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"Stuff! about a worthy man. What would a worthy man have done for you? why, taken you to some scantily-furnished second floor, in a low, nameless street, and considered his fondness an ample compensation for the common comforts of life.”
“And so it would have been, while hearts were young."
“Yes ! very true, while hearts were young, but hearts soon grow old in poverty. However, enough of this romantic folly. I am sure, you do not inherit such grovelling sentiments from me. I never was enamoured of love and a cottage, I assure you; and much as I was attached to your father, his fine fortune was by no means his least attraction, in my estimation.
"Ah! when I reflect on the splendour of the past, I appear to myself a miracle of patience and resignation, to bear this cruel reverse with the exemplary fortitude I do.
“It really is unpardonable in a married man living up to the extent of his income, and leaving the wife he pretends to adore, in distress and misery, if she has the misfortune to survive him.”
“Pardon me, but I have always understood, mamma, that you encouraged him in his extravagance; that it was because he could not deny one wish you expressed, that he was guilty of such culpable excesses; that it was you who vehemently opposed aught bordering on retrenchment."
“Of course, I had no idea of not competing with my equals, at least. But all retrospection is worse than useless now. All that is to be done, is to get the money I am in want of. I must try Mrs. Macgreggor once more, although I am certain to receive in return, more advice than cash. However, I have no alternative, and I am resolved that you shall make a good appearance; so I must not mind a little mortification to accomplish so desirable an end. Go then, and take a walk, while I concoct a touching letter to her."
“Isabelle, conscious that expostulation would only anger her mother, silently obeyed; strolling pensively into the garden, to muse on this, the least agreeable part of her approaching nuptials, whilst her mother seated herself at her desk, with the air of one accustomed to solicit such favours; penning, with evident satisfaction, the following delectable epistle; verily believing that even her common place friend could not resist such a masterpiece of affected gratitude, humility and maternal devotion:“ My Dear Mrs. Macgreggor,
“It really appears as if I were never to address you, except to solicit some pecuniary assistance, so frequent, alas, have been my appeals to your generosity since the death of my still most lamented husband. But, I do trust, this will be the last my necessities will ever compel me to make; ashamed as I am, of the importunity which has never yet met with a refusal
“Isabelle is, at length, positively, going to be married to Sir Arthur Fortescue, after, as you know, the various vexatious delays, arising from the opposition of his friends, and my own proud spirit, which cannot forget its former position of equality with them. I am determined, therefore, to make a final struggle for the poor, dear girl, that if she is obliged to go to his arms a portionless bride, she shall, at least, go like a gentlewoman; well provided with an elegant wardrobe, so that she may not have the humiliation of applying to him for some time after her marriage, for the most trifling article of dress. Will you then kindly lend me the money I stand in need of for that purpose ? Will you, my dear friend, so far gratify an adoring mother, that for once, she may have the exquisite delight of beholding a daughter beautiful in the extreme, and lovelier from the unconsciousness of that beauty, dressed correspondingly to such superior charms, and that, too, at the most interesting, the most eventful period of her life?
“Oh! do not be insensible to this entreaty, I implore you ! think, think of the gratification of a mother at seeing her child, at the moment she becomes a bride, the admiration of all! It may be a weakness, but surely, surely it is a pardonable one,a most pardonable. Had you a daughter, fair and artless as my Isabelle, you would fully then feel and understand the almost holy pride of a mother's heart, under such circumstances.
“Nothing can exceed the ardent and disinterested affection of the young man; he promises to purchase a living for Frederick, in his own neighbourhood, so that Isabelle may still enjoy the society of her beloved and only brother, when he takes orders; and actually wishes me, and my poor crippled sister, to become permanent inmates in his large, roomy country house, inhabited by his mother and two maiden sisters; to be all one family still, as he considerately observes. But that, of course, requires much and deep deliberation, for my feelings are too acute, my sensibility too poignant, to brook dependance, or eat the bread I must season with the salt of mortification.
"It is only to you, that I ever reveal my sorrows, or claim commiseration for the distresses inevitable on a change of situation so truly, so painfully lamentable as mine. dear bosom I deposit the burthen of my woe; revere it as the sacred trust of the almost heart-broken, but, still grateful,
“ Isabelle Courtney." By return of post, Mrs. Courtney received the following reply, from Mrs. Macgreggor.
In Four "My Dear Friend,
“I commence my letter by saying, that you will immediately receive two hundred pounds, by presenting the enclosed cheque at my bankers; lest you should imagine by the tone of my response to yours that I only sought to excuse my parsimony, if I refuse to accede to the request contained therein. The efforts which the generality of parents make to provide wedding finery for their daughters, always struck me as an act of absolute folly, not to say, criminality; as if they were going to unite them to sordid, mercenary monsters, instead of warmhearted, generous creatures, only too ready to anticipate the desire of the wives they love to excess, and to win by a prodigal liberality, a fond appreciation of their endeavours to please and gratisy. In your case it is peculiarly censurable, my dear friend; conscious, as you yourself assert, of the disinterested motives which induce Sir Arthur to become the husband of your child. Perhaps, you are not aware, that by such a step you introduce dissimulation into her young bosom—weaken the hallowed confidence which ought to exist between man and wife, and teach her the petty artifice which too frequently renders woman despicable in her domestic position.
