Jack, if he does not choose to come round again, nasty, cold-hearted, ungrateful fellow! But you don't suppose I mean to put my finger in my eye as if there wasn't another man in the world ? Not I, Matilda, take my word for it. But now I must go—for mamma has found out some old lord that she
knows, and she expects him to call to-day, so she insisted upon it, that I should come back to be shown off. Cheer up, my dear, and I'll find plenty of beaux for you, never fear."
With this comforting assurance Patty departed, and the two sisters were left alone to meditate upon her words.
“ Sweet kind-hearted creature she is, to be sure !” said Miss Matilda, after a silence of some minutes : “it is quite impossible not to love her !--and I am quite sure she is right too, about me. She is an uncommonly sharp girl for her age, and catches things quicker than any body I ever saw. That about letting every body know, was excessively clever of her. Don't you think it was, Louisa ?”
“ Letting every body know about your only having five hundred pounds, Matilda? Why I am sure if the doing it would prevent any more such horrid adventures, I should think it was the best thing that could be done. Only, my dear, I don't think it would answer about your getting married, which I am afraid you have still got in your head. Don't you think, my dear, that perhaps after all the best thing would be to give it up altogether? I am sure it would save you a deal of trouble and vexation, Matilda.”
Poor Miss Perkins was almost terrified when she perceived, by the heightened complexion of her sister, how very distasteful this proposed improvement of their plans was likely to be.
“ I wish, Louisa, that you were not always forgetting the enormous difference in our ages,” she replied tartly." It is all very well for you to talk of making up your mind against marriage, but you must please to recollect that it may not be quite so easy for me. When I find myself noticed like other young women, I should like to know how I am to help thinking about marriage? I am sure it is very shocking, and very wicked, not to be thinking about marriage, when people are making downright love to one. What would you have me think about, I wonder ?"
“Well, my dear, I dare say you know best,” returned the unresisting Louisa. “ And God knows that my first wish is that you should be made happy and contented, if I did but know how to bring it about.”
“ You could bring it about, Louisa, easy enough, if you really wished it,” replied the younger sister.
“Good gracious, how, Matilda ?” returned the elder one. “I am sure I never in my life did any thing to stop your getting married, whatever I might think about it in my own heart.”
"I did not say you did,” replied Matilda, in the sharp tone to which her quiet senior was a little too much accustomed. “ But there is a great difference, you know, between not stopping a match, and doing something sisterly to help it on.”
“ But what can I do, Matilda ? Nobody would marry you a bit the more for my telling them to do it.”
“ But there is a way, Louisa, that if you would put it in practice, would take me off your hands in no time.'
“ Is there? Then I wish you would tell me what it is, my dear. Not that I want to get you off my hands, Matilda; I am sure I love you very dearly indeed; but certainly it would make me a deal happier if I could see you easy in your mind,” said the kind lady, with something very like tears in her eyes.
“Can you have any doubt, Louisa, after all you have seen and heard, that if you were to make over to me half your
fortune--only half, mind I should find husbands enough ready to marry me?” said Matilda, in rather a bitter accent.
“ Indeed, I am afraid you might find plenty, my dear?”
“ Afraid ? What do you mean by afraid? Isn't that cruel, savagely cruel, when you know it is the first wish of my heart !"
"But surely, Matilda, it cannot be the first wish of your heart to have a husband that could be bought for 25751. 10s., which is just half of what I stand for in the stocks.”
" It is very easy, Louisa, to turn the most serious things into ridicule. And as to what I would, and what I would not do, I must certainly be old enough to decide for myself. I am the best judge of what is for my own happiness. It is no good now, to dispute about that~I have made up my mind to ask you, Louisa, and now I do it, in an honest, straightforward manner_Will you let me tell Mrs. O'Donagough, who is truly a friend to both of us, and would take care to make proper use of the information, will you tell her, Louisa, that my fortune is rather more than three thousand pounds,— because of my own five hundred, you know ?"
“I don't believe, Matilda,” replied Miss Perkins, very gently, “ that I could prevent you telling Mrs. O'Donagough any thing you liked ; but as to the thing itself, it is certainly what I do not intend to do."
On receiving this definitive answer, the indignant Matilda suddenly made a large roll of her rather untidy-looking work, and thrusting it under the sofa, left the room.
