“Why, ay; her father’s commands, and a certain family contract, destine her to marry one of Sir Hildebrand’s sons. A dispensation has been obtained from Rome to Diana Vernon to marry Blank Osbaldistone, Esq., son of Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone, of Osbaldistone Hall, Bart., and so forth; and it only remains to pitch upon the happy man, whose name shall fill the gap in the manuscript. Now, as Percie is seldom sober, my father pitched on Thorncliff, as the second prop of the family, and therefore most proper to carry on the line of the Osbaldistones.”

“The young lady,” said I, forcing myself to assume an air of pleasantry, which, I believe, became me extremely ill, “would perhaps have been inclined to look a little lower on the family tree, for the branch to which she was desirous of clinging.”

“I cannot say,” he replied. “There is room for little choice in our family; Dick is a gambler, John a boor, and Wilfred an ass. I believe my father really made the best selection for poor Die, after all.”

“The present company,” said I, “being always excepted.”

“Oh, my destination to the Church placed me out of the question; otherwise I will not affect to say, that, qualified by my education both to instruct and guide Miss Vernon, I might not have been a more creditable choice than any of my elders.”

“And so thought the young lady, doubtless?”

“You are not to suppose so,” answered Rashleigh, with an affectation of denial, which was contrived to convey the strongest affirmation the case admitted of—“Friendship—only friendship—formed the tie betwixt us, and the tender affection of an opening mind to its only instructor—Love came not near us—I told you I was wise in time.”

I felt little inclination to pursue this conversation any farther, and, shaking myself clear of Rashleigh, withdrew to my own apartment, which I recollect I traversed with much vehemence of agitation, repeating aloud the expressions which had most offended me. “Susceptible—ardent—tender affection—Love!—Diana Vernon, the most beautiful creature I ever beheld, in love with him, the bandy-legged, bull-necked, limping scoundrel!—Richard the Third in all but his hump-back!—And yet the opportunities he must have had during his cursed course of lectures; and the fellow’s flowing and easy strain of sentiment; and her extreme seclusion from every one who spoke and acted with common sense; ay, and her obvious pique at him, mixed with admiration of his talents, which looked as like the result of neglected attachment as anything else—Well, and what is it to me that I should storm and rage at it? Is Diana Vernon the first pretty girl that has loved or married an ugly fellow? And if she were free of every Osbaldistone of them, what concern is it of mine?—A Catholic—a Jacobite—a termagant into the boot—for me to look that way were utter madness.”

By throwing such reflections on the flame of my displeasure, I subdued it into a sort of smouldering heart-burning, and appeared at the dinner-table in as sulky a humour as could well be imagined.

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