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our decision, inasmuch as if the result were fatal, I still adhered to my determination of going to Bath.
It turned out, however, that for the present that resolution was not to be put in practice, for my bulletin announced that Tom, although not better than he was last night, was not worse, the fever had not more abated, and that in fact he was much the same. As this information portended no sudden catastrophe, it became the more necessary that I should decide upon the line I meant to adopt with regard to Mrs. Brandyball's despatch, which must be either answered somehow, or not answered at all, by return of post. I therefore rang for Foxcroft, in order to ascertain when I might present myself up-stairs to communicate with my better half upon the subject now nearest my heart.
The faithful handmaid, who seemed, from a sort of feminine regard for my gander-like condition, and a respect, as I thought, for my parental character, most amiably attentive to all my little wants and wishes during Harriet's temporary absence from our domestic circle, informed me that I might be received forthwith, for that her mistress was sitting up, and expecting me. This sounded like music in my ears; this first marked step in the progress towards her restoration to society, to her return to those familiar scenes which her presence cheered and enlightened, was a set-off to all the mortifications I had just experienced, and I bounded up stairs as if I had gained some new and important object, and beheld with a pleasure I cannot attempt to describe, the beloved of my heart ensconced in a huge armed chair, looking as calm, as pale, and as placid as " Patience on a monument." That she did smile at grief, personified by her much-disturbed husband, was no small addition to my gratification ; and the gentle kiss she bestowed upon me was of more value to me at the moment than the accolade of a Sovereign to an expectant courtier.
The slight flush which coloured her fair cheek after this "chaste salute" gave new beauties to her countenance, and brought her back to my
VOL. II. E
view, just as she looked in other days, and when I little thought she ever would be mine, as we strolled in the rectorial shrubberies. A thousand recollections filled my mind, and I felt so happy that I dreaded to dissipate the bright vision by referring to the " order of the day," and beginning to discuss the business for her opinion upon which I had sought her.
It was absolutely necessary that something should be decided upon; and I wished to obtain her judgment upon Mrs. Brandyball's letter and its contents, free and unbiassed by any thing I might say or suggest; and therefore having prepared her for " bad news," in order that she might be rather agreeably surprised than not when she had perused it, I placed the epistle before her, and begged her calmly and quietly to read it through, while I proceeded to gaze upon my yet unchristianised boy, who lay sleeping in a swinging cot by the side of the maternal bed—and I had just fallen into a kind of reverie, in which my mind was filled by a thousand conflicting thoughts and anticipations as to the destiny of the unconscious innocent before me, when the gentle tap of Foxcroft at the door produced the gentle " Come in" of her dear mistress.
"If you please, Sir," said the damsel," Mr. Kittington is in the breakfast-room, and wishes to speak to you."
"Who?" said I.
"The dancing-master, Sir," said Foxcroft.
"I dare say," said Harriet, " Cuthbert never recollected to have him paid."
"Most likely," said I. "Say I will be down directly."
Foxcroft retired, smilingly, as was her wont.
"Well," said Harriet, "I never read such a letter as this."
"How far have you read?" said I.
"To where she attributes Tom's disorder to our servants," said Harriet, "and blames you for not writing to Cuthbert, when you did not know how to direct a letter to him."
"Ah," said I, "that's nothing to what you will come to presently. All I beg of you is, to keep your temper, Harriet—don't be in a passion —treat it as I do, and all will be well. I don't wish to influence your judgment, dear, but I have made up my mind. I suppose my Terpsichorean visitor will not keep me long. I shall be back directly—then give me your opinion;" saying which, I repeated the gentle kiss with which the council had opened, and proceeded to the breakfast-room, where I found Foxcroft kindly explaining to Mr. Kittington the peculiar beauty of what she called a "lovely gereenum," which stood just inside the conservatory, which opened into the apartment.
Mr. Kittington appeared a little embarrassed at my appearance, as did Miss Foxcroft; but ladies or ladies' maids have always a command over themselves, and an aptitude for getting out of scrapes with a presence of mind most wonderful. The pump-shod professor coloured up "ruddier than the cherry," and looked more embarrassed than usual; but Foxcroft, without moving a muscle of her countenance, no sooner saw me approach, than she let go the flower, upon which she was apparently lecturing, and