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THE YOUNGER SISTER.
Catherine Anne Austen Hubback
IN THREE VOLUMES.—VOL. I.
Originally Published By
THOMAS CAUTLEY NEWBY, PUBLISHER, LONDON
ABELA PUBLISHING, LONDON
The Younger Sister
Typographical arrangement of this edition
©Abela Publishing 2017
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London, United Kingdom
TO THE MEMORY OF HER AUNT,
THE LATE JANE AUSTEN,
THIS WORK IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED
BY THE AUTHORESS
WHO, THOUGH TOO YOUNG TO HAVE KNOWN
WAS FROM CHILDHOOD TAUGHT TO
ESTEEM HER VIRTUES,
AND ADMIRE HER TALENTS.
The Reverend John Watson, who, for the space of twenty years, was the incumbent of the village of Winston, had not always been such an indolent invalid as he appeared to those who only knew him during the last ten years of that time. When he was inducted into the living, he was a husband and the father of five children; a sixth was very shortly added to their nursery; and, for several years after her birth, Mrs. Watson's activity, good judgment, and influence with her husband, preserved, for him, the esteem and respect of his parishioners, and the character amongst his acquaintance, of a very kind and attentive neighbour, and a most highly respectable parish priest. But, with her life, his energy seemed to depart; he became indolent from sorrow; shunning society—shrinking from exertion—and confining himself to what was absolutely unavoidable of his duties. This line of conduct, begun from grief, which seemed to prostrate his mental strength, was continued from self-indulgence, long after the poignancy of the grief was worn away, and it ended in really entailing the ill-health—from which, he had, for sometime, pleased himself with fancying that he suffered. Frequent attacks of the gout, disabled him from much exertion, and often confined him to his room for weeks together.
In the meantime, his family grew up with almost every disadvantage that could attend them. Motherless, and unchecked by their father, his girls—at least, the three eldest—were left entirely to their own guidance and discretion, or indiscretion, to speak with more propriety; and the sons were early sent out, to fight their own way in the world, without the softening influence of domestic ties, or the memory of a happy home to warm their hearts and strengthen their principles.
The only one of the family who could be said to have received a good education, was the youngest daughter, Emma—who, on her mother's death, was begged of her father by his brother-in-law, and brought up by him and his wife, as tenderly as if she had been their own. He was a wealthy man; and by her own family, when they thought of her at all, she was generally considered with something like envy—excepting by her eldest sister, who had been too fond of her as an infant, not to rejoice in her removal to a better home. It was considered as indisputable by the others, that she was uncommonly lucky; since, beyond doubt, her uncle would leave her handsomely provided for; and the only question on that subject, which was debated with much anxiety, was, whether he ought not to divide his wealth equally amongst them all, or whether the eldest son should inherit the greatest share. Mr. Robert Watson, the expectant nephew, was an attorney at Croydon and his flourishing business, joined to his great expectations from his rich uncle, had proved overpowering attractions to a young lady in that neighbourhood, to whom he had been united for several years, when the death of his uncle occurred. Had the greedy anticipations of the nephew, or the selfish hopes of his vain wife, been the only disappointed feelings on the occasion, nobody, but themselves, would have much cared. But Mr. Pearson, in his will, trusting much more to the steadiness of his wife, and less to the affection of his niece, than either deserved, left the whole of his property in the widow's power. He intended, perhaps, by this measure, to secure to her the respect and attention of his sister's children, whose interest it thus became to keep on good terms with their aunt; and was very far from anticipating the catastrophe that ensued. Instead of acting the part of an indulgent aunt, or of a patronising and tyrannical one, Mrs. Pearson took an active part to obliterate all trace of the connection, by bestowing her hand, and her first husband's property, on a handsome but poor young Irishman; and, on her shortly after quitting England, to visit his relatives, she kindly gave Emma leave to return to her father's house, with a generous present of fifty pounds to be divided between her and her sisters.
