Lady Susan Letters 11 to 20
Letter XI – Mrs. Vernon to Lady De Courcy
Letter XII – Sir Reginald De Courcy to His Son
Letter XIII – Lady De Courcy to Mrs. Vernon
Letter XIV – Mr. De Courcy to Sir Reginald
Letter XV – Mrs. Vernon to Lady De Courcy
Letter XVI – Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson
Letter XVII – Mrs. Vernon to Lady De Courcy
Letter XVIII – From the Same to the Same
Letter XIX – Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson
Letter XX – Mrs. Vernon to Lady De Courcy
Lady Susan Letter XI – Mrs. Vernon to Lady De Courcy.
I really grow quite uneasy, my dearest Mother, about Reginald, from witnessing the very rapid increase of Lady Susan’s influence. They are now on terms of the most particular friendship, frequently engaged in long conversations together; & she has contrived by the most artful coquetry to subdue his Judgement to her own purposes. It is impossible to see the intimacy between them so very soon established without some alarm, tho’ I can hardly suppose that Lady Susan’s views extend to marriage. I wish you could get Reginald home again under any plausible pretence; he is not at all disposed to leave us, & I have given him as many hints of my Father’s precarious state of health as common decency will allow me to do in my own house. Her power over him must now be boundless, as she has entirely effaced all his former ill-opinion, & persuaded him not merely to forget but to justify her conduct. Mr. Smith’s account of her proceedings at Langford, where he accused her of having made Mr. Manwaring & a young Man engaged to Miss Manwaring distractedly in love with her, which Reginald firmly beleived when he came to Churchill, is now, he is persuaded, only a scandalous invention. He has told me so in a warmth of manner which spoke his regret at having ever beleived the contrary himself.
How sincerely do I grieve that she ever entered this house! I always looked forward to her coming with uneasiness; but very far was it from originating in anxiety for Reginald. I expected a most disagreable companion for myself, but could not imagine that my Brother would be in the smallest danger of being captivated by a Woman with whose principles he was so well acquainted, & whose character he so heartily despised. If you can get him away, it will be a good thing.
Lady Susan Letter XII – Sir Reginald De Courcy to his Son.
I know that young Men in general do not admit of any inquiry even from their nearest relations into affairs of the heart, but I hope, my dear Reginald, that you will be superior to such as allow nothing for a Father’s anxiety, & think themselves privileged to refuse him their confidence & slight his advice. You must be sensible that as an only son, & the representative of an ancient Family, your conduct in Life is most interesting to your connections. In the very important concern of Marriage especially, there is everything at stake—your own happiness, that of your Parents, & the credit of your name. I do not suppose that you would deliberately form an absolute engagement of that nature without acquainting your Mother & myself, or at least without being convinced that we should approve of your choice; but I cannot help fearing that you may be drawn in, by the Lady who has lately attached you, to a Marriage which the whole of your Family, far & near, must highly reprobate.
Lady Susan’s age is itself a material objection, but her want of character is one so much more serious that the difference of even twelve years becomes in comparison of small amount. Were you not blinded by a sort of fascination, it would be ridiculous in me to repeat the instances of great misconduct on her side, so very generally known. Her neglect of her husband, her encouragement of other Men, her extravagance & dissipation, were so gross & notorious that no one could be ignorant of them at the time, nor can now have forgotten them. To our Family she has always been represented in softened colours by the benevolence of Mr. Charles Vernon; & yet, in spite of his generous endeavours to excuse her, we know that she did, from the most selfish motives, take all possible pains to prevent his marrying Catherine.
My Years & increasing Infirmities make me very desirous, my dear Reginald, of seeing you settled in the world. To the Fortune of your wife, the goodness of my own will make me indifferent; but her family & character must be equally unexceptionable. When your choice is so fixed as that no objection can be made to either, I can promise you a ready & chearful consent; but it is my Duty to oppose a Match which deep Art only could render probable, & must in the end make wretched.
It is possible her behaviour may arise only from Vanity, or the wish of gaining the admiration of a Man whom she must imagine to be particularly prejudiced against her; but it is more likely that she should aim at something farther. She is poor, & may naturally seek an alliance which may be advantageous to herself. You know your own rights, & that it is out of my power to prevent your inheriting the family Estate. My Ability of distressing you during my Life would be a species of revenge to which I should hardly stoop under any circumstances. I honestly tell you my Sentiments & Intentions: I do not wish to work on your Fears, but on your Sense & Affection. It would destroy every comfort of my Life to know that you were married to Lady Susan Vernon: it would be the death of that honest Pride with which I have hitherto considered my son; I should blush to see him, to hear of him, to think of him.
