Page images



THE entrance of Jeffry with the tea made an acceptable diversion. Grandmamma still adhered to her old habit of preparing it, and seated herself at the table. I for a few minutes longer continued my painting, while Charles, to my secret annoyance, placed himself in a chair close beside me.

Presently, in that quiet, elder-brother style of dictatorial superiority which always had the effect, I am ashamed to say, of chafing my woman's dignity more than anything else, he commenced examining and openly criticizing my far from artistic production.

"Hum! why have you placed those two flower-pots (not remarkably pretty ones either) so near the window?"

"Flower-pots!" with heightened colour; "what flower-pots?"

"What flower-pots? Here, and here," indicating the two large antique stone urns topping the terrace steps, and which, I flattered myself, made a particularly effective appearance in my picture.

"Those are urns, not flower-pots," I objected, 'my cheeks burning painfully.

"Urns, are they? H'm-I thought them little flower-pots. But whatever they are, why have you stuck them up against the window?"

I now saw the mistake I had made, and could easily have explained that the reason of their intrusive proximity to the house was simply the result of my want of skill in perspective; that I had altogether failed in delineating the correct distance lying between the window and the steps descending from the bridge; but, offended by this derisive treatment of my sketch, I remained silent.

"And that pond just in the garden below," continued my merciless examiner; "there is none in the original scene, to be sure. But I don't know that it looks amiss. You have introduced it for the sake of effect, I suppose,

to help lighten that ra-ther heavy mass of foliage? Is that it?"

"Pond!" in a tone of genuine surprise and increased indignation. "There is no pond down there! What is it What is it you allude to?"

"Oh, I am sure I make no mistake," speaking with condescending encouragement, mingled with either real or pretended doubtfulness; "that is clearly water-it can't be anything else, surely? No; it certainly is water," touching the spot with one of my pencils, inquiringly.

"That!-that is the lake! Look out of the window, and you will see it distinctly through the trees in the distance."

"The lake! O-h!-to be sure-yes, I see the lake clearly enough, although it is at least a mile distant."

"Charles, my dear, you have of course heard the village news, and no doubt regret it as I do?" interposed grandmamma, perceiving that another storm was just brewing between our barrister friend and myself.

"Yes; I have heard it," he answered, with a sudden return of gloom, and a quick recognition of the subject, proving how close it and his thoughts were to each other.

"I must say," continued grandmamma, sadly, "the prospect of such an invasion of our rural peace and simplicity affords me anything but that satisfaction so many of my friends seem to feel. Judging from all I have been told of the young people, an intimacy between them and my Ennis is the last thing I should desire, and yet one which, unfortunately, under the circumstances, will be, I fear, impossible to avoid."

"Why not?-why need there be any acquaintance even? Ennis is but a child," exclaimed Charles, with a look and tone of almost fierce earnestness that seemed to me to declare that no circumstances, be they what they might, would have power to hinder his preventing anything he chose. "Yes," thought I, "that hard, relentless nature made you act in the unfeeling, remorseless manner you did formerly. I feel sure of it, you unamiable


"I am not a child," murmured I, offended at so disparaging an implication; "I shall be eighteen next April."

"Ennis has more friends already than necessary," persisted Charles, with unwonted earnest

ness, and ignoring my indignant protest, many of them truer and better than she can hope to ever make again; and she needs no


"I do not expect, I could not even wish to make, truer, better, or kinder friends than I have," replied I; "but I should be sorry, indeed I should despise myself, if I had so unbenevolent, so unsociable a heart that, because it possessed some true friends, it was crabbedly resolved to shut its doors against the entrance of any more. So far from that, Mr. Charley," added I, glancing defiantly at him, "I fully intend, I assure you, if dear mammy does not disapprove, to have lots and lots of acquaintance-the more the better-certainly the more the merrier, that all must allow."

Charles stood with bent head, his countenance a very thundercloud of disapproval.

"Lots and lots of acquaintance!" repeated grandmamma, smiling, "that is very elegant, my little Enny. What would Miss Pitt say to it?"

I laughed awkwardly.

"Oh, 'lots' is a favourite expression of dear old Tursey's, mammy, and I suppose I caught

« PreviousContinue »