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good man in a state of bewilderment and embarrassment and doubt, which would have been much more unpleasant if he had not felt so flattered at the same time. "I never meant to influence anybody, I am sure," he said, with a comical mixture of complacence and dismay, when Lucilla was gone. "I have always said, papa, that you don't think enough of the weight people give to your opinion," Miss Brown replied, as she gave the final bath to her negatives; and they both left off work with a certain glow of comforted amour propre, and the most benevolent sentiments towards Mr Ashburton, who, to tell the truth, until he got his lesson from Miss Marjoribanks, had never once thought about the opinion of Major Brown.
He was sitting with aunt Jemima when Lucilla came in, and talking to her in a steady sort of a way. Nothing could have made Mr Ashburton socially attractive, but still there are many people to whom this steady sort of talk is more agreeable than brilliancy. When a man is brilliant there is always a doubt in some minds whether he is trustworthy, or sincere, or to be relied upon; but an ordinary commonsense sort of talker is free from such suspicion. Mr Ashburton was very sorry to hear that Mrs John Marjoribanks had bad nights, and suggested that it might be nervous, and hoped that the air of Carlingford would do her good, and was very glad to hear that her
son was getting on so well in India; and aunt Jemima could not help approving of him, and feeling that he was a person of substance and reflection, and not one of those fly-away young men who turn girls' heads, and never mean anything. Lucilla herself gained something in Mrs John's eyes from Mr Ashburton's high opinion; but at the same time it was quite clear that he was not thinking of anything sentimental, but was quite occupied about his election, as a man of sense should be. Lucilla came in with a fine bloom on her cheeks, but still with a shade of that sadness which had had so great an effect upon Major Brown. She had taken off her hat before she came in, and dropped into her chair with an air of languor and fatigue which was quite unusual to her. "It makes such a difference in life when one has something on one's mind," said Lucilla, and she sighed, as was but natural; for though that did not affect the energy of her proceedings, she knew and remembered at moments of discouragement how seldom one's most disinterested exertions are appreciated at the end.
"You want your lunch, my dear," said Mrs John.
"Perhaps I do," said Miss Marjoribanks, with a mournful affectionate smile. "I have been sitting to Maria Brown. She has taken six, and I am sure they are every one more hideous than the other; and they will go all over England, you know, for the Browns have hosts of people belonging to them; and everybody will say, 'So that is Miss Marjoribanks.' I don't think I am vain to speak of," said Lucilla, "but that sort of thing goes to one's heart."
"These amateurs are terrible people," said Mr Ashburton, in his steady way; "and photographs are a regular nuisance. For my part"
"Don't say that," said Miss Marjoribanks. "I know what you are going to say; and you must sit to her, please. I have said already she must do one of you; and I will tell you presently about the Major. But wait and talk to aunt Jemima a little, for I am so tired," said Lucilla. She was lying back negligently in her seat, with that air of languor which so many young ladies excel in, but which was for her a novel indulgence. Her hand hung over the arm of her chair as if there was no longer any force in it. Her head fell back, her eyes were half closed; it was a moment of abandonment to her sensations, such as a highprincipled young woman like Miss Marjoribanks seldom gives way to. But Lucilla went into it conscientiously, as into everything she did, that she might regain her strength for the necessary duties that were before her.
And it was at this moment that Thomas appeared at the door with a suspicion of a grin appearing at the corners of his sober mouth, and announced Mr Cavendish, who came in before an ordinary woman would have had time to open her eyes. This was the moment he had chosen for his first visit; and yet it was not he who had chosen it, but fate, who seemed to have in this respect a spite against Lucilla. It was not only the embarrassing presence of his rival, but the fact that neither of the two people in the room knew or had ever seen Mr Cavendish, that put a climax to the horror of the situation. She alone knew him, and had to take upon herself to present and introduce him, and bridge over for him the long interval of absence, and all this with the sense of being in the enemy's interest, and to a certain extent false to Mr Cavendish! Lucilla rose at once, but she was not a woman to make pretences. She did not throw off all in a moment her fatigue, and dash into spasmodic action. She held out her hand silently to Mr Cavendish, with a look which spoke only affectionate satisfaction in a friend's return. She did not even speak at all for the first moment, but contented herself with a look, which indeed, if he had been younger and less preoccupied, would no doubt have touched his very heart.
"So you have really come back," she said. "I am so glad! after all that people said about your being married and dead and ever so many stupid things. Oh! don't look at me, please. It doesn't matter with a gentleman, but I know as well as if you had told me that you think me dreadfully gone off"
"I entertain such a profane idea !" said Mr Cavendish; but he was considerably embarrassed, and he was a great deal stouter, and altogether different from what he used to be, and he had not the light hand of his youth for a compliment. And then he sat down on the chair Thomas had given him; and he looked uncomfortable, to say the least of it; and he was getting large in dimensions and a little red in the face, and had by no means the air of thinking that it didn't matter for a gentleman. As for Miss Marjoribanks, it would be impossible to say what mists of illusion dropped away from her mind at the sight of him. Even while she smiled upon the new-comer, she could not but ask herself, with momentary dismay—Had she really gone off as much in the same time?
"I have been looking for you," Miss Marjoribanks resumed; "I waited in for you Tuesday and Wednesday, and it is so odd you should have come just at this minute. Aunt Jemima, this is Mr Cavendish, whom you have heard so much about—and don't go, please, Mr Ashburton—you two must know each other. You will be hearing of each other constantly; and I suppose you will have to shake hands or something on the hustings—so it will be much the best to begin it here."
But the two candidates did not shake hands: they
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