« PreviousContinue »
Teresa's message was delivered in a sweet, small voice by Mr. Orlando Phipps, and he took occasion to add, that Miss Cellini had been so very animated and agreeable during their walk, and her spirits were so buoyant, that he feared she might have over-exerted them. But, low as was Mr. Phipp's voice, not a word of his message or comment was lost on Sedley's ear, and he experienced an additional pang,
when he heard that she could be so gay and joyous after inflicting such sorrow on him.
The evening seemed interminable to him; vainly did Mrs. Alexander point out the splendid sea view silvered by moonlight, from the windows-vainly did the little flute player puff more vehemently than usual on his instrument, inspired by the accession of a new auditor vainly did all around strive to welcome the newcomer-Sedley remained absent and gloomy, till at length, ashamed of his poor return for Mrs. Alexander's kindness, he excused himself, on the plea of extreme fatigue after his journey, and retired early.
Mrs. Alexander was not one of those people who are always seeking and finding some good reason for every change of mood in their acquaintances. Sedley told her he was tired, and she believed him, without troubling herself any farther by conjecture.
The next morning Teresa and Sedley met at breakfast with mutual constraint. Teresa felt that it was her part to make a change in her manner towards him, which should induce him to seek an explanation of her former unaccountable conduct. She felt that this was due to them both; but the cold bow with which he met her when she entered the breakfast-room, and the studied manner in which he avoided meeting her eye, deprived her of all courage, and prevented her from making any advances towards an understanding.
To add to her grievances, Mr. Orlando Phipps had taken it into his brainless head to annoy her by his wearying attentions, and he was ever at her side.
Never had she felt more unhappy than at this time, when only a few words of explanation were wanting to remove every impediment to her happiness. In society she strove to appear animated, but when alone, the deepest melancholy weighed on her spirit; it seemed as though she were doomed to a life of sorrow and sus. pense ; she indulged in the most painful reveries, and felt that she herself, by her constrained and cold manner towards Sedley, was preventing the very explanation for which she so ardently longed. Yet, feeling this fully, she found it utterly impossible to shake off the reserve of her manner; and what rendered it still more distressing and apparent to him was, the sweetness and graciousness of her deportment towards every other individual in the house. Everything was painful and distasteful to Teresa, all her former occupations were neglected, her calm of mind and placidity of expression were wholly flown, giving place to a restless nervousness, and she avoided as much as she possibly could being in the drawing-rooms, or accompanying the rest of the party in their drives.
Mrs. Alexander saw with regret the failure of her schemes, and that the two people she considered formed for each other should apparently be actuated by a mutual dislike.
There was a family staying in the house at Rossfirth consisting of a father, mother, and two daughters. The father, Mr. Beverly, was a rich and eminent merchant, and a very quiet, good man. Mrs. Beverly had been pretty and was a scion of a noble house; she was, therefore, conceited and affected in proportion to her double claims; but provided people paid her a due share of attention, she was very good-tempered and amiable.
The eldest daughter, Charlotte Beverly, was a fine, dashing girl, who had the stamp of fashion on everything she said, looked, or did; and, from having lived so much in the great world, her conversation was diversified by a thousand amusing anecdotes ; she possessed a great flow of natural spirits, and was altogether a delightful companion for a ride, a dance, a party of plea
sure—but not exactly for life, since home and quiet were detestable to her.
Charlotte was fully aware of her own perfections, and exacted the tribute of admiration from every man with whom she was associated ; and, indeed, it was seldom denied her, for she had the most seducing smile in the world, the most brilliant eyes, and understood the management of them to perfection. Such a being as she was, naturally excited a great sensation wherever she went; and within a very few days of her arrival, Charlotte was pronounced a charming creature by the gentlemen, and a very haughty, disagreeable girl by the ladies. The fact was, that she never considered it worth her while to exhaust her energies in talking to ladies, much less country ladies, who, as she naturally observed, could not possess one single idea in common with herself; all her conversation was reserved for gentlemen, whilst with her own sex she was invariably silent or languid.