Wives and Daughters: An Every-Day Story (Chapter 9, page 1 of 12)

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Chapter 9

Mrs. Kirkpatrick was only too happy to accept Lady Cumnor's
invitation. It was what she had been hoping for, but hardly daring to
expect, as she believed that the family were settled in London for
some time to come. The Towers was a pleasant and luxurious house in
which to pass her holidays; and though she was not one to make deep
plans, or to look far ahead, she was quite aware of the prestige
which her being able to say she had been staying with "dear Lady
Cumnor" at the Towers, was likely to give her and her school in
the eyes of a good many people; so she gladly prepared to join her
ladyship on the 17th. Her wardrobe did not require much arrangement;
if it had done, the poor lady would not have had much money to
appropriate to the purpose. She was very pretty and graceful; and
that goes a great way towards carrying off shabby clothes; and it was
her taste more than any depth of feeling, that had made her persevere
in wearing all the delicate tints--the violets and grays--which, with
a certain admixture of black, constitute half-mourning. This style of
becoming dress she was supposed to wear in memory of Mr. Kirkpatrick;
in reality because it was both lady-like and economical. Her
beautiful hair was of that rich auburn that hardly ever turns gray;
and partly out of consciousness of its beauty, and partly because the
washing of caps is expensive, she did not wear anything on her head;
her complexion had the vivid tints that often accompany the kind
of hair which has once been red; and the only injury her skin had
received from advancing years was that the colouring was rather more
brilliant than delicate, and varied less with every passing emotion.
She could no longer blush; and at eighteen she had been very proud
of her blushes. Her eyes were soft, large, and china-blue in colour;
they had not much expression or shadow about them, which was perhaps
owing to the flaxen colour of her eyelashes. Her figure was a little
fuller than it used to be, but her movements were as soft and sinuous
as ever. Altogether, she looked much younger than her age, which
was not far short of forty. She had a very pleasant voice, and read
aloud well and distinctly, which Lady Cumnor liked. Indeed, for some
inexplicable reason, she was a greater, more positive favourite with
Lady Cumnor than with any of the rest of the family, though they all
liked her up to a certain point, and found it agreeably useful to
have any one in the house who was so well acquainted with their ways
and habits; so ready to talk, when a little trickle of conversation
was required; so willing to listen, and to listen with tolerable
intelligence, if the subjects spoken about did not refer to serious
solid literature, or science, or politics, or social economy. About
novels and poetry, travels and gossip, personal details, or anecdotes
of any kind, she always made exactly the remarks which are expected
from an agreeable listener; and she had sense enough to confine
herself to those short expressions of wonder, admiration, and
astonishment, which may mean anything, when more recondite things
were talked about.

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