At the period of her return home, Emma found her two younger sisters were absent; and the affectionate warmth with which Elizabeth Watson received her, joined to the silence of her father on the mortifying subject of her aunt's marriage, did great good to her heart and feelings. The painful sensations which the union in question had occasioned her, were quite as strong as the indignation, and far more amiable than the disappointment, which had been experienced by other members of her family. She had loved and revered her uncle, and would not, even to herself, admit that he had been unjust, hardly even injudicious in the disposition of his property. But she had, also, loved her aunt; and the memory of old obligations, and gratitude for long-continued kindness, struggled painfully with less agreeable feelings. So far as her own loss of fortune was concerned, she did not consider it worth a regret: having been early accustomed to the luxuries of a handsome income, she had not the smallest practical knowledge of what poverty is; and, therefore, with the generous indifference natural to an amiable and liberal mind, she would have felt no resentment, had this been the only evil attending the marriage. But the fear that her aunt was bringing unhappiness on herself, by her injudicious choice; the certainty that she was rendering herself an object of contempt or ridicule; and the disappointment to her own affectionate heart in being thus cast off for a stranger, though each bitter in itself, were altogether easy to bear, compared with the glaring disrespect to her beloved uncle's memory, which these hasty nuptials testified. This cut her to the heart; and perhaps it was the silent reproach which her looks conveyed that made Mrs. Mac Mahon so very desirous that Emma should cultivate an acquaintance with her own family, from whom she had been too long separated. With the strong feelings of a warm and youthful mind, not yet versed in the fleeting nature of every human woe, she deemed this a grief which time might soften, but could never quite heal; and though rejoicing at the prospect of meeting with her sisters, and cultivating an unremitting and unfading affection for them, she was convinced that she never should quite got over the disappointment her aunt had caused her.
The Christmas assembly was fast approaching, and Mrs. Edwards had, as usual, invited one of the Miss Watsons to accompany her family to the ball. The absence of Penelope and Margaret prevented there being any indecision as to which should be the fortunate individual. Mr. Watson could not be left quite alone, and Emma having never been to a ball, Elizabeth, without hesitation, decided in her favour.
For the first day or two that it was in contemplation, Emma, true to her pre-arranged hopeless despondency, took little interest in the prospect; and though strongly feeling her sister's good nature, and, for her sake, trying to seem pleased, would really have given up her place without a sigh, to any individual who desired it. But the interest of preparing her frock, arranging her ornaments, and settling the minute details of the toilette, had the same irresistible attraction for her, that they would have for nine girls out of ten, and when the important afternoon arrived, she was in a very pleasant state of excitement on the subject.
"You will find the Edwardses very agreeable people," said Elizabeth to her, as they drove slowly from the parsonage along the lane, now splashy and deep with November mud. "I assure you, they live in very good style; the door will be opened by a man-servant, and their dinner is sure to be handsome."
"What sort of person is Mr. Edwards?" enquired Emma, who began to have a little palpitation, at the idea of being left quite amongst strangers.
"Oh, you need not mind him," said her sister, "you will see him at dinner, and he will ask you to take wine; and he will eat a great many filberts after dinner, and offer you some gingerbread; but you need not take it if you don't like; Mary Edwards makes it on purpose for her father, who eats it every day. Mr. Edwards will play at cards all the evening at the ball, and if he wins you will stay late, and he will be quite good tempered; but if he has ill-luck, he will hurry you home very early. However you will be sure of some comfortable soup afterwards; and if he is cross, you had better say nothing, and go to bed as soon as you can!"
"I will be sure and remember it," observed Emma.
"As the party from Osborne Castle are expected," continued Elizabeth, "I dare say it will be a very good ball; I am sure you will be very much admired; how I should like to be there myself!"
"Well, Elizabeth, I am sure you shall go instead of me; it would be much better, as you know everybody, and I am quite a stranger. I could send John over with your things if you staid in my place; I should not be at all afraid of driving this steady old thing back to Winston by myself; and as to our father, I dare say I could amuse him. Do you know I really think you had better settle it so."
"My dearest Emma," cried Elizabeth warmly, "how excessively good-natured of you; but I could not do such a thing for the world, though I shall always remember your making the offer. Keep you from your first ball indeed; when you are so sure of being so much admired! oh no, it is only fit that you should have your turn of pleasure, and I would not hinder you."
"But indeed, dear Elizabeth, I should not care about it, I am sure, in comparison with you, so you need not mind that!"
"But indeed I could not think of such a thing; and besides, my principal wish would be to see you there. I am sure you will enjoy it. Offer to give up a ball at nineteen, and your first ball too; I wonder when Pen or Margaret would think of such a thing: I am sure I should never have forgiven any one who kept me from a ball at your age. But if my father seems pretty well, and can spare me, I really think I would wrap myself up, and make John drive me over to join you there; I could easily do that you know."
