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“Such a man so exclaimed the General. “Oh! Such a man "sobbed Mrs. Finch. as she complacently dropped a few tears. At that moment, sacred to tender remembrance, the door opened, and Mrs. Downe Wright was announced. She entered the room as if she had come to profane the ashes of the dead, and insult the feelings of the living. A smile was upon her face; and, in place of the silent pressure, she shook her Ladyship heartily by the hand, as she expressed her pleasure at seeing her look so well. “Well!” replied the Lady, “ that is wonderful, after what I have suffered—but grief, it seems, will not kill !” “I never thought it would,” said Mrs. Downe Wright; “but I thought your having been confined to the house so long might have affected your looks. However, I’m happy to see that is not the case, as I don’t recollect ever to have seen you so fat.” Lady Matilda tried to look her into decency, but in vain. She sighed, and even groaned; but Mrs. Downe Wright would not be dolorous, and was not to be taken in, either by sigh or groan, crape-fan, or prayer-book. There was nobody her Ladyship stood so much in awe of as Mrs. Downe Wright. She had an instinctive knowledge that she knew her, and she felt her genius repressed by her, as Julius Caesar’s was by Cassius. They had been very old acquaintances, but never were cordial friends, though many worthy people are very apt to confound the two. Upon this occasion, Mrs. Downe Wright certainly did; for, availing herself of this privilege, she took off her cloak, and said, “’tis so long since I have seen you, my dear; and since I see you so well, and able to enjoy the Society of your friends, I shall delay the
rest of my visits, and spend the morning with you.” “That is truly kind of you, my dear Mrs. Downe Wright,” returned the mourner, with a countenance in which real woe was now plainly depicted; “but I cannot be so selfish as to claim such a sacrifice from you.” “There is no sacrifice in the case, I assure you, my dear,” returned Mrs. Downe Wright: “ This is a most comfortable room; and I could go no where, that I would meet a pleasanter little circle,” looking round. Lady Matilda thought herself undone. Looking well—fat—comfortable room— pleasant circle—rung in her ears, and caused almost as great a whirl in her brain as noses, lips, handkerchiefs, did in Othello’s. Mrs. Downe Wright, always disagreeable, was now perfectly insupportable. She had disconcerted all her plans—she was a bar
to all her studied speeches—even an obstacle to all her sentimental looks—yet to get rid of her was impossible. In fact, ‘Mrs. Downe Wright was far from being an amiable woman. She took a malicious pleasure in tormenting those she did not like; and her skill in this art was so great, that she even deprived the tormented of the privilege of complaint. She had a great insight into character, and she might be said to read the very thoughts of her victims. Making a desperate effort to be herself again, Lady Matilda turned to her two young visitors, with whom she had still some hopes of success. “I cannot express how much I feel indebted to the sympathy of my friends upon this trying occasion—an occasion, indeed, that called for sympathy.” “A most melancholy occasion P” said the Duke. “A most distressing occasion!” exclaimed the General.
“Never was greater occasion!” moaned Mrs. Finch. Her Ladyship wiped her eyes, and resumed— “I feel that I act but a melancholy part, in spite of every exertion. But my kind friend, Mrs. Downe Wright’s spirits will, I trust, support me. She knows what it is to lose—” Again her voice was buried in her handkerchief, and again she recovered and proceeded— “I ought to apologize for being thus overcome ; but my friends, I hope, will make due allowance for my situation. It cannot be expected that I should at all times find myself able for company.” “Not at all !” said the Duke ; and the two satellites uttered their responses. “You are able for a great deal, my dear!” said the provoking Mrs. Downe
Wright; “and I have no doubt but, with 1.