I may perhaps do no good but that of relieving my own mind by this Letter, but I felt it my Duty to tell you that your partiality for Lady Susan is no secret to your friends, & to warn you against her. I should be glad to hear your reasons for disbelieving Mr. Smith’s intelligence; you had no doubt of its authenticity a month ago.
If you can give me your assurance of having no design beyond enjoying the conversation of a clever woman for a short period, & of yielding admiration only to her Beauty & Abilities, without being blinded by them to her faults, you will restore me to happiness; but if you cannot do this, explain to me, at least, what has occasioned so great an alteration in your opinion of her.
I am, &c.
REGD. DE COURCY.
Lady Susan Letter XIII – Lady De Courcy to Mrs. Vernon.
My dear Catherine
Unluckily I was confined to my room when your last letter came, by a cold which affected my eyes so much as to prevent my reading it myself; so I could not refuse your Father when he offered to read it to me, by which means he became acquainted, to my great vexation, with all your fears about your Brother. I had intended to write to Reginald myself as soon as my eyes would let me, to point out as well as I could the danger of an intimate acquaintance with so artful a woman as Lady Susan, to a young Man of his age & high expectations. I meant, moreover, to have reminded him of our being quite alone now, & very much in need of him to keep up our spirits these long winter evenings. Whether it would have done any good can never be settled now, but I am excessively vexed that Sir Reginald should know anything of a matter which we foresaw would make him so uneasy. He caught all your fears the moment he had read your Letter, and I am sure has not had the business out of his head since. He wrote by the same post to Reginald a long letter full of it all, amp; particularly asking an explanation of what he may have heard from Lady Susan to contradict the late shocking reports. His answer came this morning, which I shall enclose to you, as I think you will like to see it. I wish it was more satisfactory; but it seems written with such a determination to think well of Lady Susan, that his assurances as to Marriage, &c., do not set my heart at ease. I say all I can, however, to satisfy your Father, & he is certainly less uneasy since Reginald’s letter. How provoking it is, my dear Catherine, that this unwelcome Guest of yours should not only prevent our meeting this Christmas, but be the occasion of so much vexation & trouble! Kiss the dear Children for me. Your affec: Mother,
C. DE COURCY.
Lady Susan Letter XIV – Mr. De Courcy to Sir Reginald
My dear Sir
I have this moment received your Letter, which has given me more astonishment than I ever felt before. I am to thank my Sister, I suppose, for having represented me in such a light as to injure me in your opinion, & give you all this alarm. I know not why she should chuse to make herself & her family uneasy by apprehending an Event which no one but herself, I can affirm, would ever have thought possible. To impute such a design to Lady Susan would be taking from her every claim to that excellent understanding which her bitterest Enemies have never denied her; & equally low must sink my pretensions to common sense if I am suspected of matrimonial views in my behaviour to her. Our difference of age must be an insuperable objection, & I entreat you, my dear Sir, to quiet your mind, & no longer harbour a suspicion which cannot be more injurious to your own peace than to our Understandings.
I can have no other view in remaining with Lady Susan, than to enjoy for a short time (as you have yourself expressed it) the conversation of a Woman of high mental powers. If Mrs. Vernon would allow something to my affection for herself & her husband in the length of my visit, she would do more justice to us all; but my Sister is unhappily prejudiced beyond the hope of conviction against Lady Susan. From an attachment to her husband, which in itself does honour to both, she cannot forgive the endeavours at preventing their union which have been attributed to selfishness in Lady Susan; but in this case, as well as in many others, the World has most grossly injured that Lady, by supposing the worst where the motives of her conduct have been doubtful.
Lady Susan had heard something so materially to the disadvantage of my Sister, as to persuade her that the happiness of Mr. Vernon, to whom she was always much attached, would be absolutely destroyed by the Marriage. And this circumstance, while it explains the true motive of Lady Susan’s conduct, amp; removes all the blame which has been so lavished on her, may also convince us how little the general report of any one ought to be credited; since no character, however upright, can escape the malevolence of slander. If my Sister, in the security of retirement, with as little opportunity as inclination to do Evil, could not avoid Censure, we must not rashly condemn those who, living in the World & surrounded with temptation, should be accused of Errors which they are known to have the power of committing.
