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but his dear little girl should take the place in society to which as his wife she was entitled : and to these proposals you may be sure she acceded, as she would to any other from the same author.
Holding this kind of conversation, and building numberless castles in the air (which Amelia adorned with all sorts of flower-gardens, rustic walks, country churches, sunday schools, and the like; while George had his mind's eye directed to the stables, the kennel, and the cellar), this young pair passed away a couple of hours very pleasantly; and as the Lieutenant had only that single day in town, and a great deal of most important business to transact, it was proposed that Miss Emmy should dine with her future sisters-in-law. This invitation was accepted joyfully. He conducted her to his sisters ; where he left her talking and prattling in a way that astonished those ladies, who thought that George might make something of her ; and then went off to transact his business.
In a word, he went out and ate ices at a pastry-cook's shop in Charing Cross; tried a new coat in Pall Mall; dropped in at the Old Slaughters', and called for Captain Cannon; played eleven games at billiards with the Captain, of which he won eight, and returned to Russell Square half-anhour late for dinner, but in very good humour.
It was not so with old Mr. Osborne. When that gentleman came from the city, and was welcomed in the drawing-room by his daughters and the elegant Miss Wirt, they saw at once by his face—which was puffy, solemn, and yellow at the best of times—and by the scowl and twitching of his black eye-brows, that the heart within his large white waistcoat was disturbed and uneasy. When Amelia stepped forward to salute him, which she always did with great trembling and timidity, he gave a surly grunt of recognition, and dropped the little hand out of his great hirsute paw without any attempt to hold it there. He looked round gloomily at his eldest daughter ; who, comprehending the meaning of his look, which asked mmistakeably, “Why the devil is she here ?" said at onee :
“George is in town, Papa ; and has gone to the Horse Guards, and will be back to dinner.'
“O he is, is he? I won't have the dinner kept waiting for him, Maria :" with which this worthy man lapsed into his particular chair, and then the utter silence in his genteel, well-furnished drawing-room, was only interrupted by the alarmed ticking of the great French clock.
When that chronometer, which was surmounted by a cheerful brass group of the sacrifice of Iphigenia, tolled five in a heavy cathedral tone, Mr. Osborne pulled the bell at his right hand violently, and the butler
“ Dinner!" roared Mr. Osborne.
"Damn Mr. George, sir. Am I master of the house DINNER ! ” Mr. Osborne scowled. Amelia trembled. A telegraphic communication of eyes passed between the other three ladies. The obedient bell in the lower regions began ringing the announcement of the meal. The tolling over, the head of the family thrust his hands into the great tail-pockets of his great blue coat and brass buttons, and without waiting for a further announcement, strode down stairs alone, scowling over his shoulder at the four females.
“What's the matter now, my dear ? ” asked one of the other, as they rose and tripped gingerly behind the sire.
“I suppose the funds are falling," whispered Miss Wirt; and so, trembling and in silence, this hushed female company followed their dark leader. They took their places in silence. He growled out a blessing, which sounded as gruffly as a curse. The great silver dish-covers were removed. Amelia trembled in her place, for she was next to the awful Osborne, and alone on her side of the table, -the gap being occasioned by the absence of George.
“Soup ?” says Mr. Osborne, clutching the ladle, fixing his eyes on her, in a sepulchral tone; and having helped her and the rest, did not speak for a while.
“ Take Miss Sedley's plate away," at last he said. “She can't eat the soup—no more can I. It's beastly. Take
soup, Hicks, and to-morrow turn the cook out of the house, Maria.”
Having concluded his observations upon the soup, Mr. Osborne made a few curt remarks respecting the fish, also of a savage and satirical tendency, and cursed Billingsgate with an emphasis quite worthy of the place. Then he lapsed into silence, and swallowed sundry glasses of wine, looking more and more terrible, till a brisk knock at the door told of George's arrival, when everybody began to rally.
