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or no attention left to bestow upon the present.
In a general way Mrs. Roberts was far from being reserved towards her daughters, and since their arrival in Paris, this unreserve had decidedly increased, rather than diminished. The phrase by which in England she was wont to express her intention of taking or rather of hearing an opinion, had almost invariably been, "Of course the father of a family ought to be consulted whenever it is possible to do so;" it was now generally changed for, "Young people have eyes in their heads as well as their elders," a difference which displayed a very judicious power of distinction on the part of Mrs. Roberts; for whereas Mr. Roberts was very likely to agree with her, in days of yore, upon most subjects of economy and expenditure, the young ladies were morally certain to do so now; which must already have become obvious to the reader, from sundry little traits which have been cited, relative both to mother and daughters. But now, this delightful unreserve seemed to have vanished, for all that the poor girls could get in return for repeated bursts of the most confidential openness on their part, was this,
"I beg your pardon, my dears, but I really was thinking of something else, and I don't quite know what you are talking about."
the sudden difficulty produced by the demand of Mademoiselle Amabel, Mrs. Roberts had received and paid too many bills in the course of her life, not to feel, in the very midst of her triumph at getting rid of the dun, that the relief was but temporary. Moreover, though she did not think it necessary to tease the poor girls by talking about it, Mademoiselle Amabel's account was not the only one which lay concealed in the recesses of her writing-desk. The elegant Edward had not reached the pinnacle on which he stood, as one of the bestdressed Englishmen who walked the Boulevards, without having been obliged to ask his proud mother for a little assistance, which assistance had been given, not only in the shape of all the ready money she could spare, but also by her telling him that if he would leave one of his tailor's bills with her, she would take care somehow or other, to get it paid before very long. Moreover, though such trifles were not of sufficient consequence, seriously to torment any person with so respectable an income as she had the command of, she could not help recollecting sometimes, with rather an uncomfortable consciousness, that the butter and cream bill had been suffered to run on a good while; and also that Mr. Roberts had given her money expressly to pay a wine-bill, which she had quite forgotten, and suffered the money to melt away out of her fingers, she really did not know for what.
"What is it, mamma?" said Agatha. "What is it, mamma?" said Maria. But this question, direct as it was, did But there was something a great deal worse not help them a bit, for though Mrs. Rob- than all this, which weighed upon the mind erts did not look the least angry, the smile of Mrs. Roberts. She had been for above which she gave first to one, and then to the twenty years in the habit of assuring her other in return, was of so vacant and un- husband, children, and as many people as meaning a character, as more to increase would listen to her, that she was one of the their uncertainty, than to remove it. How- best managers that ever lived; and the conever, they behaved with great good sense sequence was that a great many people conon the occasion, merely giving each other sulted her in a very flattering manner upon a little kick, which was made perfectly in-points of economy, and that her husband telligible by the words, "It's no use;"" trusted all domestic affairs to her without which they uttered without restraint, and, reserve. Could she quietly have gone into in fact, without the least wish that Mrs. Roberts would notice, or even hear them.
But whatever the young ladies might think of it, their mamma did not deserve to be accused of caprice. She really had a great deal to think of, and that too of an extremely important kind.
prison for these troublesome little debts, without any body's knowing any thing about it, she would have suffered absolutely nothing, in comparison to what she sometimes endured now, when she thought what little chance there was that she should ever get clear of them, without confessing The situation of Mrs. Roberts at this their existence to Mr. Roberts. This idea time was certainly one of some difficulty tormented her perpetually, and the more and embarrassment. Though the ready so, of course, because she would not inwit of her daughters, acting upon her own dulge herself with the relief of confiding it sagacious judgment, had relieved her from to her daughters. Why was it then, that
although nothing in the world had occur-ever attained a more thoroughly independred to alter this position of things, and al-ent situation in their domestic circle than though she had all the vexation of Madame Mrs. Roberts. Nobody, not even Edward, de Soissonac's offensive conduct, and the unless he pretended to be half in joke, ever unceremonious commentary of the Ladies ventured to contradict her. Mr. Roberts, Moreton and Forton upon it, to add to her annoyances-why was it that her countenance expressed so very benign a degree of satisfaction?
