us that can make us happy and comfortable;
but his own ambitions are moderate. I
only hope," added she with a deep sigh,
" that he is as happy and well-off as our-
"You look as if you doubted it?" said
Agatha with increasing interest. " Has he
met with any disappointment, any afflic-
"God forbid! I never heard him com-
136 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
plain. But Jervis is not a lively per-
" Great geniuses seldom are" interrupted
"Are they not? I am glad to hear it;"
exclaimed Jane Cleve, who was busied in
restoring to their places the treasures she
had brought forward to exhibit to the young
ladies. "I was afraid " She paused.
She felt as if betraying her brother.
"Of what are you afraid? Not, I hope,
of intrusting any of your feelings to us ? "
said Agatha, taking her kindly by the hand.
" Oh, no ! Much less of speaking openly
to you than to any one I ever addressed in
my life ! " cried Jane, a slight moisture
trembling in her soft grey eyes; "for you
may suppose that, in my humble station, I
have not had many opportunities of convers-
ing with others than of my own degree
with whom, alas! I have less in common in
thought and feeling than I ought."
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 137
The " alas ! " and the " I am afraid " which
had previously suspended her communications,
excited warm interest in Agatha! A very
little persuasion induced poor Jane to explain
herself more fully.
" I am perhaps over bold," said she, " in
troubling you, ladies, with what is passing
in the heart of one you never saw before,
and will never see again. But I was going
to say just now, that I am afraid my dear
brother may not be altogether the happier for
knowing more than his neighbours."
" An apprehension arising, I fear, from ex-
perience of the self-same feeling ? " said Mary,
with sympathizing earnestness.
" You will despise me, perhaps, if I own
it," answered Jane. " But I do sometimes re-
gret having been more instructed than the rest
of my family. They like me the less for it ; and
in spite of all that Jervis has done for us, he
is less beloved here than his brothers, who have
gone plodding on, earning their daily bread,
138 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
able to talk to my father and aunt in their
own way, and feel interested in the trifles
that interest them. Nay, even less beloved
than the memory of an elder one, far less
worthy, and long lost to his family."
"And you, situated as you are, you
must often feel miserably alone?" rejoined
" I should, perhaps, if I had not such a
friend as my brother ; to whom I write some-
times, and of whom I think every hour of
the day. But I have luckily household occu-
pations that take up a great deal of my time ;
so that I have no leisure to puzzle myself
whether I might not have been happier if I
enjoyed the things that others of my con-
dition enjoy, and did not aspire to those
to which it is forbidden me to aspire. If
Jervis were here, indeed "
Her own name, repeated in the loudest
and far from the tenderest tones of aunt
Morris, suspended the course of a colloquy
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 139
that was becoming perhaps a little too con-
" Jane Jane Cleve ! you are keeping the
young ladies, and my lady is waiting for
>em, and the young gentleman's mortal
angry ! " cried the old lady, from the bottom
of the stairs.
" Mamma waiting for us? " repeated Mary,
in a tone of consternation, hastily gathering
up her parasol and gloves for departure.
" What shall we say to George ?" added
Agatha, with a look of distress, by which
Jane Cleve discerned only too clearly that
all brothers were not so indulgent as her
The unconcealed terror with which the
Miss Joddrells hurried down stairs, amazed
her. To be such great ladies, so beauti-
fully dressed, whose fair hands had been
exempted from their cradle from the fulfil-
ments of any useful purpose, apparently so
secure from the vexations of life, yet trem-
140 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
ble at the voices of their nearest relations !
GOD was just ! The compensations of Pro-
vidence were more equally bestowed than
for the last half-hour she had been sup-
posing. She would not change places with
her new friends.
" Where on earth have you been hiding
yourselves?" cried George, shoving rather
than handing his sisters into the carriage
in which Lady Hillingdon was already seated ;
while the postboys, mounted on their horses
ready to start, were exchanging knowing
glances with the cowboy, who had officiated
as ostler, to congratulate him on the hand-
some tip which he was lifting up his smock
frock to jerk into his pocket.
And while aunt Morris proceeded to echo
faintly to her niece the objurgation with
which Lady Hillingdon was favouring her
daughters, the carriage door was audibly
slammed to ; and the moment the alert John
had swung himself into his place in the rum-
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 141
ble, the signal of "all right" started the
horses round the little court and the old
chestnut tree, and away went the carriage
like a whirlwind.