“He could not come before. General Daguilet had kept him waiting at the Horse Guards. Never mind soup or fish. Give him anything—he didn't care what. Capital mutton-capital everything." His goodhumour contrasted with his father's severity; and he rattled on unceasingly during dinner, to the delight of all-of one especially, who need not be mentioned.
As soon as the young ladies had discussed the orange and the glass of wine which formed the ordinary conclusion of the dismal banquets at Mr. Osborne's house, the signal to make sail for the drawing-room was given, and they all arose and departed. Amelia hoped George would soon join them there. She began playing some of his favourite waltzes (then newly imported) at the great carved-legged, leather-cased grand piano in the drawing-room overhead. This little artifice did not bring him. He was deaf to the waltzes; they grew fainter and fainter ; the discomfited performer left the huge instrument presently ; and though her three friends performed some of the loudest and most brilliant new pieces of their répertoire, she did not hear a single note, but sate thinking, and boding evil. Old Osborne's scowl, terrific always, had never before looked so deadly to her. His eyes followed her out of the room, as if she had been guilty of something. When they brought her coffee, she started as though it were a cup of poison which Mr. Hicks, the butler, wished to propose to her. What mystery was there lurking ? Oh those women! They nurse and cuddle their presentiments, and make darlings of their ugliest thoughts, as they do of their deformed children.
The gloom on the paternal countenance had also impressed George Osborne with anxiety. With such eyebrows, and a look so decidedly bilious, how was he to extract that money from the governor, of which George was consumedly in want? He began praising his father's wine. That was generally a successful means of cajoling the old gentleman.
“We never got such Madeira in the West Indies, sir, as yours. Colonel Heavytop took off three bottles of that you sent me down, under his belt the other day.”
“ Did he ?” said the old gentleman. “It stands me in eight shillings a bottle."
“Will you take six guineas a dozen for it, sir ? ” said George, with a laugh. “There's one of the greatest men in the kingdom wants some.”
“Does he ? " growled the senior. “Wish he may get it.”
“When General Daguilet was at Chatham, sir, Heavytop gave him a breakfast, and asked me for some of the wine. The General liked it just as well—wanted a pipe for the Commander-in-Chief. He's his Royal Highness's right-hand man."
" It is devilish fine wine,” said the Eyebrows, and they looked more good-humoured; and George was going to take advantage of this complacency, and bring the supply question on the mahogany; when the father, relapsing into solemnity, though rather cordial in manner, bade him ring the bell for claret. “And we'll see if that 's as good as the Madeira, George, to which his Royal Highness is welcome, I'm sure.
And as we are drinking it, I'll talk to you about a matter of importance.”
Amelia heard the claret bell ringing as she sat nervously up-stairs. She thought, somehow, it was a mysterious and presentimental bell. Of the presentiments which some people are always having, some surely must come right.
“What I want to know, George," the old gentleman said, after slowly smacking his first bumper. •What I want to know is, how you and ah-that little thing up-stairs, are carrying on?”
“I think, sir, it's not hard to see, George said, with a self-satisfied grin. “Pretty clear, sir.—What capital wine!” “What d' you mean, pretty clear, sir ?”
Why, hang it, sir, don't push me too hard. I'm a modest man. Ial—I don't set up to be a lady-killer ; but I do own that she 's as devilish fond of me as she can be. Any body can see that with half an eye.” “And you yourself ?”
Why, sir, didn't you order me to marry her, and ain't I a good boy ? Havn't our Papas settled it ever so long ?
“ A pretty boy, indeed. Havn't I heard of your doings, sir, with Lord Tarquin, Captain Crawley of the Guards, the Honorable Mr. Deuceace and that set. Have a care, sir, have a care.
The old gentleman pronounced these aristocratic names with the greatest gusto. Whenever he met a great man he grovelled before him, and my-lorded him as only a free-born Briton can do. He came home and looked out his history in the Peerage : he introduced his name into his daily conversation; he bragged about his Lordship to his daughters. He fell down prostrate and basked in him as a Neapolitan beggar does in the sun. George was alarmed when he heard the names. He feared his