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ber predilections, and bad her speak no more to Frank Walsingham, on pain of disinheritance, the usual threat held out on such occasions, by fathers to children, because the penalty of which children are least capable of comprehending the importance.
But Frank Walsingham !- If Chippenham's surmise were just, what had Frank Walsingham been about ?—How had he been dealing with his friend Cecil ?—Though a dozen years younger than myself, I had ever admitted him to such terms of familiarity as entitled him to acquaint me with all his follies, -and Heaven knows he was not sparing in his use of the privilege !—I knew of his debts, his embarrassments, his entanglements. — He had made no secret to me of Lady Mitchelston's fancy for him—why conceal his own affection for Jane, unless for the nefarious purpose of so engaging her love in return, that one of the best matches in London might eventually fall to his share?
But no ! I would not and could not believe this of Frank Walsingham!—There was nothing designing in his nature.- His heart was as guileless as Jane Danby's countenance. If he had erred, it was at the instigation of irresistible passion ;—if he bad deceived me, it was because he still hoped to subdue a feeling he understood the unlawfulness of encouraging:However, I would see and judge for myself.
I was driving, as I said before, in the Belgrave Square quarter,-simply for the sake of air, and a free causeway ;-when, as I passed through Eaton Square, I perceived Sir Lucius Brettingham's house lighted up, and recalled to mind that, though regularly invited to her ladyship’s Sunday evening parties, I had not set foot in her house throughout the season.I was just in the irritable mood to go any where, or do any thing, to get rid of myself ;as a man, beginning to get tipsy, is ready to drink any thing and every thing presented to him.-I went in, therefore, to Lady Brettingham's ;-1 did not much care where I went.
Mariana received me with all her former graciousness. It was part of her system to make no enemies in life; and the regiment of partizans recruited by all that usually creates a legion of indignant faces, was really surprising.–Her life was a system of policy.-Instigated by heartless ambition, she had resolved to render every thing, even the holiest of feelings and engagements, subsidiary to her rise in life ;—and as in the political turmoil of France, even the altar-plate of the churches was melted down to assist in the advancement of the cause, nothing so sacred that Lady Brettingham did not trample under foot, as steps whereby to ascend the throne of preferment !
Like every other course unflinchingly persisted in, it succeeded. I remember the time when the Windsor set used to say to me, " Cecil – how can you lose your time with that vulgar woman ;-pretty certainly—but after all - a Mrs. Brettingham ?” — accompanied by shrugs and sneers, which, from certain persons, amount to a peine infamante.
Yet now, when I entered ber rooms after six months' absence, so as to have acquired the freshness of eye indispensable to judge of such a point, whom did I find there—WHOM ?- The very men, grown greyer and greater,—who, eight years before, had reprehended me for losing my time with “a” Mrs. Brettingham !
She had managed to assemble round her every thing in London best worth assembling : every thing belonging to the old Court whose privileges of birth and fortune stood above the chance of a reverse of fashion such as that of Harris ;-every thing belonging to the new, secured by a trifling alloy from the rigidity distinguishing its less popular adherents. All the ministers surrounded her,--and what was more to the purpose, the ministers' wives ; for they knew that a card they had found so useful, might again acquire value from the chances of the game.
The beaux esprits and tétes fortes of society came for the sake of sparkling in a ministerial circle; and the high élite of mere fashion, simply because it was understood that there was some question of selection among even the thrice-winnowed chaff.
All this was easy to be understood : fur people of good fortune, good manners, and good appearance, may do wonders, (by the exercise of extremely bad principles,) towards the formation of what is called a good set. The wonder was that Mariana-1 beg her and Sir Lucius's pardon, she had long been Lady Brettingham to me,-should have achieved it without becoming an object of odium and insult to the ejected, or being poignarded by the bosom friends of whom she had ceased to remember the existence.
Such is the charm of urbanity in this wicked world - The Frenchman, who in a crowd elbows the breath out of your body, by first exclaiming “ Pardon !” and conciliating you by a smile, deprives you of your title to knock him down;—“car on peut tout faire,” says
quand on le fait poliment.” Objects