I blame myself severely for having so easily beleived the slanderous tales invented by Charles Smith to the prejudice of Lady Susan, as I am now convinced how greatly they have traduced her. As to Mrs. Manwaring’s jealousy, it was totally his own invention, & his account of her attaching Miss Manwaring’s Lover was scarcely better founded. Sir James Martin had been drawn in by that young Lady to pay her some attention; & as he is a Man of fortune, it was easy to see that her views extended to Marriage. It is well known that Miss Manwaring is absolutely on the catch for a husband, & no one therefore can pity her for losing, by the superior attractions of another woman, the chance of being able to make a worthy Man completely miserable. Lady Susan was far from intending such a conquest, & on finding how warmly Miss Manwaring resented her Lover’s defection, determined, in spite of Mr. & Mrs. Manwaring’s most earnest entreaties, to leave the family. I have reason to imagine that she did receive serious Proposals from Sir James, but her removing to Langford immediately on the discovery of his attachment, must acquit her on that article with any Mind of common candour. You will, I am sure, my dear Sir, feel the truth of this, amp; will hereby learn to do justice to the character of a very injured Woman.
I know that Lady Susan in coming to Churchill was governed only by the most honourable & amiable intentions; her prudence & economy are exemplary, her regard for Mr. Vernon equal even to his deserts; & her wish of obtaining my sister’s good opinion merits a better return than it has received. As a Mother she is unexceptionable; her solid affection for her Child is shewn by placing her in hands where her Education will be properly attended to; but because she has not the blind & weak partiality of most Mothers, she is accused of wanting Maternal Tenderness. Every person of Sense, however, will know how to value amp; commend her well-directed affection, & will join me in wishing that Frederica Vernon may prove more worthy than she has yet done of her Mother’s tender care.
I have now, my dear Sir, written my real sentiments of Lady Susan; you will know from this Letter how highly I admire her Abilities, & esteem her Character; but if you are not equally convinced by my full & solemn assurance that your fears have been most idly created, you will deeply mortify & distress me.—I am, &c.
R. DE COURCY.
Lady Susan Letter XV – Mrs. Vernon to Lady De Courcy.
My dear Mother
I return you Reginald’s letter, & rejoice with all my heart that my Father is made easy by it. Tell him so, with my congratulations; but between ourselves, I must own it has only convinced me of my Brother’s having no present intention of marrying Lady Susan—not that he is in no danger of doing so three months hence. He gives a very plausible account of her behaviour at Langford; I wish it may be true, but his intelligence must come from herself, & I am less disposed to beleive it than to lament the degree of intimacy subsisting between them implied by the discussion of such a subject.
I am sorry to have incurred his displeasure, but can expect nothing better while he is so very eager in Lady Susan’s justification. He is very severe against me indeed, & yet I hope I have not been hasty in my judgement of her. Poor Woman! tho’ I have reasons enough for my dislike, I cannot help pitying her at present, as she is in real distress, & with too much cause. She had this morning a letter from the Lady with whom she has placed her daughter, to request that Miss Vernon might be immediately removed, as she had been detected in an attempt to run away. Why, or whither she intended to go, does not appear; but as her situation seems to have been unexceptionable, it is a sad thing, amp; of course highly afflicting to Lady Susan.
Frederica must be as much as sixteen, & ought to know better; but from what her Mother insinuates, I am afraid she is a perverse girl. She has been sadly neglected, however, & her Mother ought to remember it.
Mr. Vernon set off for Town as soon as she had determined what should be done. He is, if possible, to prevail on Miss Summers to let Frederica continue with her; & if he cannot succeed, to bring her to Churchill for the present, till some other situation can be found for her. Her Ladyship is comforting herself meanwhile by strolling along the Shrubbery with Reginald, calling forth all his tender feelings, I suppose, on this distressing occasion. She has been talking a great deal about it to me. She talks vastly well; I am afraid of being ungenerous, or I should say too well to feel so very deeply. But I will not look for Faults; she may be Reginald’s Wife—Heaven forbid it!—but why should I be quicker-sighted than anybody else? Mr. Vernon declares that he never saw deeper distress than hers, on the receipt of the Letter—& is his judgement inferior to mine?
She was very unwilling that Frederica should be allowed to come to Churchill, & justly enough, as it seems a sort of reward to Behaviour deserving very differently; but it was impossible to take her anywhere else, & she is not to remain here long.