“ Poor thing!” murmured Louisa, as she shut the door, which had been banged, but not closed. “ Poor thing !—she shall have it all when I die. But I should not like to spend 2575l. 10s. to buy such a man as Captain Foxcroft for her, and she still so well-looking, as she says—I am sure it would be very wicked if I did.”
THE FRIENDSHIP OF MR. ALLEN O'DONAGOUGII AND MR. FOXCROFT
RIPENS INTO CONFIDENCE-MRS. ALLEN O'DONAGOUGH ENJOYS THE GRATIFICATION OF RECEIVING A VISIT FROM AN OLD FRIEND-HER PREPARATIONS FOR IT, AND THEIR PERFECT SUCCESS-HER HUSBAND AND DAUGHTER ARE INTRODUCED TO LORD MUCKLEBURY.
“ No go, my dear fellow !-I must find out some other scheme,” said Mr. Foxcroft, in a bravado sort of tone, as he entered with a swing into the sanctum of Mr. O'Donagough's library, “Matilda Perkins bas absolutely nothing.”.
“ Then how the devil do they contrive to live?" demanded Mr. O'Donagough, knitting his brows with an expression that was by no means conciliatory.
“The money all belongs to the old one,” replied his friend.
“All! Then, Foxcroft, you may make just twice as good a thing of it as you hoped to do. Contrive to pick a quarrel with the youngest ; turn about and fall in love with the eldest, and you will exactly find yourself master of all, instead of half. I presume you are not very particular as to which of the two ladies you get with it?"
“ No, not I. But I am not quite such a fool as you seem to take me for, O'Donagough. I had wit enough to hit upon that scheme myself, and I tried it too, in pretty tolerable good style, I can tell you. But I might just as well make love to your iron coalbox there as to the old one.
Egad! I never saw such a cold blooded old jade in the whole course of my life. She listened very quietly, but with just about as much sensibility as a post; and the real truth is, that women never do listen to love making when they have got money, in the same way as when they have not."
" That is very likely, Mr. Foxcroft, and probably your own experience has suggested the observation; but I must beg leave to observe that it affords vastly little comfort to me, under my extremely inconvevient disappointment. I should be sorry to press any gentleman uncivilly ; but you must be aware, sir, that affairs of this kind are very peculiar as to their immediate consequences. My name has just been put down by Sir Henry Seymour at two of the first-rate clubs, and you must know that it will be impossible for me to permit our acquaintance to continue under circumstances, excuse me, Mr. Foxcroft,
This was listened to with a wonderful degree of gentleness and equanimity, not a shadow of anger appearing on the long-visaged countenance of the ex-lieutenant.
" True, O'Donagough, true as gospel!" he replied, “and if bleeding me could
pay money, upon my soul I'd hold out my arm for the operation. But what on earth can I do, my dear sir ? ' I have never gone out of the gentlemanlike line yet, and I should be monstrous sorry to do it, because you know it is so devilish hard to get up again. But if there is nothing else for it, I suppose I must e'en submit, and get enrolled among some regular set of equalizers of property. God knows I would do any thing, rather than not settle my account with you."
“Well, sir, that is feeling and speaking exceedingly like a gentleman; and I beg to say in return that no man would be more unwilling than myself to harass a man of honour, under such circumstances. But the fact is, Foxcroft, and you know it very well, that if this transaction between us is not closed and settled, you are, in point of fact, placed quite beyond my power to help you. I know, therefore, but of one mode by which I can prove how sincerely I still feel myself your friend, but this mode I cannot adopt without placing a degree of confidence in you which the length of our acquaintance, perhaps, hardly warrants. Professions at such a moment, we all know, come easily, and therefore if I consent to return the I O U which I hold, it must be done upon condition of your immediately giving me proof that you are ready to go all lengths to deserve it."
“ Name your proofs, O'Donagough !” exclaimed Mr. Foxcroft eagerly, and with the refreshed aspect of a man to whose parched and despairing lips the revivifying cup of hope is once more offered ; " name your proofs, and if I shrink from them, proclaim what has passed in every gaming-house in London."
"Foxcroft!" replied Mr. O'Donagough, with a very unusual degree of solemnity, “I will speak to you with the most perfect sincerity, The truth is, that in order to carry out the purpose I have in view, I must trust somebody, and it is obvious, my good friend, that the most