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“Well, I will come,” said the German student, and Leonard threw him his letters. On the one envelope appeared the neat pointed writing of Lady Harefel; on the other, the straggling spasmodic characters of Miss Susan. Of course he opened his aunt Ellen's letter first. He began to read with a smile, at once kindly and a little contemptuous, but the smile vanished as his interest increased.
“MY DEAREST IRVIE,— We have heard nothing of you for so long a time, that your uncle and myself are quite anxious. Ned writes regularly every Sunday, like a dear good boy as he is, but he has not said much about you lately-not from any want of interest, I am sure, but he seems very busy with his boating and other games; and I do hope he does not neglect his books, as I am sure is not the case with you. I do hope that you are prudent this trying weather. The doctors all agree that it is most treacherous weather. It feels warm, but it is chilly. Poor Lady Barkdale has all her children down with the whooping-cough. You had it at school, but I was never quite convinced of your whooping, though Miss Murray said that she heard you, and I am sure that she would not willingly be mistaken in so important a matter. I am in despair about my second housemaid, who, after being with me ten years, is going away to be married. I spoke very strongly to her about the impropriety of her conduct,-not, of course, that I mean that it is improper for a girl to marry, and the man is most respectable, and a sort of foreman of Frogling of Bond Street; but to leave me after ten years, is too bad. Talking of marriages, there is no girl out this year who is half so much admired as Katharine Adare, although she has no fortune. As your uncle says, “ All is not gold that glitters. He admires and likes her extremely. He is very busy with his parliamentary affairs. He is going to speak on Friday when the great debate about the Importation of French Eggs comes on. The Prime Minister spoke to him last night at Lady Dunduffy's. All her plain girls are out now, and not one pretty, which is very sad for her, as Lord Dunduffy is living very far beyond his means. Your uncle shakes his head, and says that it must end in the workhouse; but, I do hope, not so bad as that. Beatrix Louder has run away with Ryder Twinkleton. It is really awful to see these things happening every day. You know that it is actually said that Lord Errison will take his wife back. These fast married women are such bad style, and the girls are not much better. Of course I am not thinking of Katharine; for nobody could be nicer than her in every way, and yet she gets all the admiration which shows that men do not really like the horrid fast girls. Captain Loyd follows her everywhere; and Lord Humphrey Durfey, who used not to go much into nice society, is most attentive. I only mention this because you are such old friends. There was quite a commotion at Burhill House on Monday, where she wore her hair in a new way. Your funny friend, young Mr Aubrey, would have said that the Chinese ambassador was quite out of the running. Mr Zarza Parilla, who belongs to one of the legations, and is very handsome in an Eastern style, though too Jewish-looking for my taste—but I daresay that is a prejudice—is wild about her. Mrs Adare is in ecstasies, but more absent than ever. I have advised her to see Dr Legsome, who did wonders for old Lord Daly's gout. She said such pretty things about you, and let out in a dreamy way that she used to want you for a son. She said that you are so unlike the young men of the day—and that, I am sure, is true—and that Katharine is quite provoked with their airs and graces. Why don't you come to town, and see something of the season? Mrs Adare says that to mix
in good society prevents a young man from getting entangled with inferior people; and really, as Sir Joseph says, why should we cast pearls before swine. Of course I know, dear Irvine, that your taste and principle will always preserve you from an unworthy alliance; but still, one cannot be too careful. I am sure that, if you come to town, Katharine will be glad to see her old friend again, and so shall we all be. Sir Joseph sends his love. He was on his way to the House, and has just stepped back to say that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, which I am sure is true. I do wish this French Egg discussion was off his mind. Good-bye, dear Irvie ; do not be imprudent, and come to us whenever you can.—Your very affectionate aunt, ELLEN HAREFEL.”
When Irvine had read this long letter, he put it quickly into his pocket, and tore open that of his other aunt. Miss Susan's writing was tremulous, and seemed to hurry and stumble forward in eagerness to meet her nephew's eye:
"DEAR IRVINE,—A line in haste! I dare not let the post go without a word. I dare not think what dear Ellen has been writing to you. Adeline Adare is my dearest friend—she so thoroughly understands me; but you know her fits of absence. She said something about you, and Ellen caught it up, and has written. I don't know what to say, but I know how sensitive you are, and how you will be wounded by what seems a want of delicacy in dear Adeline Adare. She is so unguarded and open. You must forgive her. I think that Katharine would die if she knew what had been said. I am afraid that I have not said what I meant, but I could not let the post go. Barnes is waiting for the letter. I do so well know that these things should not be spoken about. I do feel for you.—Your loving aunt,
“P.S.—You must not think from this that we don't all want you to come to London. It seems but yesterday that you and she were playing as children; and now—but I must not say it."
Irvine laughed as he thrust the second letter into his pocket, and Aubrey, looking up from his jam and morning paper, could not withhold a whistle of surprise. Dale jumped up to hide his confusion. His heart was strangely quiet; he was full of a trouble which was half pleasant.