“It will be absolutely necessary,” said she, “as you, my dear Sister, must be sensible, to treat my daughter with some severity while she is here;—a most painful necessity, but I will endeavour to submit to it. I am afraid I have often been too indulgent, but my poor Frederica’s temper could never bear opposition well. You must support & encourage me—You must urge the necessity of reproof if you see me too lenient.”
All this sounds very reasonably. Reginald is so incensed against the poor silly Girl! Surely it is not to Lady Susan’s credit that he should be so bitter against her daughter; his idea of her must be drawn from the Mother’s description.
Well, whatever may be his fate, we have the comfort of knowing that we have done our utmost to save him. We must commit the event to an Higher Power. Yours Ever, &c.
Lady Susan Letter XVI – Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson
Never, my dearest Alicia, was I so provoked in my life as by a Letter this morning from Miss Summers. That horrid girl of mine has been trying to run away. I had not a notion of her being such a little devil before, she seemed to have all the Vernon Milkiness; but on receiving the letter in which I declared my intention about Sir James, she actually attempted to elope; at least, I cannot otherwise account for her doing it. She meant, I suppose, to go to the Clarkes in Staffordshire, for she has no other acquaintance. But she shall be punished, she shall have him. I have sent Charles to Town to make matters up if he can, for I do not by any means want her here. If Miss Summers will not keep her, you must find me out another school, unless we can get her married immediately. Miss S. writes word that she could not get the young Lady to assign any cause for her extraordinary conduct, which confirms me in my own private explanation of it.
Frederica is too shy, I think, & too much in awe of me to tell tales; but if the mildness of her Uncle should get anything from her, I am not afraid. I trust I shall be able to make my story as good as hers. If I am vain of anything, it is of my eloquence. Consideration & Esteem as surely follow command of Language, as Admiration waits on Beauty. And here I have opportunity enough for the exercise of my Talent, as the cheif of my time is spent in Conversation. Reginald is never easy unless we are by ourselves, & when the weather is tolerable, we pace the shrubbery for hours together. I like him on the whole very well; he is clever & has a good deal to say, but he is sometimes impertinent & troublesome. There is a sort of ridiculous delicacy about him which requires the fullest explanation of whatever he may have heard to my disadvantage, & is never satisfied till he thinks he has ascertained the beginning & end of everything.
This is one sort of Love, but I confess it does not particularly recommend itself to me. I infinitely prefer the tender & liberal spirit of Manwaring, which, impressed with the deepest conviction of my merit, is satisfied that whatever I do must be right; & look with a degree of contempt on the inquisitive & doubtful Fancies of that Heart which seems always debating on the reasonableness of its Emotions. Manwaring is indeed, beyond compare, superior to Reginald—superior in everything but the power of being with me! Poor fellow! he is quite distracted by Jealousy, which I am not sorry for, as I know no better support of Love. He has been teizing me to allow of his coming into this country, & lodging somewhere near incog.—but I forbid anything of the kind. Those women are inexcusable who forget what is due to themselves & the opinion of the World.
Lady Susan Letter XVII – Mrs. Vernon to Lady De Courcy
My dear Mother
Mr. Vernon returned on Thursday night, bringing his neice with him. Lady Susan had received a line from him by that day’s post, informing her that Miss Summers had absolutely refused to allow of Miss Vernon’s continuance in her Academy; we were therefore prepared for her arrival, & expected them impatiently the whole evening. They came while we were at Tea, & I never saw any creature look so frightened in my life as Frederica when she entered the room.
Lady Susan, who had been shedding tears before, & shewing great agitation at the idea of the meeting, received her with perfect self-command, & without betraying the least tenderness of spirit. She hardly spoke to her, & on Frederica’s bursting into tears as soon as we were seated, took her out of the room, & did not return for some time. When she did, her eyes looked very red, amp; she was as much agitated as before. We saw no more of her daughter.
Poor Reginald was beyond measure concerned to see his fair friend in such distress, & watched her with so much tender solicitude, that I, who occasionally caught her observing his countenance with exultation, was quite out of patience. This pathetic representation lasted the whole evening, & so ostentatious & artful a display had entirely convinced me that she did in fact feel nothing.
I am more angry with her than ever since I have seen her daughter; the poor girl looks so unhappy that my heart aches for her. Lady Susan is surely too severe, for Frederica does not seem to have the sort of temper to make severity necessary. She looks perfectly timid, dejected, & penitent.
