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natured, so very unjust, as to find cause for censure in a woman's receiving the common civilities of a man who is the friend of her husband ?"

And are you so very inexperienced, niece, as to think that a young and pretty woman can have a man following her about all day, and sitting by her all the evening, without people thinking that a more than ordinary or tolerated attachment exists between them ?”

“But surely when a woman's husband, her lawful protector sees nothing to condemn in such attentions, no one else has a right to question the propriety of her conduct?"

“But her husband may be a knave or a fool, and in either case he is unfit to be her protector, and people, though they may have no right, will, nevertheless, take the liberty without it, of passing very severe comments.”

“ Comments which those who know their own honour and integrity can despise,” and Lady Ellen looked the indignation she felt.

"And what will they gain by despising popular opinion, niece ?"

* They will gain their own self-respect by asserting their independence.”

“A sentiment worthy of your aunt Beauchamp, Ellen."

Now, as Lady Ellen knew that Mr. Mortimer held her aunt Beauchamp's opinions in utter contempt, nothing could be better calculated to offend her than the allusion made by him to the resemblance between the sentiment she had just expressed and those of that lady, and consequently nothing could more indispose her to respect his advice or to adopt it. People seldom reflect on the necessity of avoiding every thing that can wound or offend, when they bestow counsel; for, however well-meant may be the motive of giving it, the receiver rarely accepts it with the satisfaction with which it is given ; and a sense of superiority implied by the adviser, predisposes the advised, even though convinced of the value of the unpalatable potion, to reject it. The truth of this assertion was now proved by the mode in which Lady Ellen replied to her uncle.

“ I hope," said she, bridling up as people call it, when a person holds up his or her head in a more elevated position than usual,— I hope that my sentiments may always be worthy of my aunt Beauchamp, and then I shall have nothing to reproach myself with ;” and she walked out of the room with an air of offended dignity, that would not have disgraced the prima donna of St. Carlo, in her grandest róle.

“ Whew !" muttered Mr. Mortimer. “So, so, madame ma nièce, you are angry, are you? then the affair is more grave than I imagined; for when a woman gets angry, not with herself for giving cause for scandal, but with those who draw natural, though not perhaps kind inferences from her conduct, it is a certain sign she is in danger. I have alarmed her, however, and that may do some good. What fools women are to be sure !" continued he, thinking aloud. “ Here is this silly girl quarrelling with me because, forsooth, I disapprove of her flirtation with Lord Windermere, when only a few months ago she was ready to wage war with me, because I wished her to marry him. Give a woman her head, and she will be sure to run against a post. Here is this niece of mine—who, less than a year ago, fancied she could not live unless wedded to Meredith—now as tired of his drowsy habits, and selfish indulgence in the creature comforts, as ever she was of a wornout robe or a faded ribbon ; and I'll be bound fancying herself as much smitten with Windermere, as she before believed herself

to be with Meredith. But I must keep her from falling into a scrape after all, even though it be against her will."

That evening, Mr. Mortimer made one of the party at dinner with the Merediths; and as usual, Mr. Meredith, soon after coffee, extended himself on a sofa, and resigned himself to the influence of sleep. Mr. Mortimer felt that he was de trop in the room, and Lord Windermere and Lady Ellen looked as if they were equally convinced of this fact. The lady walked into the balcony (balconies, par parenthèse, are useful resources on such occasions), and bent her head over the fragrant flowers placed there. Lord Windermere was not slow in following her;: and Mr. Mortimer heard them converse on the softening effect of moonlight on the feelings in tones so sentimental, as to convince him that theirs owned the influence of it, at that moment. Now Mr. Mortimer, be it known to my readers, was, like many other sexagenarians, subject to attacks of pain in his face and ears, that rendered him very fearful of exposing himself to the night air, even in the mild and genial climate of Naples ; consequently, though most desirous to interrupt the tête-à-tête on the balcony, he dared not venture out on it. Finding, however, that Lady Ellen and Lord Windermere seemed determined to remain there and enjoy their privacy, he left the room, and putting on his great-coat and cloak, and tying a silk handkerchief over his ears, under his hat, he returned ; and, to the surprise and dissatisfaction of the occupants of the balcony, took his station there beside them. The ludicrous figure he presented, might have provoked the laughter of even the most serious; and, as he held a handkerchief to his mouth to exclude the air, he offered one of the most rueful objects imaginable. But neither his niece nor her admirer were disposed for mirth. They had been indulging in sentimental rhapsodies on sympathy of soul and unison of tastes, until they had worked themselves up into the belief, that they stood apart from the generality of human beings, and were by far too refined, and too spiritualized, to be understood, except by each other.

