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come too ; and I'll engage my word for it, that Mr. O'Donagough will receive her with every politeness.”
Mrs. Hubert coloured, faltered, and finally turned an imploring look upon her husband, which he rightly interpreted into a petition that he would reply to Mrs. O'Donagough's invitation.
“You are very kind, Mrs. O'Donagough,” said he, stepping forward ; “but when Mrs. Elizabeth Compton is with us, we never answer for ourselves.”
“My goodness !” exclaimed she, with unfeigned surprise, “ that is treating her with respect! But I suppose you have some reason for it. Upon my word, however, I would not engage to say that my Mr. O'Donagough would go quite that length if ever she comes to stay with us. However, if you have really cockered her up to that pass, general, I suppose I must send a written invitation in proper style, and then you may consult her, and let me have a regular written answer. I shouldn't wonder if the old lady was to feel a little curiosity to see what sort of style we live in. She'll find a difference, Agnes, I can tell her, from the time when you and I broiled over to Compton Bassett, and found her stuck up in the middle of her bees. Do you remember?”
“Perfectly," replied Mrs. Hubert.
“ He ! he he! What an old frump she was to me! Do you remember?-But never mind ! I have promised the poor old soul that bygones should be bygones, and so they shall for me. Come, Patty."
For a minute or two after Mrs. O'Donagough and her daughter had left the room, General and Mrs. Hubert remained looking at each other in silence. At length Agnes said, “This will never do, Montague! We really must not let them meet again. It is impossible Mrs. O'Donagough should long remain insensible to the bitter quizzing aunt Betsy is pouring upon her.”
“I do request, my dearest Agnes,” replied the general, “ that you will let things také their course. I have little doubt but that aunt Betsy will manage her gibes and her jestings too discreetly, and too skilfully, for any mischief to come; and even should the two ladies quarrel outright, it would be a matter of no great consequence. But the fact is, Agnes, that aunt Betsy's quizzings are rather directed against me then Mrs. O'Donagough. I understand her perfectly, dear whimsical little old soul, and entre nous, I am quite determined to overthrow her tactics. She wants to prove that we have acted very unwisely in neglecting her advice when she recommended us not to answer Mrs. O'Donagough's first letter from Australia ; and I am determined to show her that I really know how to take care of myself and you too, even though the redoubted Barnaby, daughter, husband and all, have had their claim of kindred fearlessly admitted."
“So then," said she, “ the business afoot, is nothing less than a sharp encounter between the wits of General Hubert and Mrs. Elizabeth Compton. Eh bien! Faites votre jeu, my husband! As it is utterly and altogether impossible that Mrs. O'Donagough should ever trouble my spirit more, except by troubling yours, 1 shall sit by and watch your maneuvres as composedly as if you were performing a comedy expressly for my amusement. Neither am I in the least afraid of trusting my beloved aunt Betsy in your hands—though I suspect you mean to plague her a little
don't you ?” “A little, perhaps," replied the general, laughing;" and upon my word she deserves it. She really seems to suppose that I and my race are in danger of being blighted and disgraced for evermore, by the overpowering influence of these Australian cousins. Don't you think she overrates their importance a little, Agnes?”.
“Why, yes, I hope she does. But, indeed, Montague, if she goes on in the complimentary strain with them, I cannot answer for my gravity. The surprised stare of the young lady's enormous black eyes, and the comical struggle between gratified vanity and suspicious mistrust in the countenance of my aunt Barnaby, are almost irresistible. What will you say to me if I laugh outright? And how on earth are we to keep Compton in order? You know aunt Betsy is in all things considerably too much inclined to charter the vehement exuberance of his saucy animal spirits, and I fear, that if he should perchance take it into his head to amuse himself at the expense of my exotic relatives, she will hail him as an ally a great deal to joyfully. Upon my word, Montague, I think we should do very wisely if we moved our sea-quarters to East Bourne, or Hastings."
“ And upon my word, Agnes, I am more nearly angry with you for saying so, than I ever was in my life before. Should you really think it wise and reasonable if I were to permit myself and my household to be driven round the country from terror of what the O'Donagough family could do to us? Come, come, Agnes! This craven proposal only proceeds from a little covert inclination to take part with aunt Betsy against me-is it not so ?”
“ I don't know-I assure you, Montague, I think we shall get into a scrape while you and aunt Betsy are running this tilt together.”
“ Fear nothing, dearest—for I only mean to prove to the mischievous old lady, that notwithstanding all her predictions, we have run into no danger whatever.”