“Do not talk to me, of the humiliation the wife endures who tells her husband without subterfuge, all her little wants and vanities. In my opinion, she is not justified in wearing the value of a sixpence beyond what he can afford, or what his taste approves of; and I consider the system of pin-money, as one of the most fatal arrangements against conjugal felicity ever invented, creating as it does a separate interest, and engendering selfishness and concealment, where all should be mutual love, candour and openheartedness.
“It destroys the sweet and flattering dependency of woman's nature, and subverts the highest principles of integrity. It sets the wife against the husband, the mother against the daughter; it severs the unity of the home circle, for, how can the children respect and venerate that father, whom they perceive it is their mother's only object to deceive; or how can they esteem and reverence the mother whose culpable conduct renders her so unfit for regard, obedience or imitation ?
“Besides, more than all else, it should be remembered, that it separates and disjoins the spiritual oneness, which the Almighty especially and emphatically ordained to subsist between those who embrace his divine marriage ordinance.
“Shall worldly conventionality, or the dictates of fashion, militate against the heavenlier concord so essential to our own happiness and to all around us? God forbid !
"Not having a daughter, of course I have no sympathy with the foolish vanity of your heart, which you almost profanely designate "holy pride.' What there can possibly be of holy, in seeing ove's innocent child decorated like a victim for the Moloch-shrine of ostentation, is to me perfectly inexplicable. There is not one laudable distinction to be conferred by dress, in my opinion, however splendidly extravagant its materials may be, on any human being. It evinces neither superiority of intellect nor talent. It is rather a vulgar attribute, as proving the influence of money over mind. Considered in a religious point of view, it is, alas, the badge of our fallen nature, the brand of our original sin, the signal mark of our disobedience and reprobation; hence, to render ourselves conspicuous by it, is like the galley-slave parading the felon chains which reveal his turpitude. And, if viewed merely in a worldly light, it is still a most contemptible affair to exult in, as a rational creature, showing that we can attach the weightiest importance to the emptiest trifles, and waste the precious time, intended for more momentous purposes, in the outward adornment of the person, to the exclusion of the more serious concerns of life, and to the neglect of the heart and soul; too truly thereby verifying that awful denunciation which likens us to whitened sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness.
“Then, again, you speak of your own independence of spirit, your horror of obligation, your utter detestation of owing aught to others. Excuse me if I observe, that your definition of independence and mine is totally and entirely at variance. My idea of true independence is to endeavour, nay, determine, to live within one's means, whatever they may be, and not, as it were, move heaven and earth, on every occasion, for the sake of display, wearying one's friends, and delighting one's enemies, who, penetrating beneath the surface of show, discover the under current of anxious fears and fluctuating hopes, experienced in the progress of the efforts made to astonish and triumph over them.
“ Probably you will imagine I express myself thus almost unfeelingly, because I have lent you such sums of money at different periods. No such thing. Had you never borrowed a farthing, I should speak in even less, far less, measured terms. It is because I sincerely love you, that I now admonish you so severely. It is to spare you, to spare your child, from mortification and sorrow, that I only breathe the simple and forcible truth.
“Do you, for an instant, fancy that an ardent young man of four-and-twenty, when about to espouse a lovely and artless girl of eighteen, pauses, in the rapturous tumult of his soul, to consider whether his fair, bashful bride conceals her blushes beneath Brussels lace, or whether her heart palpitates beneath Honiton or muslin? What to him, at such a moment, are such unmeaning follies ? Absorbed in the overpowering consciousness of supreme bliss, he only thinks of thanking his God for it then, for a feeling of pious gratitude ever influences pure hearts, in the midst of their highest felicity.
“Let him afterwards adorn his idol as he will; but oh! from the nuptial altar, suffer her to be folded to his bosom, as candid in thought, as chaste in costume, as the first hawthorn blossom that expands beneath the kindred eye of young and modest spring. Nature has done everything for her ; ah! never, never allow art to mar her sweetest, her most beauteous production.
“After all I may have said, that which may still weigh strongest in your mind, perhaps, may be the certainty you have, from their long and really indelicate opposition to the match, that your limited circumstauces are well known to the family of your intended son-in-law, and that every branch of it will scrutinize with a jealous care the toilette of the portionless girl they have at last consented to receive by sufferance, and naturally revolt at discovering it so lavishly recherché and superfluously costly.
“Their own wounded vanity will instantly prejudice them against her, and they will more than ever deplore the infatuation which wrung the unwilling consent from them, which degrades their name with a mis-alliance, and entails ruin of the most shameless description on the being they most love and honour, by the debts such a thoughtless, extravagant wife mustinfallibly contract. Whereas, if she appears in the simplicity which first captivated him, she will not fail to equally captivate them also; her surpassing beauty will disarm their hostile hearts, and her artless manners win their approbation; until totally subdued, they will be fain to acknowledge, that if ever man had an excuse for so persevering in an amiable weakness, it was Sir Arthur Fortescue, for that to love such a being was only duly homaging the Creator of perfection. And now, wishing the dear young creature all the happiness that falls to the most favoured mortal in this changeful and variable scene, and craving forgiveness for aught that may pain in this,
Believe me, as ever, and for ever,
It was with a feeling of considerable disgust and indignation that Mrs. Courtney perused this cold, formal homily, as she