“Much more than ought to engage your attention, Miss Vernon,” I replied, somewhat mortified; and I took the verses from her unreluctant hand—“and yet,” I continued, “shut up as I am in this retired situation, I have felt sometimes I could not amuse myself better than by carrying on, merely for my own amusement you will of course understand, the version of this fascinating author, which I began some months since, when I was on the banks of the Garonne.”

“The question would only be,” said Diana gravely, “whether you could not spend your time to better purpose?”

“You mean in original composition,” said I, greatly flattered; “but, to say truth, my genius rather lies in finding words and rhymes than ideas; and, therefore, I am happy to use those which Ariosto has prepared to my hand. However, Miss Vernon, with the encouragement you give—”

“Pardon me, Frank; it is encouragement not of my giving, but of your taking. I meant neither original composition nor translation, since I think you might employ your time to far better purpose than in either. You are mortified,” she continued, “and I am sorry to be the cause.”

“Not mortified,—certainly not mortified,” said I (with the best grace I could muster, and it was but indifferently assumed); “I am too much obliged by the interest you take in me.”

“Nay, but,” resumed the relentless Diana, “there is both mortification and a little grain of anger in that constrained tone of voice; do not be angry if I probe your feelings to the bottom—perhaps what I am about to say will affect them still more.”

I felt the childishness of my own conduct, and the superior manliness of Miss Vernon’s, and assured her, that she need not fear my wincing under criticism which I knew to be kindly meant.

“That was honestly meant and said,” she replied; “I knew full well that the fiend of poetical irritability flew away with the little preluding cough which ushered in the declaration. And now I must be serious.—Have you heard from your father lately?”

“Not a word,” I replied; “he has not honoured me with a single line during the several months of my residence here.”

“That is strange;—you are a singular race, you bold Osbaldistones. Then you are not aware that he has gone to Holland, to arrange some pressing affairs which required his own immediate presence?”

“I never heard a word of it until this moment.”

“And farther, it must be news to you, and I presume scarcely the most agreeable, that he has left Rashleigh in the almost uncontrolled management of his affairs until his return?”

I started, and could not suppress my surprise and apprehension.

“You have reason for alarm,” said Miss Vernon, very gravely; “and were I you, I would endeavour to meet and obviate the dangers which arise from so undesirable an arrangement.”

“And how is it possible for me to do so?”

“Everything is possible for him who possesses courage and activity,” she said, with a look resembling one of those heroines of the age of chivalry, whose encouragement was wont to give champions double valour at the hour of need; “and to the timid and hesitating everything is impossible, because it seems so.”

“And what would you advise, Miss Vernon?” I replied, wishing, yet dreading, to hear her answer.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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