For some moments, aunt Morris stood
curtseying at the door, as a last homage to
the grand strangers whom she had welcomed
with the uncalculating hospitality of an
Arab. But long after she had re-entered
the house to resume her accustomed house-
hold avocations, and try to make her super-
annuated brother comprehend the cause of
the unusual bustle that had been passing
around him, Jane continued to watch the
cloud of dust that marked the transit of the
gay equipage, till all trace of it was lost in
She could not quite forgive herself on
finding tears in her eyes from knowing
that she should never again behold those
whom, an hour before, she had not as yet
142 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
The remainder of that day was a very
dreary one. Fresh thorns had been scat-
tered in the humble path of poor Jane
PEEKS AND PARVENUS. 143
England is at present as polite a country as any in the world ;
but the affectation of being gay, and in fashion, has eaten
up our good sense and sense of religion. The follies of the
day are supported by no other pretension than that they
are accomplished with what is called a good grace.
HAD not George Joddrell, in the consci-
ousness of his mean motives and the shame
of their disappointment, issued severe orders
to his servant and the postboys, previous to
their return to Hindon Manor, that not a
word was to transpire concerning their
morning's expedition, not a soul of them
would have been at the pains to utter a
But the interdiction implied something
extraordinary; and John in the servant's
144 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
hall, and the boys in the stables, became
accordingly mighty curious as to what could
have taken the party to visit a house where
there was no one to receive them; and to
seek entertainment at another, where nothing
By dressing-time, enough had been trans-
mitted by the ladies' maids to the Clutter-
bucks and the maiden aunts, to suggest the
"dear delight of giving pain" by the nature
and perseverance of their questions.
But their antagonists were forewarned and
"I am afraid you had a sad unprofitable
journey this morning?" said Charlotte Corbet
to the elder of her nieces, before the soup
was removed from the table.
" By no means ! " said Lady Hillingdon,
taking the explanation into her own hands.
" The drive was charming ! I was delighted
to renew my acquaintance with scenery that
reminded me of old times. "
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 145
" Still, as your object was to renew your
acquaintance with Mrs Hecksworth "
" Before we got half way to Bilston, "
again interrupted her ladyship, " I knew
that to be impossible. Old Towler, whom I
fancied was in his grave, but whom we were
so unlucky as to meet at Hopton tollbar,
apprised me that we were too late. When
I promised Mrs Hecksworth a visit, we ex-
pected to be here a week ago. It was
from knowing she was about to depart for
Italy, I was in such haste to accomplish
the expedition. "
" And spite of everything, and of disap-
pointing my father, you were too late after
all ! " cried Mrs Clutterbuck with a pro-
"You are not the only person, I can as-
sure you," added her sister Charlotte, " whom
the heiress's sudden departure has left in the
lurch. I hope, George, " said she still more
VOL. II. H
146 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
vexatiously, " that you liked the looks of
"Amazingly ! " was the cool reply of young
Joddrell, less easily put out of countenance
than his mother and sisters. "I regretted
only I had not taken my land surveyor
with me, to form an estimate on the
" Bilston is a very pretty place, grand-
papa? " said Mary, addressing Mr Corbet, as
if to obtain his interference.
"I have never seen the new house, my
dear It is out of our distance The roads
are much too bad."
"Not out of distance or too bad for
post-horses, it seems ! " observed Caroline
Clutterbuck, with an indignant glance at her
" Post-horses, my dear Car., are out of dis-
tance for my purse, " replied the old gentle-
man, good-humouredly. " We are forced to
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 147
potter about our own neighbourhood with
our own horses, and be content ! "
"If you had a bachelor son, sir, instead
of unmarried daughters, you might perhaps
think it worth while to visit the Hecks-
worths," retorted his daughter Charlotte,
with an air of pique. " It is as well, however,
before setting out on such wildgoose expedi-
tions, to ascertain that the family be not a
thousand miles off ! "
" Not if you promise yourself the plea-
sure of acquainting them in person, that
their woods are in good looks, and their
deer in excellent health ! " said the unabash-
able George. " We shall probably see a great
deal of the Hecksworths in the course of the
"Surely Mr Towler informed you that
they were to spend the winter in Italy ? " said
his grandmother, peevishly, afraid that, in
the heat of debate, the beauty of her boiled
148 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
turkey, white as if carved in ivory, would
" And so do we! " coolly replied her grand-
" In Italy ? You are going to Italy ?
