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he is gone. I am sorry for Fanny, but delighted as far as I am myself concerned.
Wells has just arrived—I hear the rustling of Mrs. BrandybalPs roundabout silk gown in the gallery. So—in order to make myself particularly acceptable—down I go once more to receive my guests.
Our dinner progressed, as the Americans say, most propitiously. Wells was in much better spirits than I had expected to find him, considering the recent severe frustration of all his well-laid schemes for Fanny's matrimonial promotion. He did not in the slightest degree allude to the circumstance, probably because my own case had not entirely slipped his memory, and because any recapitulation of the history of the Lieutenant's wooing might have recalled to my recollection some scenes of a similar character to those which had been recently acted at the Rectory, but which had not been productive of a similar result.
Mrs. Brandyball, whose whole aim and object appeared to be the making everybody round her pleased with themselves, as the readiest mode of making everybody present pleased with her, began her course of experiments in that way by eulogizing, in her best set terms, the gallant officer now absent, as one of the most interesting of his sex.
"I protest," said she, "that I am not like that particular genus of gallinaceous birds whose tenderest sensibilities are awakened by the appearance of sanguineously-coloured cloth, but I cannot so entirely subdue the natural, and I hope not altogether reprehensible sentiment of gratitude which must unquestionably animate every female heart towards our gallant protectors in the time of peril."
* Ah," said Cuthbert, "yours is a very amiable weakness in that respect. What soldiers have to endure,—ah, those marchings and countermarchings,—eh?"
"But," continued Mrs. Brandyball, determined to win the Rector entirely, "I never met with an individual so entirely exempt from pretension or affectation as Lieutenant Merman. He appears to me to be unexceptionable."
"Well," said the Reverend Divine, "there must be tastes of all sorts; for my part, I think him as empty a coxcomb as ever stepped—"
Mrs. Brandyball stared with astonishment.
"And J," said I, "think him odious."
Her eyes opened still wider.
"Ah," said Cuthbert, "do you know I have never taken the trouble to think whether I like him or not."
The manner in which our fair visiter was mystified was exceedingly amusing to us: it was evident, not only that she felt wonderfully disappointed by the way in which her eulogiums upon the Lieutenant had been received, but that she set us down as two of the most hardened hypocrites that ever existed. What else could she think ?—she had seen the man living constantly with us,—evincing beyond a shadow of doubt his devotion towards my sisterin-law, and received by her with a corresponding frankness of approval. Wells was in no humour to soften or qualify what he had said of him, and I thought I had found out enough of Mrs. Brandyball's character to be certain that when she found that we completely threw him over, she would let him lie in the mire without any farther attempt at his exaltation.
Tom, who came in with the dessert, had been upstairs with Harriet and her sister, and, by the expression of his most expressive countenance, I was dreadfully apprehensive that he had picked enough out of their conversation to understand that the Lieutenant had behaved somehow ungenteelly, and had received his conge. The imp looked cunning, and as, besides what he might have extracted from the dialogue of the sisters, he was extremely fond of collecting facetim from the servants' hall, it seemed extremely likely that the real state of the case had oozed out during the afternoon, and that he might favour us with the domestic version of the "soger officer's" inglorious retreat.
Cuthbert, whose consummate skill in the art