They ceased speaking, when Mr. Mortimer joined them, but their looks were eloquent.

The moonbeams at that moment fell on the beautiful face of Lady Ellen, giving to her finely-chiselled forehead the snowy tint of a marble statue. Her luxuriant tresses bound round her small head, and her white dress falling in folds to her feet, added to the resemblance. Lord Windermere's eyes were fixed on her face with an expression of such undisguised and passionate admiration, as could leave no doubt of his sentiments on whoever chanced to behold him ; and Lady Ellen's eyes were turned to the heavens as if to search in the mystic disk of the moon, the secrets of futurity.

“I think I heard you both speaking of the softening effect of moonlight on the feelings,” said he, with a rueful glance at that luminary. “Now for my part, I think it hardens the feelings confoundedly; for hang me, if ever I felt less softened than at this very moment. And as to the pleasantry of this scene, which you have been enjoying for the last hour, why it is enough to give any body the chronic rheumatism, or a fit of the ague."

So saying, he entered the saloon, removed his wrappings, and comfortably took possession of the second sofa, precisely vis-à-vis to the one occupied by Mr. Meredith.

The Marquis of Windermere and Lady Ellen soon after left the balcony, looked at each sofa, tenanted by a noisy sleeper, and then at each other, with glances of tender commiseration.

“Will you read to me?" asked Lady Ellen.

“ If you wish it. You know your wishes are laws to me. Shall it be Dante ?"

“ If you please ; I am sad to-night, and disposed to hear something grave.”

“ You are sad! Oh! Lady Ellen, do not indulge in sadness, it would make you toomtoo dangerous.”

Lady Ellen blushed, and averted her eyes from the impassioned gaze of her admirer, and he took up a volume of Dante, and having looked over a few of its pages, commenced reading the beautiful episode of Francesca de Rimini. As the soft melodious voice of Lord Windermere pronounced the following passage, Mr. Mortimer, who only feigned sleep, and perfectly understood Italian, thought it not a little analogous to the position of the reader and Lady Ellen.

“ Ma se a conoscar la prima radice

Del nostro amor tu hai cotanto affetto,
Faro, come colui, che piange, e dice.
Noi legge vamo un giorno, per diletto,
Di Lancilotto, come amor lo strinse
Soli eravamo, e senza alcun sospetto.
Per più fiate gli occhi ci sospinse
Quella lettura, e scolorocci 'l viso :
Ma solo un punto fu quel, che ci vinse.
Quando leggemmo il disiato riso
Esser baciato da contanto amante,
Questi, che mai, da me non fia diviso

La bocca mi bacio tutto tremante :" Here Mortimer, alarmed no less by the tremulous tone of Lord Windermere's reading, than by the visible emotion of Lady Ellen, lest a similar dénouement to that which the marquis was reading, might occur, yawned aloud, rose from the sofa, and pronounced the concluding line

of the poem,

Quel giorno più non vi legemmo avante," in a mock heroic style, ludicrously contrasted by the sentimental one of Lord Windermere.

Lady Ellen looked, and felt embarrassed; and the marquis, though he endeavoured to conceal his displeasure at the interruption, betrayed it by his heightened colour and' flashing eyes. The book was laid down, and a pointed reference to the lateness of the hour from Mr. Mortimer, led to Lord Windermere's taking leave. Lady Ellen, who dreaded a lecture from her uncle, also withdrew, leaving him alone with her sleeping caro sposo. Mr. Mortimer looked at him as he lay supinely stretched on the sofa, giving proof of his proximity only by occa. sional snores.

You are a pleasant fellow !" ejaculated he ; "a nice guardian to a handsome young wife, with as strong a spice of coquetry in her nature, as in that of any of her troublesome sex. Yes, you resemble a sleeping partner in a bank. You take no trouble, but trust your credit and your property at the discretion of others. 'Twould serve you right, you indolent blockhead, were you to meet with the fate of so many Benedicks, who leave creatures only just out of their nurseries in positions fraught with danger, and are then surprised at what follows."

He approached the sleeper; called him several times, but in vain ; and at length was compelled to shake him by the shoulder.

“ What's the matter?-—where are Ellen and Windermere ?—why have you awakened me?"

“ I have awakened you that we might have some serious conversation together."

