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'* Lauk!" said Mrs. Nubley, "you were called after your aunt—I remember now. And are you both very clever ?—I suppose so. Your mamma was a charming woman—great friend of mine—many a pleasant day we have passed together. But it's no use talking of that now. He ! he ! he!"
To this sort of conversation—if conversation it might be called—I was destined to listen till tea and coffee were produced; during the exhibition of which (Kate doing the honours) Mrs. Nubley detailed all their apprehensions as to the mischief that was going on at Chittagong, and their anxiety to know its extent, and the means of obtaining legal redress ;—the by-play of the scene being kept up most assiduously by the young ladies of the party, who, whenever an opportunity occurred, indulged themselves in making the most grotesque faces at each other, in the highest degree expressive of disgust and contempt, which the proceedings of the newlyarrived guests had excited in their youthful bosoms. Seeing all this in progress, I felt it imperative on me not to hand over the antiques to the good-breeding of the moderns, by leaving the room, which I was most anxious to do, in order to communicate with Harriet upon the arrangements necessary in consequence of the arrival of our unexpected guests.
It required a good deal of manoeuvring to manage this matter, and 1 at last resolved to detach Mrs. Nubley, or rather carry her off with me to Harriet's room, to get her out of harm's way—not so much caring about Nubley, who, in his quaint, odd manner, might make a tolerable fight against the pertness of my young connexions; but there I was defeated, for the moment I suggested the lady's visit to my wife's room, both the dear girls volunteered to accompany us, and persisted in their intention, in spite of my remonstrances against their leaving Mr. Nubley by himself.
It is not worth while putting down in detail the various little schemes and stratagems by which the evening, in a house where mirth and amusement were interdicted, was consumed; but it is important to observe that a conversation which I had with Nubley, after the ladies had retired for the night, gave a new turn to my thoughts, and even to my hopes with regard to Cuthbert. Of the manners, style, and tone of behaviour adopted by the young Falwassers, the old Indian, even in the short space of time which had passed since his arrival at Ashmead, had formed a tolerably decided opinion, and spoke of them in terms not less strong and abrupt than those which he was ordinarily in the habit of using upon less delicate topics. I saw he was vexed and mortified, and from a few of those involuntary mutterings in which he developed his secret thoughts, as well as from his avowed observations on the subject, vexed and mortified not more on his own account, or that of his wife, than upon mine—seeing that he had gathered, even in four hours, sufficient knowledge of the real state of the case, as to be convinced that there was an influence at work over Cuthbert which was superior to mine, even if it had not already superseded it entirely. The moment his remarks took the character of suspicion of this melancholy truth, and that I found him lamenting that so strange a perversion of all that might have been expected was likely to take place, it occurred to me that if I found my worst apprehensions realised, and that the system of neglect and even insult—I say insult, as far as Harriet is concerned—was continued, my only chance of retrieving Cuthbert, of opening his eyes to the delusion which Mrs. Brandyball was practising, and of re-establishing my natural claims to his affection, would be by the intercession of his present friend and former partner in business, Nubley. It is the advantage of a sanguine disposition to seize upon a new idea with a sort of ecstacy, and to be full of gratitude for the apparent chance which has given it birth, and then to call to mind the combination of circumstances in which it has originated, in order to prove that it must be fortunate. If Nubley's tenants at Chittagong had been respectable people, he would not have come to Ashmead, which at first I considered an annoyance. If he had not come to Ashmead
during this particular week, he would not have seen the two young ladies, who involuntarily and unconsciously betrayed to him the real state of the case; it was not luck—it was not good fortune—but Providence that had permitted this very unexpected meeting; and so earnestly did I feel the importance of the coincidence, that before Harriet's eyes were closed for the night, she was apprised of my hopes and my determination.
It was well I had conjured up such hopes— for even if they eventually proved groundless, they served to sustain me against a new attack. Morning came—breakfast came—post-hour came —no letter for me, except a bill from Messrs. Rumble and Stump, coachmakers of Long Acre, inclosing their bill of 428/. 16s. 6d., for the chariot with which I certainly understood Cuthbert had presented me, and for repairs done to the phaeton, which I imagined he had in the kindest manner possible given Harriet. This, unexpected as it was, appeared by no means so extraordinary as the absence of any communica