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mind, I would not imply that your features are too small, or in any way compare them with any other features in the world. They remind me of no face I ever saw but one ; that is the face of a particular Madonna of Murillo's. It is at Madrid ; and of all faces I ever saw is the one I like best."
Lady Eda looked at Pierce to see if he was jesting ; but Pierce had put on a bold countenance, and was speaking seriously.
“Do you know, Mr. More,” she said, “ that I hate flattery ?”
“Not more than I do, Lady Eda,” he replied; " and when you know me better, you will know it is a fault I am seldom guilty of.” “ Seldom guilty of? Then you
you do flatter sometimes ?”
“Yes, sometimes I do. In fact, I was wrong in saying seldom. I always flatter when I find people vain enough to accept flattery for sincerity; and as there are not a
few such people in the world, I believe I flatter very often."
“And how am I to know you don't flatter me?"
“Because, in the first place, you are not a vain person; and in the second, I never flatter people I like. So far from it, I am in the habit of saying things that are not always quite civil. But,” he added, lowering his voice, and speaking earnestly, “ you remember the lines in the 'Misanthrope ?
Plus on aime quelqu'un, moins il faut qu'on le flatte. A ne rien pardonner, le pur amour éclate !'”
Eda turned away her head, and bestowed one of her sweetest smiles upon Arthur, who came up to speak with her, just as Pierce had cited his couplet. He endeavoured to engage her in further conversation, but she studiously declined listening. Hurt at this abrupt interruption to a téte-à-tête so delightful to him, he left Lady Eda, and commenced a serious flirtation with Miss Fitzbun. Now, although Miss Fitzbun had long since resigned any serious hopes of a conquest, she pertinaciously kept her forces hovering about the field, to annoy an enemy she was not powerful enough to cope with in open
battle. On principle, Pierce despised the flirtation scheme, as part of a system of love-making too vulgar and common-place for his notice. Theoretically, he thought it absurd to win the affections of one person by trifling with those of another, and by hurting the feelings of both. Practically, he felt the irritating effect of a slight; and, finding his own affections excited, sought by the same means to work the same result upon Lady Eda.
Miss Fitzbun, ever ready to favour an iniquitous design of this particular nature, made the most of all his compliments; simpering and smirking at them whenever Lady Eda looked her way, as if Mr. More was putting the mo
mentous question at every other sentence. Lady Eda did look at Pierce; and Pierce could see, or thought he could, that she was much more occupied with him than with the reniarks of Longvale. Tired of Miss Fitzbun, and of his own folly, he again turned to Lady Eda, fully hoping for an immediate reconciliation. Possibly Lady Eda might not have been aware that Pierce did hope for a reconciliation, for there was nothing in her manner the least to indicate a reciprocal hope.
“You have been doing the useful, I see,' she said.
How the useful ?” said Pierce. “Making yourself agreeable to poor Miss Fitzbun. I am so glad you have been talking to her. I am afraid she gets very much bored; nobody ever seems to take any notice of her, poor girl!"
“Except when you condescend to favour her with that charmingly patronizing air you know how to assume so very naturally.
“I was not aware,” said Lady Eda, rather haughtily, “ that I patronized anybody.”
“Oh yes, you do though, and more people than one.”
Pray have the goodness to tell mewho ?”
“No, I can't do so: I leave that to your own conscience.”
Lady Eda smiled provokingly.
“I dare say not; you are very obdurate,” and Pierce was dumb.
It was getting rather late, and Fitzbun, at the request of Longvale seated herself at the piano, and began singing a favourite song of More's. Pierce, who had contrived to make himself very miserable by misinterpreting everything Lady Eda had done or said to him throughout the evening, determined to let her see now, how deeply she had wounded his feelings; so, arranging his features into the grimmest smile they were capable of assuming, and,