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She dreaded not merely the contempt of her brother-in-law, but the resentment of her husband. She at heart wished to be rid of Mr. Lindsay, Julian, and all his train ; but the habit of conciliating and courting them all, made her feel strangely uneasy, at the recollection of the sudden and violent manner in which she had thrown off a yoke, till then so gladly worn!
Poor matchmaker! not only herself, but all her plans, had been suddenly upset. “However, how lucky that Augusta was not formally pledged to her ruined cousin ! that there had been no actual offer, no positive engagement. People might think what they pleased, but no one had a right to say any thing. Of course, poor Julian was very much to be pitied, but he really had not behaved well. If he had married Augusta some months ago, some part of the fortune would, of course, have been settled on her, and he would not now be a beggar! ...... No; on the whole he was
very much to blame; it was a sad affair, but the sooner it was over, and Augusta engaged to Sir Peter, the better for all parties. There was no engagement, that was very lucky; Augusta had owned there was no positive engagement."
And this was the woman who for some weeks had rejoiced in the idea that it was quite a settled thing, and made all the mothers and daughters of her acquaintance writhe as she enumerated Julian's advantages. Augusta was standing at her window gasping for air, when Sir Peter drove up in his four-inhand. The matchmaker hastened to her daughter's room.
“ Where are you, my darling ?” she said, “ remember your promise; look at those beautiful greys, my child! Dear me! if there isn't poor Mrs. Evelyn, actually at the washtub!..... Oh, what a dreadful thing poverty is !... It would break my heart to see you in such a state as that ......, but, after all, no
one can tell. I am not sure Sir Peter is to be had now. The paper this morning talks of him for the second daughter of Lord Dartmoor, the great beauty. Of course she would jump at such a match; who would not ? He told me she was a very fine girl.'
“When did he say that ?" asked Augusta, anxiously, the prize she had spurned before becoming valuable the moment it seemed beyond her reach.
“Oh, yesterday. I thought he was going to ask my opinion about proposing to her. I am sure he was, but I deterred him by telling him in confidence that I thought you meant to refuse Julian.”
“Do I not look very ill, mamma, wretchedly pale ?"
“ You do, indeed, my love ; but come into my dressing-room ; for once a touch of art may be forgiven !"
When Augusta entered the drawing-room, brilliantly beautiful, her colour was not all
that was artificial about her; she assumed a gaiety and an indifference to Julian, and even a playful tenderness for Riskwell; she joked him about Lord Dartmoor's daughter; she played the jealous lady to perfection; she brought him to her feet, and had just accepted his renewed offer, and a splendid ring, when the equestrian party returned.
“Excuse me, now,” she said, as she saw Julian's distant form, “I have much to do; my poor relatives require consolation. Farewell for the present.” “ Farewell, beloved one! Nay, one kiss."
Augusta shuddered; but her accepted lover's lips touched her cheek. She felt a strange sickening sense of degradation and disgust, and, darting out of the French windows on to the lawn, she rushed into the shrubberies, as if she could hide away from herself.
It was agreed between Augusta, her mother, and Sir Peter, that the engagement should remain a secret to every one else, until the departure of the Lindsays, or, at least, of Julian. He, seeing Augusta's white drapery fluttering among the dark trees of the shrubbery, naturally supposed she was gone there in the hopes that he would follow her, and, with a lighter heart than he had known for some days, he prepared to do so.
But Augusta was pursued, not merely by Julian, but by a sort of terror at the irrevocable step she had taken, a sense of sickening shame for her meanness and deceit,
“And all the deep and shuddering chill
At that moment she dreaded to see Julian. She hid herself for some minutes (when she heard his well-known and still loved voice) in a sort of summer-house; and, when she fancied he had returned to the house, she hastened through the shrubbery, crossed a meadow, and darted into an adjoining wood. Here, yielding to her violent and long-sup