“ Well, let it be short, dear Nunky, if thou lovest me,' for I am half asleep, and well-disposed to seek my pillow, for that sofa is somewhat of the hardest.”

“ The subject, Mr. Meredith, on which I consider it my duty to speak to you, is one of such grave import to you, and of such dear interest to me, that it cannot be discussed quickly.

Why, what then can it be about ? Any bad news from England ?" “ No!" “ Then I am sure I cannot even guess what the subject can be."

“ Your blindness, your infatuation surprise me. Can it be possible that, unmindful of the danger to which you expose her, you leave your young and inexperienced wife in the daily, hourly society of Lord Windermere, heedless of the censorious observations made on her and you, until her reputation and your honour have become the topic for scandal in every English circle at Naples?"

“What! Lady Ellen's reputation, my honour called in question ? You astonish, you confound me; but you must surely be in jest, you cannot be serious ?"

“ This is no subject for jesting? what I have told you is the fact."

“ Only let me know the man who has presumed to question either her honour or mine, and I will

“ Call him out, I suppose. This is the usual mode of silencing reports; but I never knew it to answer.”

“ How is it possible such a calumny could have been circulated ? We who are so fondly attached to each other, who have been so few months married, and who are inseparable, for you must observe that I never leave her.”

" It would perhaps be better if you did sometimes, rather than to remain whole hours-yes, Mr. Meredith, whole hours-fast asleep in her presence; leaving her to enjoy the dangerous contrast afforded by the attentions and conversation of an agreeable man who keeps himself wide awake.”

“ But it is known to every one that my wife refused Windermere because she preferred me. This fact should surely disarm malice and silence slander. Had she preferred him she might have married him; but having preferred me, is it at all likely that she would now, when morality, virtue, every thing, forbid it ; but, above all, her attachment to me, -is it likely, I ask, that she could now be suspected of loving him?"

“ When she accorded the preference to you, Mr. Meredith, you forget that she knew little of you except through the casual intercourse afforded by a ball, a concert, or the crush-room at the opera, and of Lord Windermere she knew rather less. The injudicious, because angrily expressed opposition to your suit, which her parents offered, and the secret encouragement she met with from my poor foolish sister, Lady Beauchamp, excited a girlish fancy for you, who were her first declared admirer, in my niece's breast, into a Aame which, like a fire of straw, , would have quickly died away without such fuel had been added to it. The efforts and recommendations of her family to induce her to accept Windermere produced precisely the contrary effect which they intended; so that her marriage with you can no more be attributed to a real bona fide affection on her part, than her rejection of him can be traced to any personal dislike.”

“ Allow me to

I will allow nothing until you have heard me. Well then, to resume. She carries her point; marries you ; comes abroad ; and you, instead of being her cheerful companion, her attentive husband, and her watchful guardian, become, if not indifferent, careless, and if not unkind, negligent. You sleep whole hours, leaving her either totally alone to reħect on the difference of a lover and husband; or in the still more dangerous position of a tête-à-tête with a very fine young man, to grow even more fully aware of the contrast.”

“ Good Heavens! you do not mean to say that Lord Windermere has forgotten-has violated the rights of hospitality ?"

“ If he has not, you have not been the obstacle, for you have certainly given him every opportunity."

“ But my wife—Lady Ellen--surely she never would never could-2"

Why are you to expect my niece to be that faultless monster that the world ne'er saw ? Like all young women, she prizes admiration, attention, and an agreeable companion. You have ceased to offer to her any of these agrémens; and have negligently, unwisely, permitted another to supply them."

“ How could I think, how could I dream that she who preferred me could ever bestow a thought on another; and that other, one whom she had rejected for me?"

“ Yet most men might have thought of this possibility, Mr. Meredith, and even those who slept not half so much as you might have dreamt of it. The fact is, your vanity led you into the error you have committed ; fortunately it is not too late to be retrieved.”

“ Whai shall I what can I do?"
“ Follow my advice, and all will yet be well.”

“ I will leave Naples to-morrow; take her away from the society of Windermere.”

" And by so doing commit a greater folly than the previous one. To tear her away thus abruptly from the society of one with whom you have permitted her to live on habits of constant intercourse, would not only be sure to excite a livelier interest for him in her mind, but would confirm every evil report in circulation here on the subject."

“ What then is to be done? I am wretched -I am miserable.”

You might in a short time have been rendered both ; but at present I see no cause for despair. Abandon the habit of sleeping on sotas and

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