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you and the Duke are upon ? Really, the extraordinary intimacy which I have lately witnessed, authorizes me, as your guardian and natural protectress, to insist upon your informing me whether you intend to encourage the addresses of the Duke of Strathhaven ?” .
Blanche started and coloured. She saw at a glance that Lady Clairville was in a state of great excitement and displeasure; but fierce and haughty as was the nature of the aunt, there was a spirit within the breast of the young and delicate being who stood before her, which, when aroused, would not quail beneath injustice and unkindness.
When she had recovered the first surprise which the speech and manner of her aunt had occasioned, the Baroness advanced towards her, and said in a calm dignified tone of voice, “ I must ask your Ladyship to explain to me the meaning of what you have just said; it seems to me somewhat incomprehensible, and I may have mistaken it."
“ I repeat,” answered Lady Clairville, her eyes flashing with anger --" is it your wish, in defiance of all my long-indulged desires and hopes—is it your wish to marry the Duke of Strathhaven, a man old enough to be your father ?"
“ Such an ideá never crossed my imagination, or his Grace's either; therefore I can easily satisfy you on that point. But,” continued the Baroness, drawing herself up with an air of proud dignity which surprised and disconcerted Lady Clairville, “ had such a circumstance really existed, and a mutual attachment arisen in our hearts, I should have no hesitation in indulging in such a sentiment, nor should I have considered it necessary to consult even your Ladyship upon its propriety. Too proud must be the woman who could win such a heart as that which beats within the noble breast of the Duke of Strathhaven. As for his age, that objection could only have rested with myself, and there could be no obstacle to my making such a choice had it been my desire. As it now is, the Duke of Strathhaven is not the object upon whom I have bestowed my affections.”
Lady Clairville's eye sunk beneath the glance of her young niece, as she stood with all the pride of her race awakened by the words of her aunt; a pride which flushed her usually placid countenance, and diffused over her whole demeanour that air of indescribable dignity which even repulsed the haughty dame before her. For a moment she was embarrassed, but soon recovering her usual spirit of dominion, she said,
“ All this is very well, but I must request that you will be more guarded in your manner towards the Duke. I see that you court his attentions, and even receive visits from him, when I am either in my room, or from home. This is all very improper — quite out of all rule ; and you must remember, Blanche,” Lady Clairville added, softening her voice and manner, as she perceived that her hitherto quiescent ward was showing symptoms of rebellion, and feeling that she might be going too far, by irritating her more than it was wise for her to do,-“ you must remember there is such a person as poor Julian in the world. What would be his feelings if he heard, that whilst he was suffering in mind and in body, you were lavishing attentions upon another, which he hopes one day to win exclusively for himself.”
“As we are upon that subject,” said Blanche, for the moment a little appalled by her own boldness, “ I must at once tell you, aunt, what I have never yet had the courage to reveal. I confess with sorrow and heart-felt shame, that I have been a complete puppet in your hands, and have led you into error from not daring to be explicit ; even when you have spoken to me of a marriage between
Julian and myself, I have still hesitated to undeceive you."
“Ah! and what have you to say upon that subject now ?” cried Lady Clairville, with eagerness and anger depicted upon her countenance. “Do you mean to brave my displeasure by thwarting my favourite hope—the plan which from your earliest days I have. anticipated with so much delight for you, ungrateful girl ?"
“ Ungrateful I am not,” said Blanche, calmly ; “but would it not be worse than deceit, did I not take courage to inform you, what sooner or later you must know, Julian can never be my husband.”
Lady Clairville's countenance grew dark as night as Blanche continued," You are as well aware as I am, that his affections have long been placed upon the sweet beautiful Evelyn. Is it likely that I should fix my love upon one who was already devoted to another? ”