“ Well then, I trust that you will soon succeed, and that the joke will be safely over. But I have staid too long from her. Do you
think I had better say any thing to her about Mrs. O'Donagough, or let the subject drop ?”
“ Decidedly say nothing about them, unless she leads to it herself, and I entreat, if she does this, and perseveres in the same tone of persiflage, that you will “ fool her to the top of her bent,” and appear to derstand every thing she says, literally.”
“ This will be no easy task, Montague, if she pushes the joke much farther. However, • I will in all my best obey you, sir:' and trust that the influence of my name inay enable me to enact the vrai Agnes to your satisfaction.”
While this conversation took place at one end of the Marine-parade, Mrs. O'Donagough pursued her way in excellent spirits to the other. Miss Patty, who had scarcely ever heard the obnoxious name of aunt Betsy mentioned in her life, had now to listen to a great many very deep and shrewd observations concerning her.
“ It is no little matter we have done to day, Patty, I can tell you
that,” said Mrs. O'Donagough, with an accent, which to the young lady seemed rather mysterious in its solemnity. Some people say that that little crooked old woman is immensely rich ;—if she is--but that's neither here nor there— I won't pretend even to give an opinion upon it,--only, this much I will say, that it is perfectly and altogether beyond the reach of belief that General Hubert should let his wife make such a fuss about her if she is not."
“ She looks as if she had been buried fifty years, and dug up again," observed the young lady.
“ That's a monstrous good description of her, Patty. But don't you let your wit outrun your discretion, darling. If she has scraped and hoarded up some money from what ought to have belonged to my poor dear father, and nobody else, there is no reason under the sun why it shouldn't every farthing come to you. Every body that ever heard of her, knows that she is the most capricious old soul alive, first taking a fancy to one person, and then to another. All of a sudden once, for no reason in the world, that any body could find out, she took it into her head to spend, nobody knows how much money in dressing your cousin Agnes from top to toe, and sending her off miles and miles from home to a fine school. And to my certain knowledge she had never seen the child above once or twice before. I was by when she took the fancy into her head, and I am as sure as sure that it was for no other reason in the world than just because the girl looked pretty when she took off her bonnet, and shook back her curls. I remember the stare she gave her, as well as if it was but yesterday. And d'ye think, Patty, I didn't see the stare she gave you to-day? Agnes Willoughby was no more to be compared to you, at the time I speak of, than chalk to cheese, and I do believe in the bottom of my heart, that if we have but wit enough to flatter her up a little, and manage to put you forward well, you will have a better chance now than any of 'em.”
“ Well, mamma,” replied Patty yawning, “all I have got to say is, that if the old mummy has got some tin to give, I wish she'd come down with it at once, for I want to have a black silk cloak trimmed with lace like Matilda Perkins's: and if I don't get what she has hoarded soon, I shan't care a farthing about it at all; for I'm sure, when I'm married, I shall expect my husband to shovel out the money whenever I may happen to want it.”
“Nonsense, Patty! don't talk so like an idiot,” replied her mother. “You are old enough to know better ; or if you ain't, I'm sure you have no business with a black silk cloak trimmed with lace. How do you think, child, that you are to get this fine rich husband that is to shovel out such loads of money upon you? I should think you might know without my telling you, that a girl's chance of a good match is doubled and trebled a hundred thousand times over by her having some money herself.”
Money enough to buy nice things, and set her beauty off, of course she ought to have, and it's a sin and a shame if she has not," replied Patty ; but I don't see what she wants of any thing more, if she's handsome.”
Why, then you are not half such a clever girl as I took you for, Miss Martha. Take my word for it, that there is no man but what likes to get money with his wife, if he can catch it.”
“ You don't mean to say, mamma,” cried the young lady, colouring as red as scarlet,“ you don't mean to say that such a girl as I am, ought to be married for her money ?”
“Lor a-mercy, Patty, what a pepper-box you are! I never said any such thing you litile fool,” replied her mother laughing. “ You need not be in such a fright. Nobody can know the value of fine eyes better than I do; my time is not so long gone by, I can tell you, but what I can remember what they are worth. But that's neither here nor there, Patty ;-the fact is, you must be civil and attentive to this erabbed old lady, and when your father hears what I shall tell him about her, he'll be sharp enough in looking after your behaviour, I'll engage for it."