She is very pretty, tho’ not so handsome as her Mother, nor at all like her. Her complexion is delicate, but neither so fair nor so blooming as Lady Susan’s—& she has quite the Vernon cast of countenance, the oval face & mild dark eyes, & there is peculiar sweetness in her look when she speaks either to her Uncle or me, for as we behave kindly to her we have of course engaged her gratitude. Her Mother has insinuated that her temper is untractable, but I never saw a face less indicative of any evil disposition than hers; & from what I now see of the behaviour of each to the other, the invariable severity of Lady Susan & the silent dejection of Frederica, I am led to beleive as heretofore that the former has no real Love for her daughter, & has never done her justice or treated her affectionately.
I have not yet been able to have any conversation with my neice; she is shy, & I think I can see that some pains are taken to prevent her being much with me. Nothing satisfactory transpires as to her reason for running away. Her kind-hearted Uncle, you may be sure, was too fearful of distressing her to ask many questions as they travelled. I wish it had been possible for me to fetch her instead of him; I think I should have discovered the truth in the course of a Thirty-mile Journey.
The small Pianoforte’ has been removed within these few days, at Lady Susan’s request, into her Dressing room, & Frederica spends great part of the day there; practising, it is called; but I seldom hear any noise when I pass that way. What she does with herself there, I do not know; there are plenty of books in the room, but it is not every girl who has been running wild the first fifteen years of her life, that can or will read. Poor Creature! the prospect from her window is not very instructive, for that room overlooks the Lawn, you know, with the Shrubbery on one side, where she may see her Mother walking for an hour together in earnest conversation with Reginald. A girl of Frederica’s age must be childish indeed, if such things do not strike her. Is it not inexcusable to give such an example to a daughter? Yet Reginald still thinks Lady Susan the best of Mothers—still condemns Frederica as a worthless girl! He is convinced that her attempt to run away proceeded from no justifiable cause, & had no provocation. I am sure I cannot say that it had, but while Miss Summers declares that Miss Vernon shewed no signs of Obstinacy or Perverseness during her whole stay in Wigmore Street, till she was detected in this scheme, I cannot so readily credit what Lady Susan has made him & wants to make me beleive, that it was merely an impatience of restraint & a desire of escaping from the tuition of Masters which brought on the plan of an elopement. Oh! Reginald, how is your Judgement enslaved! He scarcely dares even allow her to be handsome, & when I speak of her beauty, replies only that her eyes have no Brilliancy!
Sometimes he is sure she is deficient in Understanding, & at others that her temper only is in fault. In short, when a person is always to deceive, it is impossible to be consistent. Lady Susan finds it necessary for her own justification that Frederica should be to blame, & probably has sometimes judged it expedient to accuse her of ill-nature & sometimes to lament her want of sense. Reginald is only repeating after her Ladyship.
I am &c.
Lady Susan Letter XVIII – From the same to the same.
My dear Madam
I am very glad to find that my description of Frederica Vernon has interested you, for I do beleive her truly deserving of your regard; & when I have communicated a notion which has recently struck me, your kind impressions in her favour will, I am sure, be heightened. I cannot help fancying that she is growing partial to my Brother; I so very often see her eyes fixed on his face with a remarkable expression of pensive admiration! He is certainly very handsome; & yet more, there is an openness in his manner that must be highly prepossessing, & I am sure she feels it so. Thoughtful & pensive in general, her countenance always brightens into a smile when Reginald says anything amusing; and, let the subject be ever so serious that he may be conversing on, I am much mistaken if a syllable of his uttering escapes her.
I want to make him sensible of all this, for we know the power of gratitude on such a heart as his; & could Frederica’s artless affection detach him from her Mother, we might bless the day which brought her to Churchill. I think, my dear Madam, you would not disapprove of her as a Daughter. She is extremely young, to be sure, has had a wretched Education, & a dreadful example of Levity in her Mother; but yet I can pronounce her disposition to be excellent, & her natural abilities very good. Though totally without accomplishments, she is by no means so ignorant as one might expect to find her, being fond of books & spending the cheif of her time in reading. Her Mother leaves her more to herself now than she did, & I have her with me as much as possible, & have taken great pains to overcome her timidity. We are very good friends, & tho’ she never opens her lips before her Mother, she talks enough when alone with me to make it clear that, if properly treated by Lady Susan, she would always appear to much greater advantage. There cannot be a more gentle, affectionate heart; or more obliging manners, when acting without restraint. Her little Cousins are all very fond of her.