You are all going to Italy ? " was instantly
reiterated in divers intonations by the various
members of the family. Lady Hillingdon, by
whom the coup de theatre had been devised,
was fully satisfied with the results. The
whole party sat confounded !
" And how long has this plan been in
agitation, my dear ? " demanded old Corbet
of his daughter, with a sad and serious air;
feeling that, at his age, a separation from
any branch of his family was likely to be
But Lady Hillingdon was of course incap-
able of so ingenuous an avowal as that the
plan was hastily formed by herself and her
son, on their journey homewards ; the latter,
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 149
like a desperate gamester, having resolved to
devote the last of the thousands he had raised,
to a forlorn hope, purporting to achieve the
conquest of the heiress and Bilston Park : to
which end, and on which terms, he was cer-
tain of his father's consent to the departure
of the family.
" My mother's health requires a milder
winter climate than Brighton," said he, com-
ing to Lady Hillingdon's assistance ; " and I
have persuaded her to accept my escort to
" Perhaps you are right ! " said his grand-
father, with a deep sigh, after glancing at his
eldest daughter, and comparing her sallow
complexion and sunken eyes with the vigorous
amplitude of Mrs Clutterbuck.
" Quite right ! " added Charlotte Corbet,
spitefully. " The Duke of Attleborough and
Lord John Howard winter in Italy ! "
u Every body seems going to winter in
Italy ! " said Agatha Joddrell, overjoyed,
150 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
notwithstanding her disapproval of the motives
to which she was forced to attribute her bro-
ther's sudden project, at the idea of realiz-
ing one of the most favourite visions of her
girlhood. " Mrs Fairfax's son is already
She was on the point of adding : " And a
charming girl, whose acquaintance we made
this morning, informed us that her brother,
the famous Cambridge wrangler, was on his
way to Rome." When, luckily, the recollec-
tion of Lady Hillingdon's prohibition con-
cerning their morning's adventure, rendered
her more cautious.
A dead silence now pervaded the party.
So wholly unexpected an announcement had
struck dumb both contents and malcontents.
The elder Corbets were dispirited by the
prospect of losing sight, for so long a period,
of their grandchildren. The object of George
Joddrell's former flirtation could scarcely
restrain her tears on finding his pursuit of
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 151
Miss Hecksworth of Bilston Park so serious as
to produce expatriation ; while her mother and
sister, who had hoped to crush the scornful
aunt under the brilliancy of the Dashwood
connection, perceived that the perspective of
a renewed intimacy with the Duke of Attle-
borough and Lord John Howard, had already
fully reconciled her to the defalcation of Bob.
George Joddrell, who could not afford to
leave them to their reflections, hastened, mean-
while, to break the embarrassing silence by
openly cross-questioning his grandfather con-
cerning the value and eligibilities of the
Bilston estate. He chose Mrs Clutterbuck to
see how utterly he defied her. He chose Mrs
Clutterbuck to see that he was ashamed of
nothing but being her nephew.
The chord he had touched vibrated in-
stantaneously in the bosom of the country
gentleman. Delighted to be referred to, and
fully competent to enter into the subject, old
Corbet was agreeably surprised to find that
152 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
the grandson, whose accomplishments of mind
he had been apt to estimate at a somewhat
lower rate than his accomplishments of person,
was so perfectly au fait to the value of land
in the county, and so alive to the advan-
tages of the Bilston property, farms, woods,
and waters. George's glibness in the disqui-
sition seemed to guarantee an extreme inti-
macy between himself and the Hecksworths.
Even aunt Charlotte and the Clutterbucks
began to suspect they were at the bottom of
the basket ; and that the morning's seemingly
bootless expedition had been undertaken on
behalf of or certainly at the request of the
The crafty pretendant to her hand was not
likely to apprize his family, that all the time
his sisters were occupied in gossip with
the gentle girl of Glebestone, he had been
dexterously extracting from the two old people,
who had lived more than two-thirds of a
century on the estate, the utmost particulars
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 153
they could impart concerning its value and
management; particulars so satisfactory, that,
on learning the indulgence with which the
late Mr Hecksworth was accustomed to deal
with his tenants, and that, without injustice
to them, the rent-roll might be nearly doubled,
he instantly planned the expedition to Italy,
which the present uninvested state of his
funds rendered feasible for the family.
