Page images
PDF
EPUB

regulated family.” To-day, however, she was the first to enter the room ; and though he appeared a minute afterwards, it was only to bid her good-morning, and to say " that as his mother had not come down yet, he saw he should have time to execute a little business he had to do a few streets off.”

As he shut the door, poor Fanny could not repress a little feeling of disappointment and mortification, the exact nature of which it would have been difficult for her to explain. “What is the matter with him this morning?" said she to herself. Without thinking of what she was doing, she stepped to the window and looked into the street-just in time to catch a backward glance from him, hastily withdrawn on her appearance. She immediately drew back, colouring violently, and then did not know whether to be more angry with herself for the one movement or for the other. Before he returned, Mrs. Vernon came into the room with the cheerful, affectionate look which so well became her, and which always went straight to Fanny's grateful heart; and the Colonel also entered from his writingroom-a note he had just been sealing in his hand; and after making his morning salutations, rung the bell and gave it to the servant, asking whether some one was not waiting for an answer to the note he had received.

"It is from General Maxwell,” said he to Mrs. Vernon ; "he wants me to meet my old friend Sir Robert at dinner, who comes to town, as usual, for a single day: he hates town, you know, and never would enter it if it were not to see his brother and one or

two very old friends, who are obliged to be pretty stationary here."

“ Oh!” said she, “and when does he propose to

[ocr errors]

. “He has come—he came last night.”

“ And have you proinised to meet him at dinner to-day ?”

“ Yes; I was glad the invitation was for to-day, as on Monday we go to Twickenham-do we not ?"

“I suppose so—I believe so," said she, in a cold, constrained voice; her countenance changing in a moment its light, cheerful expression, for one of displeasure and mortification. · The Colonel did not ask what was the matter, but he looked at her with a disturbed air, and said, after a moment’s thought

“We had no engagement for to-day, had we? We did not talk of any plan, I think, for to-day, or for this evening ?"

“Oh no," answered she, in the same constrained, offended tone, "you talked of nothing—you certainly made no engagement.”

He had evidently done something very much amiss, however. What it was, his own conscience must tell him. It was not long in doing so. After a short pause—“ What day of the month is this ?” asked he of Fanny—“ not the 19th, I hope?” —while a deep flush over all his face showed that he greatly feared it was.

“It is certainly the 19th of August,” said Fanny,

who had just written it at the corner of a letter to Marian.

"How very unfortunate!" said he, biting his lips, which were now parched with vexation; "and how stupid I am to have forgotten that this is the anniversary of our wedding-day!"

“ It is not of the slightest consequence," said Mrs. Vernon, repressing the nervous thickness she felt at her throat. “Let it be forgotten. I am only sorry I said anything to recall it to your memory, since it had so entirely escaped it. But it was not always of so little " She did not finish the sentence.

“I hope that note has not gone," said he, rising quickly, and ringing the bell. “I shall not go out today, certainly. I wish, Lucy, you had reminded me a moment sooner.”

“Oh, why did not you ?" thought Fanny.

Forrester came; the note had been gone some time; the man who waited for it was on horseback.

The Colonel rose, as if to write another.

“I beg as a favour you will not,” said Mrs. Vernon; "it would serve no purpose on earth, except to disappoint your other friends in addition. Pray let the matter rest as it is."

At this moment Mr. Vernon entered. He had a large bouquet of myrtle-flowers and carnations in his hand, which he carried round to where his mother sat, and presenting them to her, said, with an affectionate smile, “ You see I have not forgotten the old favourite flowers of this day. Bless you, my dearest mother

bless you both! and may we all see many happy returns

[ocr errors]

" Thank you, my love,” said his mother, in a low voice. “ You, then, have not quite forgotten—" Here she was obliged to stop, her tears were flowing so fast.

Mr. Vernon was shocked at her agitation, but supposing it to proceed from some affecting recollections connected with his sister, he only patted her soothingly on the shoulder, and took her hand and kissed it.

At this moment Forrester came to say that Mr. Vernon's groom wished to see him for a single word, and he immediately left the room to speak to him. The Colonel was standing at one of the windows, looking miserably annoyed and irresolute.

“Oh, if he would only go to her!" thought Fanny; “if he would only speak heartily to her-be angry with her even-anything, I am sure, would be better for both than this shrinking back and silence. But perhaps he cannot do so in my presence.” And in an instant she had glided from the room, and up-stairs towards her own.

Before she had quite reached it, however, she heard the breakfast-room door again open, and, looking down, saw the Colonel come out, with his old hurried, timid look. He reached down his hat and gloves, and seemed to be preparing to set off to his usual refuge, the clubroom.

Fanny could not allow him to go, without making one little effort to have things on a better footing than they could possibly be if he went now. She had great

faith in Mr. Vernon's interposition, if time were gained for it; and running down again, she said gently to the Colonel, as she met him, “ Do we ride to-day? Is it quite settled that you come for us to-day at the usual hour ?

“No: nothing has been rightly settled to-day,” said he, confusedly.

" But we must talk of it before you go. Do return for a moment, and let us talk of it."

He looked irresolute, but Mr. Vernon coming upstairs seemed to determine him ; he ventured once more to return to the room, and Fanny, feeling that her presence was not now needed, and might only add to the awkwardness, again retired to her room. “ He will set things right,” thought she, “ if anybody in the world can do it. Oh, why has not the Colonel his son's sweet, irresistible ways ?”

When they entered, Mrs. Vernon was still weeping, and now more agitated than before.

“What is the Thatter, my dearest mother ?” cried her son, approaching her, and aware for the first time that something new had affected her.

“ I am quite ashamed—” began she, trying to command herself.

“I am most unfortunate, Charles," interrupted the Colonel; “it is altogether my fault-or rather, the fault of my wretched memory. I cannot think how I could have forgotten for a moment that this was the 19th, which we always spend together. I have promised to dine with Maxwell—to meet his brother, who comes to

« PreviousContinue »