Bridal Visits and Adieux

The whole town of Hollingford came to congratulate and inquire into particulars. Some indeed—Mrs. Goodenough at the head of this class of malcontents—thought that they were defrauded of their right to a fine show by Cynthia’s being married in London. Even Lady Cumnor was moved into action. She who had hardly ever paid calls “out of her own sphere”, who had only once been to see “Clare” in her own house—she came to congratulate after her fashion. Maria had only just time to run up into the drawing- room one morning, and say—

“Please, ma’am, the great carriage from the Towers is coming up to the gate, and my lady the Countess is sitting inside.” It was but eleven o’clock, and Mrs. Gibson would have been indignant at any commoner who had ventured to call at such an untimely hour; but in the case of the Peerage the rules of domestic morality were relaxed.

The family “stood at arms”, as it were, till Lady Cumnor appeared in the drawing-room; and then she had to be settled in the best chair, and the light adjusted before anything like conversation began. She was the first to speak; and Lady Harriet, who had begun a few words to Molly, dropped into silence.

“I have been taking Mary—Lady Cuxhaven—to the railway station on this new line between Birmingham and London, and I thought I would come on here, and offer you my congratulations. Clare, which is the young lady?”— putting on her glasses, and looking at Cynthia and Molly, who were dressed pretty much alike. “I did not think it would be amiss to give you a little advice, my dear,” said she, when Cynthia had been properly pointed out to her as bride-elect. “I have heard a good deal about you; and I am only too glad, for your mother’s sake—your mother is a very worthy woman, and did her duty very well, while she was in our family—I am truly rejoiced, I say, to hear that you are going to make so creditable a marriage. I hope it will efface your former errors of conduct—which we will hope were but trivial in reality—and that you will live to be a comfort to your mother—for whom both Lord Cumnor and I entertain a very sincere regard. But you must conduct yourself with discretion in whatever state of life it pleases God to place you, whether married or single. You must reverence your husband, and conform to his opinion in all things. Look up to him as your head, and do nothing without consulting him.”—It was as well that Lord Cumnor was not amongst the audience; or he might have compared precept with practice—“Keep strict accounts; and remember your station in life. I understand that Mr—”, looking about for some help as to the name she had forgotten, “Henderson—Henderson—is in the law. Although there is a general prejudice against attorneys, I have known two or three who are very respectable men; and I am sure Mr. Henderson is one, or your good mother and our old friend Gibson would not have sanctioned the engagement.”

“He’s a barrister,” put in Cynthia, unable to restrain herself any longer. “Barrister-at-law.”

“Ah, yes. Attorney-at-law. Barrister-at-law. I understand without your speaking so loud, my dear. What was I going to say before you interrupted me? When you have been a little in society, you will find that it is reckoned bad manners to interrupt. I had a great deal more to say to you, and you have put it all out of my head. There was something else your father wanted me to ask—what was it, Harriet?”

“I suppose you mean about Mr. Hamley?”

“Oh, yes! we are intending to have the house full of Lord Hollingford’s friends next month, and Lord Cumnor is particularly anxious to secure Mr. Hamley.”

“The Squire?” asked Mrs. Gibson, in some surprise. Lady Cumnor bowed slightly, as much as to say, “If you did not interrupt me, I should explain.”

“The famous traveller—the scientific Mr. Hamley, I mean. I imagine he is son to the Squire. Lord Hollingford knows him well; but, when we asked him before, he declined coming, and assigned no reason.”

Had Roger indeed been asked to the Towers and declined? Mrs. Gibson could not understand it. Lady Cumnor went on—

  By PanEris using Melati.

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