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his conduct at the sacrifice of some eclat, "is, I trust, avoided. Of course I shall return no answer to the young lady's letter, however flattering her youthful admiration may be; I resign it to you, and with it, all pretensions to any further consideration from her. I will now admit to you that I am under no matrimonial engagement; but that when I found you, as I imagined, lending yourself to an arrangement so entirely unsuitable in all its points and bearings, I ventured to put a conclusive negative upon it by what perhaps you will admit to have been a justifiable exaggeration. I am aware that there is something ludicrous associated in society with the exercise of my profession; but I trust that the adoption of that profession from necessity rather than choice, for the support of an aged mother and unmarried sister, the widow and daughter of a gentleman, whose indulgence to his spoiled and helpless son left him no means of a livelihood but by the exercise of the only calling for which he was qualified, has not stifled the feelings of honour which that indulgent father did not fail to implant in his heart. Sir, I am deeply affected by what has occurred. I need not say that no syllable of this will be breathed by me; exonerate me only from having in any way induced this unfortunate sentiment on the part of theyounglady, which, in the course of sixmonths, will fade away and take some brighter hue. If you think I have acted justly, I am satisfied."
"Sir," said I, much moved by his manner and evident sincerity, "you have acted up to the character which you have inherited. Permit me to offer you my hand, and to assure you how sincerely I am—as we all must be—indebted to you for what you have done."
"Aware," said Kittington, "of the feelings which this disclosure must have naturally excited in your breast, I will no longer intrude—I leave the letter with you, and"
"Nay," said I, "stay; take some luncheon— let me beg of you to stay."
"No," said Kittington, "I must not stay— I have pupils to attend at one; and you may judge, Mr. Gurney, what the trials of a man, professing any of the lighter arts, must be, when you know that I have to devote the next two hours to teaching children to dance, while the mother, of whom I have just spoken to you, is lying on a bed of sickness and, I fear, of death. My heart, however, will be easier for what I have done this day; and, although the thoughtless Miss Falwasser may laugh at or despise me, I never shall regret the just course I have adopted."
I could make no reply. I again shook hands with him cordially, and resolved—no matter what.—I rang the bell, and he left me — and left me with a new difficulty upon my hands, and one which appeared to me to be insurmountable. It was a web so complex, so intertwined, and interlaced, that I could not imagine what was to be done. It was clear that Mrs. Brandyball had lent herself to a scheme which she hoped would detach Cuthbert's greatest favourite from him eternally. The letter was to be directed under cover to her. If, therefore, I made a confidence with that hateful woman, she would instantly betray me to Kate. If I condescended to enter upon the subject with Kate herself, which really, considering her age, either computed or ascertained, I could not bring myself to do, she would at once fall into a fit of rage against the dastardly dancingimaster, who in so base and cowardly a manner had boasted of her affections at the moment of rejecting them; and if I approached Cuthbert himself, the very idea of charging his beloved daughter, as he called her, poor fellow! with such an attack, would have toppled me down instantaneously from the slippery ledge of his favour on which I so equivocally stood at present.
I half wished that Kittington had not been so honourable, and that he had run away with the girl: that would have opened Cuthbert's eyes, and then, perhaps, we could have fixed the confederacy upon Mrs. Brandyball, and so have blown up (as poor Tom would liked to have done) the whole faction. But this was selfish. Kittington had behaved admirably: no fault could be found with him: but only conceive what an addition to all the difficulties with which the answer to the letter left for Harriet's perusal this incident was! It must be noticed. It could not die away. Kate would not rest content without some sort of acknowledgment of her address to her "golden-haired preceptor."
There was one striking characteristic in her billet-doux which rendered the girl less amiable than anything else; the love part of the affair was not in my mind the worst; the feeling which I hated throughout the whole appeal was the total carelessness and callousness with regard to everything but self, which pervaded every line. As for her affectionate pappy, he was only spoken of as being easily deceived, easily imposed upon, and to leave her a fortune at his death. Her sister Jane was only noticed as being fixed as a substitute at the chess-table while she and her lover were out walking; and as for her dying brother, not one syllable was bestowed on him, although the letter was going to the place where he lay on a bed of sickness.