To have gone alone, would have been sus-
picious. But on pretence of accompanying
his mother and sisters, he might follow the
steps of the heiress and pursue the intimacy
on the most specious grounds. It was for the
sake of Lucy's health that Mrs Hecksworth
judged it desirable to visit a milder climate ;
and though a consumptive wife is an alarming
thing, provided her fortunes be as slender as
her constitution, an heiress whose life is pre-
carious, adds another cypher to her fortunes.
The Clutterbucks had only to sit by crest-
fallen, while George was acquainted by his
154 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
grandfather of the increased value likely to
accrue to the Bilston property from two new
railroads about to traverse the county.
Having received the intelligence as triumph-
antly as though the heiress were already his
own, George Joddrell proceeded to trace out
his intended line of march " mit klengenden
spiele und fliegenden fahnen" towards the
fairest city of the south.
His astonished sisters, though forced to
listen acquiescently, longed to be alone again
together, to avow their surprise at the scheme,
as well as their regret that a journey so de-
lightful should be instigated by motives so
unworthy. But though neither of them so
much as hinted that the chance of meeting
in Italy the duke and his cousin, or rather
the duke's cousin and his tutor, had no small
share in their joy, a significant pressure of
the hand, on both sides, implied a mutual
though tacit understanding.
Meanwhile the desire of doing as they
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 155
would be done by, suggested that it would
be an act of kindness towards the charming
girl who had welcomed them so cordially,
if they wrote to announce their approaching
departure for Italy, and their willingness to
convey any packet she might wish to send to
her brother. The exalted fancy of Agatha
was still enraptured at having detected a
heroine of romance in the sister of the Fair-
ford youth, by accidentally knocking at a
stranger's door; while Mary could not but
admit how much she wished that one of her
showy cousins had turned out such a girl
as the mild and intelligent Jane Cleve.
Early on the morrow, George proceeded
to town to acquaint Lord Hillingdon with
his plans, and complete the preliminaries for
leaving England. And though his mother
judged it decent to extend her visit to
Hindon Manor to the period originally
promised, her sister Sophia had it no
longer in her power to annoy her by per-
156 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
petual allusions to the Dashwoods and Cla-
The most florid description in Mrs Clut-
terbuck's power to inflict upon her of Brus-
sels lace flounces and Valenciennes trim-
mings in preparation, became innocuous, now
that the lapse of a few weeks would en-
able her to set her springes anew for the
entanglement of Attleborough and Lord John.
Already, by anticipation, she considered her
three children as good as married, to an
heiress, a duke, and a future Sir Eobert Peel.
To have escaped Brighton, which she had
begun to abhor, and Lady Ursula, whom she
both hated and feared, and obtain the un-
hoped for means of following up her matri-
monial plans, might well suffice to reconcile
her to the dulness of her old home, the lectures
of her father, and the prosy stories of Mrs
Corbet. Her usually variable temper stood
at "settled, fair." To witness her imper-
turbable good humour no one would have
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 157
supposed that Lady Hillingdon was living in
the bosom of her family and out of earshot
of the fashionable world.
All went merry, in short, not as a marriage
bell, but as a whole peal ; when alas ! the
custom of country neighbourhood brought
Dick Towler to dine at the Manor. As
Charlotte Corbet was making up in her
red-nosed maturity, as a pis aller, to the man
she had rejected in her better-looking youth,
Dick Towler could not long be excluded from
the house in compliment to the fastidious
ladies from town.
Scarcely had he settled his dinner napkin
across his portly person and swallowed with
sonorous unction a few spoonfuls of soup,
when his stentorian voice caused the filigree
baskets suspended to the old fashioned epergne
to tremble, while with malicious jocularity
proceeding to attack Lady Hillingdon.
" And so, my lady, you chose after all
t'other morning to go further and fare worse?
158 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
Told ye how 'twould be ! " cried he. " Told ye
puss was off her form ! But you wouldn't be-
lieve me. Bless ye, we've Londoners coming
every day of the week to look after the Bilston
heiress ; and when she's at the receipt of cus-
tom, 'twould be only fair to have a flag flying,
as they have at great folks' castles to let
little folks know they may come and have
a peep at 'em. But 'ware hawk! Hecks-
worth's widow knows pretty well what
she's about ! Hecksworth's widow 's the
very cat to have a care of the cream.
I should like to get a sight of the chap
that will find her sleeping with both eyes
If poor Towler's facetious vulgarity was
little tasted by Lady Hillingdon, it afforded
unmixed satisfaction to the Clutterbucks ; in
compliment to whom, as much as to her in-
tended bridegroom, Charlotte Corbet spitefully
encouraged him to proceed.
"My sister did not expect to find the
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 159
Hecksworths at home," said she ; " but being
about to join them in Italy, she "
"Join them?" reiterated the straight-
forward squire. "Why, if they're so thick,
how came it her ladyship didn't make herself
at home, at once ? When I heard of the
party a-going-a-begging for a luncheon, I
couldn't help thinking how vexed my good
friend Madam Hecksworth would be if she
thought any visitor of hers was forced to be
obligated for a feed of corn to poor folks
like neighbour Cleve of Glebestone."
" You never told us you had been to Glebe-
stone?" interposed one of her sisters.
" I never even heard the name of the
place to which we were taken by the post-
boys! A country inn, or something of that
if Glebestone, though small, is a famous
place in its way, my dear," interposed her
father, in grave earnest. "In Cromwell's
time, the spot was inhabited by General Ireton.
160 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
Partly on that account, partly as the home
of the famous Fairford youth, there was a
wood-cut of the place last year, in the ' Pic-
torial Times ; ' besides notices in the ' Penny
Magazine/ and the l Gentleman's ' "
"I seldom see works of that description,"
replied Lady Hillingdon, whose acquaintance
with illustrated literature was confined to
the ' Keepsake ' and < Book of Beauty/ " All
I noticed at the farmhouse to which Mr
Towler appears to have thought it worth
while to follow us, was, that the horses
"Follow ye? Bless ye! I'm seldom at
the trouble of following anything short of a
fox !" retorted old Dick, with a hearty laugh.
" But yesterday as I was riding over to Bew-
chester market, Dame Morris (who's an old
crony and gossip of mine), beckoned me in
to inquire who the grand folks could possibly
be who'd condescended to put up at her poor
place; and asked such a power of questions
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 161
about the value of the Bilston estates, and
"It would have been strange if I had
talked to a woman of that description about
anything but the affairs of her parish," in-
terrupted Lady Hillingdon, with an air of
" No, poor old soul, I suppose Goody
Morris has not much to tell, likely to be un-
derstood by great folks!" retorted Dick,
with an air of simplicity, " but there's one
thing, she don't go in search of 'em! To
fall in her way, they must come to her; and
I'm sure you'll own my lady, that a more
hospitable old creatur' never saw the light."
" This mysterious visit of yours which you
have kept so great a secret, explains what
puzzled me so this morning when I opened
the post-bag," said Charlotte Corbet, half
aside to Agatha; " a letter as big as a govern-
ment despatch, with the Bewchester post-
mark ! I could not help wondering what
162 PEERS AND PARVENUS.
acquaintance you could possibly have in this
" We made a very interesting acquaintance
at Glebestone," was her niece's frank reply.
" The packet to which you allude contained
two sketches which we have promised to take
with us to Italy, to the Fairford youth."
"You know Jervis Cleve, then?" said
Charlotte Corbet, snappishly.
" He is intimately known to the son of
our governess, Mrs Fairfax, with whom George
"Very kind of you to convert yourself
into a twopenny -post !" snarled the crabbed
old maid, " But I forgot !" added she, with
a still bitterer sneer, " These Cleves are the
proteges of your particular friends, the
Hecks worths. "
" In that case, " replied Mary, who, devoid
of all arriere pensee, could not surmise that
these remarks were intended to annoy her
sister, "we are doubly interested to take
PEERS AND PARVENUS. 163
charge of the sketches; for one of them is
a view of Glebestone, and the other repre-
sents a beautiful scene in Bilston Park."
" Ah ! poor Lucy ! she'll be glad enough
to see that, and thankful enough to them that
bring it her ! " cried Dick Towler, having
only partially overheard what was going on.
"A sweeter, or truer, or better girl than