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cle drove rapidly off, Sir Matthew used the most affectionate endeavours to console her, urging that she ought to rejoice and give thanks to Heaven for her escape, instead of abandoning herself to useless lamentation. Lady Middleton, too much in need of consolation to be able to administer it, silently resolved sad and bitter thoughts in her mind, conscious of the unmitigated ridicule, and still more insulting commiseration that awaited her, and yet utterly unable to devise any scheme for warding them off. Her previous boasts, not very sparingly promulgated, that the caption of so valuable a prize as Sir Dennis was entirely attributable to her own contrivances and superior good management, now rushed upon her memory, with the sickening conviction that others would recollect them still more accurately than herself. One only consolation suggested itself to her. She would endeavour to make the meddling Mrs. Burroughs responsible for the whole disgrace; or, at all events, compel her to share the ignominy of which she had been the occasion, a charitable resolve which, however, brought but little relief to the misery of her mind. She still felt herself in the situation of an awkward fowler, who, having missed the object at which he aimed, is wounded by the recoil of his own ill-directed gun, and, instead of obtaining pity, excites contemptuous laughter by his bungling failure.

Such was the plight in which the bridal party returned to Portland Place, where Cecilia immediately hurried to her own apartment, anxious to withdraw herself from every eye, and feeling as if she should never again be able to venture into society, and face the sneers and laughter of a taunting world. For Lady Middleton, who fidgeted from one room to another, as if she could escape from herself, and from the nervous excitement that tormented her, new vexations were reserved whithersoever her footsteps led her. In the dining-room was set out in decorated array the déjuner à la fourchette, prepared for the bridal party. On a side table in the drawing-room were displayed the little packages of bride cake, with a special portion for Mrs. Howard Maltby, which the fair brides-maids had so lately enveloped under her own immediate direction. In another chamber were the trinkets and trifles collected for the lottery. On all sides the evidences of her anticipated triumph, were now converted into so many aggravations of her hu miliating discomfiture and defeat. Measuring others by her own little mind, she believed that the whole world of

her acquaintance would exult in her misfortune: while she did not give them credit for the politeness she herself possessed, and which would have prompted her, had the circumstances been reversed, to gloss over any such feelings of petty malevolence, with smiles and courteous grimace. How she might best meet this swelling tide of annoyance, and notify to these hostile friends the cruel mischance of the morning, was a matter too important to be hastily decided. All she could do at present, was to order that not a single visitant should be admitted, until Sir Matthew and herself could determine what line of conduct they should adopt.

Sir Matthew, who could never reconcile himself to the deferment, still less to the forfeiture of a feast, recommended that the grand dinner should take place by all means, urging with a characteristic manliness that it would be the best possible opportunity of breaking the tidings to their acquaintance, and of disarming their taunts or ridicule by showing that they themselves viewed the critical detection of the impostor as a subject for festive rejoicing, and for receiving the congratulations of their friends. With all her. plausible politeness, and bland self-possession, Lady Middleton did not feel herself equal to this task. She had no spirits, she said, for a party, Cecilia's appearance was entirely out of the question, there would be an air of indelicate bravado in giving the entertainment, when the family was placed in a predicament so awkward and embarrassing, and Sir Matthew reluctantly consented that messengers should be despatched to all the intended guests, apprizing them that the dinner and the evening party were unavoidably postponed.

This abeyance of the banquet, with the probable spoiling and certain vain cost of its materials, being one of those rare trials that the constitutional good temper of the Baronet could not well endure, he indulged in taunts and sarcasms against his wife, on the subject of Sir Dennis, which provoked recriminations of no very conciliatory nature. With the usual sapience of people who can discover the probability of a thing after it has happened, however blind to it before, Lady Middleton now recognised the habits of the valet and the hair-dresser, in many of those little traits of the sham Sir Dennis's demeanour, which she had received at the time as indisputable evidences of gentility; while in his fustian language, theatrical airs, and stage-struck heroics,

she could as evidently discern the manners of the strolling player. Nor was Sir Matthew deficient in that postluminous species of second sight to which we have alluded, though neither of them suspected that the impostor, who was by no means wanting in shrewd tact had addressed himself in an especial manner to their respective foibles. Seeing her ladyship's mania for every thing that appertained to fashion and the beau monde, he had assumed such airs of the dandy and the exquisite as he had been enabled to glean from plays and observation, pushing them perhaps to a little degree of extravagance, in consideration of her ladyship's civic origin, and presumed ignorance of the juste milieu in such matters. With Cecilia, the same affectation, seasoned by an occasional dash of scenic genuflexion and rant, passed current for genuine specimens of ton; while in his interviews with Sir Matthew, the knave, discarding much of his drawling and conceited foppery, had only sought to ingratiate himself by affecting a participation in the political and religious prejudices of his intended father-in-law. As we usually deal out our hatred to those who have made fools of us, according to the measure of our own gullability, it would be difficult to say whether the Baronet or his lady were most inveterate against the impostor, upon whose head they trusted that the real Sir Dennis would speedily bring down all the vengeance of the law.

Occupied in such discussions and altercations, which consumed the remainder of this unhappy day, neither of them adverted to the paragraphs transmitted to the newspapers, with such a pompous account of the wedding. They appeared of course in all the journals, and the house was accordingly besieged on the following day with visitants and congratulatory notes, which entailed a whole series of explanations and replies equally painful and humiliating. The contradictions immediately inserted in the papers, with the jibes and jeers, the taunts and ridicule to which they gave rise, subjected the unfortunate Lady Middleton to a new torrent of impertinence, in the form of elegantly written three-cornered billets, commiserating her ill usage, or expressive of indignation at the licentious and scurrilous personality of the press; every one of which polite notes, such was the morbid exacerbation of her feelings, she considered as an intentional insult. Several days afterwards, when she ventured abroad, which Cecilia had not yet sum

moned courage enough to attempt, her ladyship was rudely pointed out by the passengers as the object of all this unwelcome publicity. To fashionable notoriety she would not have objected; but an exposure of this sort she found so annoying, that she determined to withdraw from London until the affair should blow over, or be superseded by some new nine day's wonder.

CHAPTER VII.

Mais, au moins, dites moi, madame, par quelle sort
Votre Clitandre a l'heur de vous plaire si fort
Sur quel fonds de mérite et de vertu sublime
Appuyez vous en lui l'honneur de votre estime?
Vous êtes vous rendue avec tout le beau monde,
Au merite éclatant de sa perruque blonde?
Ou sa facon de rire et son ton de fausset
Ont-ils de vous toucher su trouver le secret?

MOLIERE.

On the day that her ladyship formed this resolution, she received the following letter from her step-son at Brookshaw Lodge:

"MY DEAR MADAM,

"If our joys, in the state of darkness to which we are all doomed, be but too often and too rapidly converted into sorrows, it cannot be denied that our seeming vexations will sometimes prove sources of comfort and consolation. Much as I regretted the severe illness that prevented my being present at Cecilia's intended marriage, I now rejoice that I was spared the pain of participating in a scene of disappointment and distress which I could have done nothing to alleviate. I have already written to congratulate my sister, as well as yourself and Sir Matthew, on the detection and defeat of the base contrivance for the destruction of her happiness; and I now take the liberty of addressing you, in the hope that I may contribute to prevent her peace of mind, and the welfare of our family, from being

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