“Then let him give me a black silk cloak," said Patty ; “I'll be hanged if I plague myself to be civil to that little old witch for no
By this time they had reached their own lodgings, and it was with great satisfaction that Mrs. O'Donagough found her husband in solitary possession of the drawing-room, for her mind was full of important matter, and telling Patty that she had better go and call on the Perkinses, she seated herself exactly opposite to her spouse, and informed him of the unexpected interview she had had with her old aunt. She recounted at length the history of the perfect reconciliation which had taken place between them_described the old lady's evident and frankly-expressed admiration for Patty-related the rumours which had reached her before she quitted England, concerning her aunt's accumulated wealth—and finally expressed her conviction that the best and wisest thing they could do, would be to cultivate the acquaintance of the old lady most assiduously.
“ I shall say the same, my Barnaby,” replied Mr. Allen O'Donagough, “if I can find out that you are right about the old queen's cash. But you don't seem over clear upon that point, and I have too much promising business upon my hands already, to waste time in running after moonshine. I wonder how the old lady came—whether she staged it, or posted ? You did not happen to hear, did you ?"
“No, Donny, I did not,” replied his wife ; “ but it would be a capital thing to find out, wouldn't it? It would be as good as a peep into her strong box.”
Mr. Allen O'Donagough did not answer, but sat musingly swinging one leg over the arm of his chair for a minute or more, then suddenly starting up, he said, “Let me find you here when I come back, Barnaby I shall not be long."
Had time been allowed, the lady might have questioned him as to his purpose, but there was not; for before she could say “Stay!" he was out of the room, and in the next momeut, she heard the house-door close after him.
Though still unrecognised by any former acquaintance, Mr. Allen O'Donagough had fully renewed his intimacy with all the holes and corners, terrestrial and aquatic, with which Brighton, in common with all other watering-places abounds. To one of them he now made his way, and beckoning to him one of the satellites whom he knew as ever ready to do his bidding for sixpence, he instructed him to repair to the house of
General Hubert, and inquire of the domestic who should answer the bell, if he could be so obliging as to tell him where Mrs. Elizabeth Compton's carriage put up.
In less than five minutes after Mr. O'Donagough had pointed out the general's mansion to his agent, the fellow returned to him at his station, in an obscure street close by, and told him that the lady's carriage was at the Wellington Arms. Having honourably paid the promised sixpence, Mr. O'Donagough proceeded to the stables indicated, and there had not only the satisfaction of seeing Mrs. Elizabeth Compton's handsome travelling-carriage, but also a most respectable-looking domestic, who stood by, evidently to superintend the various cleaning operations that it was undergoing within and without.
Mr. O'Donagough approached and fixed his eye on the lozenge with the air of an experienced herald.
“ This is Mrs. Elizabeth Compton's carriage, sir, is it not ?" said he, civilly addressing the servant.
“Yes sir," replied the man, touching his hat.
“She must be getting old now, good lady. Did she come down post all the way from London to-day ?"
Yes, sir; my mistress travels wonderfully well still. She came post from Exeter to London the other day, without stopping above an hour on the road.”
“ That is capital, indeed! Good morning.”
“ Yes, my Barnaby, the game is worth following. Her own carriage-post all the way from Exeter, and a servant that looks as if he might belong to a duke," said Mr. O'Donagough, re-entering his drawing-room, and reseating himself in the chair he had left about forty minutes before.
“ Bless my soul !. - you don't say so !” exclaimed his wife in return. “What a sly old miser she must have been for years and years, to be sure! But no matter for that, Donny—no matter how the money was scraped together, so as our Patty does but get hold of it. If she does but get half, it would be well worth having, you know. Her own carriage-just think !-post all the way from Exeter. Her own servant-think for a moment, my dear, whether the half of that would not be worth having ! and remember, that if she was to die tomorrow, we have just exactly as good a right to it as the Huberts. My Patty, you know, is precisely the selfsame relation to her as Agnes. Don't you see ?"
“Yes, my dear, I see,” replied Mr. Allen O'Donagough; "and a very pretty little sight it is, there's no doubt about that. All you have got to do is, to keep it in view, and come in at the death if you can.”.
“ Then I will immediately write an invitation to them all to spend the evening here on Wednesday next,” said Mrs. O'Donagough.
“ Do, my dear,” replied her spouse ; " and if they come, I assure you I shall think very well of your chance."
“Mrs. O'Donagough only gave an intelligent nod in reply, and seating herself at the table, immediately composed the following note: