+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

whom this august family moderateur spread
its kindly rays. He was quite one of the
family, a young man of about thirty, who
had "stuck" to his plain sister, and to whom
she was extravagantly partial.


Now there was one special Sunday
connected with the Leader family, which was
to be a red-letter day for Tilston. The
church was fuller than it had been known
to be for years; and the great massive
black oak pews were lined, like bastions,
by crowds of holy soldiery, who seemed to
be levelling their prayer-books over the
parapets. In the churchyard, before going
in, Doctor Findlater, the local physician,
a leading fugleman of the place, was the
centre of a group, reassuring the doubtful.
"It's true now, as my last quarter's
receipt," says the doctor, in his case a rather
fallible test. "They came last night, bag
and baggage."

"The whole family ? Are you sure,

"I wish I was as sure of a consultation
fee from his lordship," said the Doctor, with
a peculiar twinkle in his eye. "Didn't the
parson's man tell me they'd been laying
out the best gown? Wasn't I up with Jos,
the ostler's wife, last night, and hadn't Jos
the whole news from the postboy? And,
see! what's this coming, my friends? By
the Lord Chief Justice, here's th'

A handsome carriage, glittering and
shining like a new looking-glass, came
driving up; though, in the Doctor's phrase,
there was "no great shakes of a horse to
pull it." Every one now hurried into the
church, so as to have a good sitting view, and
a full and satisfactory one. The faces were
turned to the door with an almost military
unanimity, as though a marble officer on
the wall, flourishing a sabre of the same
material, had given the word, "Eyes right!"
There was a long pause, accounted for by
Findlater saying behind his hand to his
daughter Katey, "that was old Clarke
the parson, twaddling on and koo-too-ing
at the door." But here they were, a little
procession entering; the obsequious pew-
opener holding the Leader pew open; an
unconcealed rustle and flutter running
down, and in another moment the new
Leader family, four in number, were
securely bolted into the Leader family pew.
The clergyman, so freely described as
"Clarke the parson," came out and began;
but it is not profane to say, that the
august party were the real celebrants, and
that their bearing, motions, dress, &c.,
constituted the service of that Sunday.

The new Mr. Leader knelt at the head of
the pew very shy and most uncomfortable,
under the concentrated gaze of the whole
parish. Next him sat the new Mrs. Leader,
terribly plain indeed, "yellow as a custard,"
the parishioners said; a face that might
be skilfully "forded across" by means of
stepping-stones in the shape of scattered
warts. On such blemishes, for which the
lady was in no way accountable, it would
be ungenerous to dwell, or at least the
blame must be laid on that ungenerous
stepmother, Nature. But a demon of bad
taste made her garnish this ugly stone with
a flaming, staring setting of rich crimson
satin and ribbons, a whole bed of gaudy
flowers blooming and blowing on her head
and round her cheeks. All honour to the
happy compensator that hides the ugliness
from the ugly; but it is enough that a veil
should hang between them and the glass,
without the latter having the unlucky
power of reflecting them back as beautiful.
The mirror in the case of wealthy and
titled ugliness is, alas! too often the
interested praise of the milliners, who seem
to delight in piling on their poor victims
all the extravagances of a kaleidoscope.
Here was the heel of the new Mrs. Leader;
and Madame Lenoir, of Regent-street, had
found out that vulnerable place, that adroit
artiste not dwelling on physical charms,
but raving of the esprit; the light of elegant
intellect which illuminated and made
us forget that yellow horn lanterna
homage repaid by purchase of the heaviest
silks and velvets. This reciprocity began
almost at once, and Mrs. Leader's wardrobe
was already crowded. This weakness,
and another which she called
ambition, but which was indeed a morbid
craving, like a disease, for titled acquaintances,
existed side by side with much
purpose and stubbornness of will. Next her
was her stepdaughter Mary, pronounced
a poor sickly girl, with a dowdy charity-
school air about hera real "good girl,"
as she was to prove, to whom wealth and
the responsibilities of her new life were by
no means welcome. She was looking back
wistfully to the pleasant walk with papa
through the queer old-fashioned lanes of
Soho, or to the visit to the courts when
some exciting trial was on, and she was
delighted with the witnesses, speeches, &c.
These cheap and innocent pleasures were
all gone now. It would be ungenteel for