Lady Susan Letter XIX – Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson.
You will be eager, I know, to hear something farther of Frederica, & perhaps may think me negligent for not writing before. She arrived with her Uncle last Thursday fortnight, when, of course, I lost no time in demanding the reason of her behaviour; & soon found myself to have been perfectly right in attributing it to my own letter. The purport of it frightened her so thoroughly that, with a mixture of true girlish perverseness & folly, without considering that she could not escape from my authority by running away from Wigmore Street, she resolved on getting out of the house & proceeding directly by the stage to her friends, the Clarkes; & had really got as far as the length of two streets in her journey when she was fortunately miss’d, pursued, & overtaken.
Such was the first distinguished exploit of Miss Frederica Susanna Vernon; amp; if we consider that it was achieved at the tender age of sixteen, we shall have room for the most flattering prognostics of her future renown. I am excessively provoked, however, at the parade of propriety which prevented Miss Summers from keeping the girl; & it seems so extraordinary a piece of nicety, considering my daughter’s family connections, that I can only suppose the Lady to be governed by the fear of never getting her money. Be that as it may, however, Frederica is returned on my hands; and having now nothing else to employ her, is busy in pursuing the plan of Romance begun at Langford. She is actually falling in love with Reginald De Courcy! To disobey her Mother by refusing an unexceptionable offer is not enough; her affections must likewise be given without her Mother’s approbation. I never saw a girl of her age bid fairer to be the sport of Mankind. Her feelings are tolerably acute, & she is so charmingly artless in their display as to afford the most reasonable hope of her being ridiculed amp; despised by every Man who sees her.
Artlessness will never do in Love matters; & that girl is born a simpleton who has it either by nature or affectation. I am not yet certain that Reginald sees what she is about; nor is it of much consequence. She is now an object of indifference to him; she would be one of contempt were he to understand her Emotions. Her beauty is much admired by the Vernons, but it has no effect on him. She is in high favour with her Aunt altogether—because she is so little like myself, of course. She is exactly the companion for Mrs. Vernon, who dearly loves to be first, & to have all the sense & all the wit of the Conversation to herself: Frederica will never eclipse her. When she first came, I was at some pains to prevent her seeing much of her Aunt; but I have since relaxed, as I beleive I may depend on her observing the rules I have laid down for their discourse.
But do not imagine that with all this Lenity I have for a moment given up my plan of her marriage; No, I am unalterably fixed on this point, tho’ I have not yet quite decided on the manner of bringing it about. I should not chuse to have the business brought forward here, & canvassed by the wise heads of Mr. amp; Mrs. Vernon; & I cannot just now afford to go to Town. Miss Frederica therefore must wait a little.
Lady Susan Letter XX – Mrs. Vernon to Lady De Courcy.
We have a very unexpected Guest with us at present, my dear Mother. He arrived yesterday. I heard a carriage at the door, as I was sitting with my children while they dined; & supposing I should be wanted, left the Nursery soon afterwards, & was half-way downstairs, when Frederica, as pale as ashes, came running up, & rushed by me into her own room. I instantly followed, amp; asked her what was the matter. “Oh!” cried she, “he is come, Sir James is come—& what am I to do?” This was no explanation; I begged her to tell me what she meant. At that moment we were interrupted by a knock at the door: it was Reginald, who came, by Lady Susan’s direction, to call Frederica down. “It is Mr. De Courcy!” said she, colouring violently. “Mamma has sent for me, & I must go.” We all three went down together; & I saw my Brother examining the terrified face of Frederica with surprise. In the breakfast-room we found Lady Susan, & a young Man of genteel appearance, whom she introduced to me by the name of Sir James Martin—the very person, as you may remember, whom it was said she had been at pains to detach from Miss Manwaring. But the conquest, it seems, was not designed for herself, or she has since transferred it to her daughter; for Sir James is now desperately in love with Frederica, & with full encouragement from Mama. The poor girl, however, I am sure, dislikes him; amp; tho’ his person & address are very well, he appears, both to Mr. Vernon & me, a very weak young Man.