It was not for nothing, gentle reader. Mrs. Roberts had that morning heard enough to occupy her mind by night and by day for some time to come, without leaving her any leisure to recur to her trumpery little debts; excepting just to remember, perhaps, what a great pleasure it would be to get rid of them.
as far as he was concerned, knew that he had a great deal better not. His life, as he managed it, was by no means a very uncomfortable one, though he hated being scolded as much as most men; for, without absolutely yielding up the power of seeing, hearing, and guessing from day to day, what was going on around him, he managed so cleverly to bow and to bend, to twist and to turn, in order to avoid falling under the displeasure of his wife, that, notwithstanding her strictly sustained author"Why," thought Mrs. Roberts, "why ity, they very rarely appeared to disagree. should not I step forward at this critical mo- Neither were her daughters at all more ment, and offer to relieve my excellent restive under the yoke which her princiand most flattering confidential friend Lady ples of domestic discipline led her to put Moreton of the troublesome guardianship of upon them, than she was at all times ready her niece? As to her mourning and her moan- to forgive upon due submission on their ing, it could not possibly produce the slight-parts. It may, indeed, always be remarked, est inconvenience to me. I should not be that where the conjugal part of an establishcalled an unfeeling sister because I did not ment is carried on upon a system resemmourn and moan with her. Four hundred bling that of Mrs. Roberts, the children of a year! More than half as much again as the family are found to restrain all sympwe have got now! It would be perfectly toms of natural and hereditary vivacity of impossible that we could go wrong with temper to their intercourse with their papa; that perfectly! And then the contin- feeling, from a sort of intuitive logic, that gency! Let any woman look at Edward he who has been brought to declare, any woman in the world, rich or poor, without a murmur, that black was white, old or young, and see if she can do it with- every time his lady and mistress required out feeling at her heart that he is the hand- the concession, was not likely to make any somest man she ever saw. Living with great difficulty about allowing that pale him, too, actually living under the same pink was dark crimson, when his offspring roof with him! I will defy her to help her-particularly wished that he should do so. self, poor girl; there can be no doubts or Yet, notwithstanding the admirable simfears about that part of the business. And plicity of the machinery which regulated even if her father, Sir Christopher, should all the more important movements of the marry, and it should turn out that she would Roberts family, by which one main spring never have any thing beyond her present did every thing, without any perplexing five hundred a year, I should still be de- complication of action from minor oneslighted with the match. The connection, notwithstanding this admirable arrangewith our high spirit and superior sort of ment, there were now and then circumstanfeeling on those subjects, would perfectly ces which, like the present, required the acreconcile us all to the marriage, even quiescence of the titular master of the famthough her father were to have half-a-ily to be publicly expressed in order to bring dozen sons. Our calling on that proud the business to perfection. old woman to-day, was perfectly providential!"
Now then who will wonder at Mrs. Roberts looking pleased despite all the troubles which beset her? Or who can blame her if, with such occupation for her thoughts, she did not pay any great attention to what her daughters were talking about?
Few women, in any station of life, had
But not for this was the heartfelt contentment of Mrs. Roberts the less perfect. She knew her power, and if there was something of almost nervous hurry in the manner in which, on returning home, she sought her husband, it was not from any agitating doubt as to how her proposal might be taken, but solely from eagerness to be doing in a business, from the accomplishment o
which she anticipated such delightful results.
Mr. Roberts had an old English newspaper before him when she entered the room where he was sitting, but he was more than half asleep over it, and started when roused to consciousness by his wife, who laid her hand upon his shoulder as she approached him, giving him a gentle shake.
"Oh! is it you, my dear?" he exclaimed. "I do believe I was dreaming, for I fancied I heard old Smithson, our head clerk, complaining that the balance sheet did'nt show off so so well as it ought to do. Only think of my dreaming that, my dear!"
painful sort of misgiving about their expenditure. The carriage, the gay dresses of the whole family, particularly in the case of his son, of which naturally he was in some degree a better judge, altogether made him feel doubtful whether the economy of this continental scheme was quite as much to be depended on as its gaiety. And now he only expected to hear the name of some French, German, Polish, or British grandée, whose visiting card had produced the exhilarating effect on his lady's spirits, which he witnessed.
Well, sir," began Mrs. Roberts, as soon as she had finished her jocose examination of her husband's grave face, "though you do look so very solemn, I suppose you do not intend to deny that we are living with a great deal more enjoyment, and amongst a very much better set of acquaintance, than we ever did before?"
"But you must be wide awake now, Mr. Roberts, to listen to what I have got to say to you," said his wife, in an accent which showed plainly enough that the promised communication was to be received as extremely agreeable. "And most thankful "Oh, yes, my dear," replied the husband, you ought to be, Mr. Roberts," she added, "it is quite certain that we none of us solemnly, "that neither your prosperity, ever went out into company so much benor that of your family depends longer upon fore; and as to titles, and all that sort of Mr. Smithson and his balance sheet. I finery, of course there is no comparison. think I have something to tell you that will I am only afraid sometimes, my dear, that convince you at last, my dear, that the wis- there may be a little too much of it—not est thing you ever did in your life, was let- for pleasure I don't mean, for I am ting me have my own way about giving up sure it is quite delightful to see you all enthat terribly slow coach, the banking con-joying yourselves so-talking French all of cern, and coming to a country where my you, like natives, which must be such an knowledge of the world, and my unceasing improvement. So of course I am anxiety to improve the position of my family, can be turned to account."
"Have either of the girls had an offer?" cried Mr. Roberts, eagerly. "Nonsense, Mr. Roberts! You really need not trouble yourself to be in any fuss about their marrying. Such girls as mine, with a mother to take care of them, who tolerably well knows what she is about, are not very likely to encumber their father's house too long. No, sir, I have something better than that for you," said Mrs. Roberts, seating herself in an arm-chair opposite to him, resting her elbows on its arms, and looking at him with a countenance perfectly radiant with satisfaction.
Had not Mr. Roberts several times, since his arrival in Paris, heard his lady announce an invitation, or even a call from some titled absentee, with an appearance of triumphant delight as remarkable as what she displayed now, he might have been more moved by her exulting manner; but although no secret accumulation of debts had as yet been disclosed to him, the worthy gentleman had begun to have a
afraid of all that. But I can't help think-
Mrs. Roberts did certainly feel uncomfortable for about half-a-minute as she listened to this very civil speech, but she rallied again directly, and replied,
"Keep yourself easy, sir, I beg, about money matters; as long as you choose to confide them to me, they can never go very far wrong, you may depend upon it; and
what I am going to say now is a proof of it. You are not altogether out, Mr. Roberts, in fancying that a handsome carriage, like ours, is not kept for nothing. Neither can I dress my girls, as I do, in a style that gives them such a decided superiority over almost every body they meet, without paying for it. Edward, too, dear fellow, can't go naked; and you must know as well as I do, that it is not his little morsel of an allowance that can enable him to keep himself decent; and heaven knows that it is not the scrimping mite of an income which was all that you could contrive to squeeze out of your stupid business, that can do to keep up things as they are now-it is IMpossible to form intimate friendships with peeresses and that sort of people, and yet go on dressing like a kitchen-maid. You may put the question yourself to any body you like."
"Then what can we do, my dear Sarah?" cried the worthy man, exceedingly alarmed. "If the income won't do, what is to become of us?"
"Think about it Sarah? Why I think that if I could live to see him make such a marriage as that, I should be contented to die the day after."
"Then what should you say, I wonder, if I was to tell you that this five hundred a-year, certain, is no more than the sixth part of what this young lady will have, in all human probability? What would you say to that, my good man?"
"What would I say to it? Oh! my dear Sarah, I am afraid that I should say it was too much too much for us to hope that we could have any thing to do with it. But, nevertheless, my dear, I should like, if you please, to hear every thing about it. That, you know, can do no harm to any one."
"No, Mr. Roberts, I should think not. I never found that knowing and understanding every thing, which is my general way of going on, ever did me, or any body connected with me, harm; but rather the "Why, really, sir, I believe you would contrary. as I flatter myself you will allow. find it rather difficult to get out of the dif- I have taken care, sir, to know and to unficulty if you had not a wife to help you. derstand every thing in the least degree imBut if you will have the condescension to portant, about this young lady and her forgive me leave, I will tell you what you must tune. She has five hundred per annum, at do. My friend, Lady Moreton, has been present, Mr. Roberts, four of which her opening her heart to me respecting her father has arranged for her, poor, young, charming niece, the daughter of Sir Chris- motherless thing! shall be paid for her actopher Harrington, his only daughter and commodation in any family where she may heiress, you know. Dear Lady Moreton happen to reside. The fifth hundred will has been all but asking me if we will take be left in her own hands for dress, washher with an allowance of four-hundred-a-ing, travelling, doctors' bills and other inyear for her board and other expenses. cidental expenses." Now this, you see, my dear, would not only make every thing perfectly easy on the score of money-for four hundred a-year makes an immense difference-but it will be such a monstrous advantage to the girls in point of connexion. And who knows, Roberts, what may be the end of it? Who knows whether Edward and Miss Bertha Harrington may not like one another? She is quite young, in fact quite a child almost, and therefore it must be, in a great measure, in our power to make her understand by degrees that Edward is not only the handsomest, but by far the most amiable and excellent young man she can But I think, my dear, you were going ever hope to meet with. And just think, to be kind enough to explain all about that my dear-only fix your mind for a few min-six times five hundred. Five sixes are utes upon the real facts of the case, Rob-thirty; three thousand a year that is. What erts. Five hundred a-year, certain, and were you going to say about that, Mrs. she the daughter of a baronet. If this Roberts ?" were all, it seems to me that we might
"Bless my soul, Sarah! What a wonderful woman you are, to be sure!" exclaimed Mr. Roberts, in a burst of genuine admiration. "Not one single thing, as you truly say, but what you have contrived to find out-that is, I mean, not any single thing that signifies. Now all that about the washing and the doctors' bills is so really important, and puts every thing on such a clear footing, that it is worth almost any money in a business of this kind.”
