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fault of hers if the earl was a coxcombical dotard—that there would be the more glory in hooking so wily an old trout. “Let us but keep our own counsel,” she said, to herself ; “ least said soonest mended” – her soliloquies were generally made up of wise saws and old sayings“ Augusta must play her cards well, for old birds are not caught with chaff.”
However, Augusta was inexorable. She was vain, ambitious, and a coquette; but the straws and the bubbles were all on the surface - deep and clear beneath flowed the current of maiden purity; that the old fool had disturbed; he had outraged her womanly pride and delicacy. He had betrayed, at once, his sense of his own importance and of her insignificance. He -- the old, the hideous, the profligate, and the mean, had presumed upon the rank he disgraced, and the ill-judged attentions of her matchmaking mother, to offer to her—the beantiful, the proud, and the courted — who would have felt a proposal of marriage from him to be presumptuous, and a union with him a frightful sacrifice to
offer to her what the meanest of her sex ought to have disdained !
Of acute and violent feelings, her indignation when her mother broached the subject, and her disgust and shame when she recalled the frightful expression of his dim eyes, and the heightened colour of his wicked face, knew no bounds. She declared that if he were ever allowed to cross the threshold of her home again, it should be her home no more; and threatened that if her mother in any way promoted a reconciliation with so base and insolent a reprobate, she would acquaint her cousin Julian with the affair, and call on him to avenge an insult which reflected on the whole family. The mother, then, was compelled to desist, inwardly accusing Augusta of romantic folly, when the way to have punished him would have been to have won his hand, and afterwards to have broken his heart, or rather his spirit, for heart she knew (even while she wished him to be her daughter's husband) he had none.
Oh! talk of the beauty-markets of the East-the system, under another name, is carried on wherever matchmaking mammas barter youth with its warm impulses, and beauty with its winning powers, for wealth and station. In England, the mother is the auctioneer, ready to knock down her own child to the highest bidder. What has the slave-market of the East to match with this?
Augusta kept her promise to Ellen, and the mamma knew nothing of an offer, the rejection of which would have been to her a source of ceaseless and bitter regret, and to Ellen, of vain entreaty and distressing reproach. The matchmaker was far from pleased with the aspect of affairs ; but, luckily, the more she was inwardly perturbed, the more was she outwardly bland and smiling. And so she nodded, and looked extremely delighted, while one day Annie read aloud, from the same paper, the intended marriage of Lord Viscount Ogleton with Miss Cheshire, and the departure of Sir Valentine Dashington for the Continent.
“Only think !” said the discomfited match
maker. “Well, I hope they'll be happythey are such nice, dear creatures, both of them. And poor, dear Sir Valentine-what can take him abroad in the height of the season?”
Ellen felt the colour rise to her temples, but the mother only thought of Augusta, and Ellen's blushes were unheeded.
When Augusta and her mamma were alone, the latter, angrily finging down the paper, said, “What do you mean to do, Augusta ? Julian, I begin to think, is not a marrying man. All your lovers, except Sir Peter, have vanished into smoke; do, for Heaven's sake, recall him, he will be caught up shortly, the season will be over, and I shall see you and Ellen dwindling and withering into old maids. I shall never live through it." And the affectionate mamma put her Scotch cambric handkerchief to her eyes.
“Mamma,” said Augusta, “ do not grieve; I solemnly promise you, before the year is out, I will be the wife either of Julian or Sir Peter. But leave the whole affair to me; do
not interfere at all; remember Lord Gripeall. Oh! what a lesson was that to all matchmakers! I shall never forget the deep degradation of that odious affair-never feel quite restored to self-respect, while the recollection of it is a perpetual blister to my pride."
“Ay, it was unfortunate, I own; but we see this through different mediums. He seemed so easy and affable; I had no idea he prided himself on his rank so much; however, I am quite sure, if you chose "
“ Mamma, you have my promise to marry, within this year, either Julian or Sir Peter; it only holds good if that old monster is never named again by you to me !"
“ Very well, my love — so let it be.... within the year.”
“Yes, but you are not to interfere.”
“ I'm sure I've no wish to do so; it seems, I shall get more kicks than halfpence for my pains.' However, a word to the wise,' my dear,-if you don't take care, between two stools, you'll fall to the ground.'”
Augusta left the room.