Frederica looked so shy, so confused, when we entered the room, that I felt for her exceedingly. Lady Susan behaved with great attention to her Visitor; amp; yet I thought I could perceive that she had no particular pleasure in seeing him. Sir James talked a great deal, & made many civil excuses to me for the liberty he had taken in coming to Churchill—mixing more frequent laughter with his discourse than the subject required—said many things over & over again, & told Lady Susan three times that he had seen Mrs. Johnson a few Evenings before. He now & then addressed Frederica, but more frequently her Mother. The poor girl sat all this time without opening her lips—her eyes cast down, & her colour varying every instant; while Reginald observed all that passed in perfect silence.
At length Lady Susan, weary I beleive of her situation, proposed walking; amp; we left the two gentlemen together, to put on our Pelisses.
As we went upstairs, Lady Susan begged permission to attend me for a few moments in my Dressing room, as she was anxious to speak with me in private. I led her thither accordingly, & as soon as the door was closed, she said, “I was never more surprised in my life than by Sir James’s arrival, & the suddenness of it requires some apology to You, my dear Sister; tho’ to me, as a Mother, it is highly flattering. He is so extremely attached to my Daughter that he could not exist longer without seeing her. Sir James is a young man of an amiable disposition & excellent character; a little too much of the Rattle, perhaps, but a year or two will rectify that; & he is in other respects so very eligible a Match for Frederica, that I have always observed his attachment with the greatest pleasure, & am persuaded that you & my Brother will give the alliance your hearty approbation. I have never before mentioned the likelihood of its taking place to any one, because I thought that while Frederica continued at school it had better not be known to exist; but now, as I am convinced that Frederica is too old ever to submit to school confinement, & have therefore begun to consider her union with Sir James as not very distant, I had intended within a few days to acquaint yourself & Mr. Vernon with the whole business. I am sure, my dear Sister, you will excuse my remaining silent so long, & agree with me that such circumstances, while they continue from any cause in suspense, cannot be too cautiously concealed. When you have the happiness of bestowing your sweet little Catherine, some years hence, on a Man who in connection & character is alike unexceptionable, you will know what I feel now; tho’ Thank Heaven! you cannot have all my reasons for rejoicing in such an Event. Catherine will be amply provided for, & not, like my Frederica, indebted to a fortunate Establishment for the comforts of Life.”
She concluded by demanding my congratulations. I gave them somewhat awkwardly, I beleive; for in fact, the sudden disclosure of so important a matter took from me the power of speaking with any clearness. She thanked me, however, most affectionately, for my kind concern in the welfare of herself amp; daughter; & then said,
“I am not apt to deal in professions, my dear Mrs. Vernon, & I never had the convenient talent of affecting sensations foreign to my heart; & therefore I trust you will beleive me when I declare that, much as I had heard in your praise before I knew you, I had no idea that I should ever love you as I now do; & I must further say that your friendship towards me is more particularly gratifying because I have reason to beleive that some attempts were made to prejudice you against me. I only wish that They—whoever they are—to whom I am indebted for such kind intentions, could see the terms on which we now are together, & understand the real affection we feel for each other! But I will not detain you any longer. God bless you for your goodness to me & my girl, amp; continue to you all your present happiness.”
What can one say of such a Woman, my dear Mother? Such earnestness, such solemnity of expression! & yet I cannot help suspecting the truth of everything she said.
As for Reginald, I beleive he does not know what to make of the matter. When Sir James first came, he appeared all astonishment & perplexity. The folly of the young Man & the confusion of Frederica entirely engrossed him; & tho’ a little private discourse with Lady Susan has since had its effect, he is still hurt, I am sure, at her allowing of such a Man’s attentions to her daughter.
Sir James invited himself with great composure to remain here a few days—hoped we would not think it odd, was aware of its being very impertinent, but he took the liberty of a relation; & concluded by wishing, with a laugh, that he might be really one soon. Even Lady Susan seemed a little disconcerted by this forwardness; in her heart, I am persuaded, she sincerely wishes him gone.
But something must be done for this poor Girl, if her feelings are such as both her Uncle & I beleive them to be. She must not be sacrificed to Policy or Ambition; she must not be even left to suffer from the dread of it. The Girl whose heart can distinguish Reginald De Courcy deserves, however he may slight her, a better fate than to be Sir James Martin’s wife. As soon as I can get her alone, I will discover the real Truth; but she seems to wish to avoid me. I hope this does not proceed from anything wrong, & that I shall not find out I have thought too well of her. Her behaviour to Sir James certainly speaks the greatest consciousness & Embarrassment, but I see nothing in it more like Encouragement.
Adieu, my dear Madam.
End of Lady Susan Letters 11 to 20