"Of course it is, Mr. Roberts, or I should never have given myself the trouble of remembering it," replied the lady.
was merely going to mention the fact
that Bertha Harrington will have three thou- men, if not the very cleverest, that ever sand a-year at the death of her father, for lived. For now, my dear, without cockershe is his only child; and that if his death ing ourselves up too much with your sort of should take place without his happening to certain hope and expectation that our Edmarry again, she might certainly be consid- ward will marry her, even without this ered, in point of fortune as well as birth, as beautiful conclusion, I can't but say that I an excellent match for Edward." should consider the securing of such a boarder just now as about the very best thing that could happen to us. It would, I do think-indeed I am quite sure it would be the saving of us. Such a boarder as that, Mrs. Roberts, would be the saving of us."
"An excellent match for Edward!" repeated Mr. Roberts, raising his spread hands towards the ceiling, "how cool and quiet you do talk of it, to be sure! Why, my dear, just think what it would be, returning to England after such a match as that! Think how the Pearsons would look, and the Rigtons! Oh, the Rigtons, Sarah, would be better than all, because they did use to come over us so, about their cousin, Lady Thomas! Should you not enjoy going back to England in such an event as that, Mrs. Roberts ?"
"Such a boarder! For goodness sake, sir, leave off that horrid vulgar phrase. A boarder indeed! I do really believe that if all preliminaries were actually settled, and the day fixed on which this dear young creature was to enter our house as a member of our family, Lady Moreton and Lady Forton would both feel so dreadfully disgusted at the word boarder, that the whole negotiation would be broken off."
"Oh dear! oh dear! oh dear!" cried Mr. Roberts, closing his fists, and raising them on each side to the level of his head, as if they were two hammers with which he was going to execute justice upon his of fending brains, "oh dear! oh dear! oh dear! You must gag me, Mrs. Roberts, you must indeed."
Certainly, Mr. Roberts, it would be highly creditable to us, there is no doubt of it; nor much doubt either, in my opinion, that if she does come to live with us, the thing will take place. I know what Edward is, and that if he is but allowed to make the best and the most of himself, by our contriving to let him have money enough to dress decently, and now and then to show off his beautiful figure on horseback, the girl will be no more able to resist "Mr. Roberts," replied his lady, with a him than you were able to resist me, Mr. degree of dignity that to do her offended Roberts. I know Edward, and, indeed, for husband justice he really felt from head to that matter, I know myself too, and that foot-" Mr. Roberts, it will not do for any what I may have lost in youthful looks body in the situation in society which my since I was the beauty of Fulham, I have husband ought to fill, and, indeed must gained in knowledge of the world. Be-fill, it will not do for him, sir, to live with a tween you and I, Mr. Roberts, it would be gag upon his mouth. But if you really rather a remarkable thing if a young girl wish not to undo every thing that I have like Bertha Harrington could live in the done, you will be pleased to speak of this house with Edward, and his mother into young lady as a beloved guest. Her name the bargain, and leave it in any other way is Bertha, Mr. Roberts, and we may, and than as his wife. But of course, my dear, indeed we must, all call her Bertha, for unyou must not say a word about the mar-less we immediately assume this sort of riage, just at present; not even to Edward style with her, our position in society will himself, remember. The first object must be altogether lost, and I would not give a be our getting her to become a member of single farthing for Edward's chance of marour family. That is all we have to think rying her, or for our two poor girls' chance about now." of marrying any body. Every thing depends upon this, sir, and I should think that even you might have wit enough to see it. What becomes of the advantage of our intimacy with all her titled relations, if every body that sees her with us is to be told that she is our boarder? Answer me only that one question, Mr. Roberts, if you please."
Mr. Roberts, his eyes fixed upon his lady's face, and opening wider and wider at every word she spoke, paused for several seconds after she had ceased to speak, as if fearful of losing a syllable, and then exclaimed, "Mrs. Roberts, if you do really manage to get this high young lady to lodge and board in our family, I shall truly think, and truly say, to the very last hour of my life, that you ARE one of the cleverest wo
"My dear I can't answer you," replied Mr. Roberts. "No man, I will venture to say, could answer such a woman as you are,