"What! drive over in this pony-chaise, Elizabeth?" said Emma, much surprised.
"Yes, why not! I suppose you have been so used to a coach, as to think that impossible: but, my dear Emma, I am afraid you are too refined to be happy with us!"
"Too refined!" said Emma, "what do you mean?"
"Why that is just an example,—you are not used to make shifts, and be put about; and are shocked at such an idea; it will not answer, I assure you, it will not make you happy."
"I am sorry you see anything to find fault with, Elizabeth; I did not know I was refined; it is natural to me; I only think and feel like the people I have been used to," and she sighed at the thought of her uncle and aunt.
"I dare say that is very true; but it will not do here; how Pen would laugh at you; you have no idea how she ridicules everything not just like herself. So you had better get over it as fast as you can!"
"I will do my best," sighed Emma.
"I should not wonder if Tom Musgrove were to dance with you, he generally notices every new girl, especially if they are pretty. But I should not like you to be caught by him."
"Who is he? I never heard you mention him."
"Oh, he is a young man of independent property who lives near here; and one of our pleasantest young men too; but I must warn you against him, Emma; he has a way of paying attentions to young girls, and he is so pleasant they all like him; so when he has made one desperately in love, he flies off to somebody else, and does not mind what hearts he breaks."
"What a despicable character," cried Emma warmly, "you need not fear my liking him after that."
"I assure you," returned Miss Watson, "he is very agreeable, and I defy any girl to whom he tries to recommend himself, not to find him agreeable. Almost every girl in this neighbourhood except myself, has been desperately in love with him at one time or other. Margaret was his last object, but though he has not paid her much attention for these six months, she is perfectly persuaded that he is as much attached to her as she is to him; and this is the second time since last spring that she has gone to stay a month at Croydon, in the hopes of his following and proposing to her. He never will however."
"And how came you to escape?" enquired Emma with interest.
"Really I can hardly tell; I think at first I was so taken up with the affair with Purvis, and my disappointment there, that I thought little about Tom Musgrove."
"To whom do you allude?" said Emma, "I do not at all understand you?"
"Did you never hear about that!" said Elizabeth with surprise, "perhaps you were thought too young to be trusted; but I will tell you now. I was engaged to him; he was a very nice young man, and it would have been a very good match for me—and what do you think prevented it?"
"I am anxious to know, Elizabeth, but cannot guess!"
"It was Penelope—yes, it was really Pen, she said; and did things which caused the rupture—and Purvis left me!"
Emma looked much shocked.
"I can hardly believe it: your own sister; it seems quite impossible that any girl could be guilty of such treachery: what could be her motive!"
"Oh, she wanted to marry him herself—Pen would do anything in the world to be married—that is what she is gone to Chichester about now—did you not know that?"
"Gone about?" repeated Emma looking puzzled—"what do you mean, how can she be gone to be married?"
"Don't you know that," again exclaimed Elizabeth, "though, to be sure, I do not see how you should, as nobody could have told you. I believe there is some old doctor there whom she is bent upon marrying. He is quite an old man, asthmatic, and all sorts of bad things: the friend she is staying with, however, thinks it would be a very good match for her, as he would make her a handsome settlement, and could not live long. I am not at all in her confidence, however, and have only a general notion of how things go on; I just hear what she tells Margaret, or what she lets out accidentally. I believe they think everything going on very prosperously now, and, perhaps, she may soon be married to him. I am sure I hope she will."
"Oh, Elizabeth, do you think she could be happy with an old asthmatic man? and marrying from such mercenary motives," cried Emma, half horrified.
"Really I do not know," replied Miss Watson quietly, "whether she would be happier or not; but I am sure we should. I wish with all my heart Pen and Margaret both were married; for Margaret is so peevish, there is no peace unless one lets her have her own way; and Penelope would rather have quarrelling going on than nothing. Now I think you and I could live together very comfortably, Emma; and really I would rather the others were married than myself."
"Yes, I can easily believe that," returned Emma, "having once loved, and been disappointed, I can understand your not caring about any one else."
"I do not know that that would make any difference," returned Miss Watson. "Poor Purvis, I certainly was very sorry to lose him; and really suffered very much at the time; but it would be a very pleasant thing to be well married; and, I believe, scarce any body marries their first love."
"I would rather do anything than marry for money," observed Emma, "it is so shocking. I would rather be teacher at a boarding school."
"I have been at school, Emma, which you have not, and know what a school teacher is—such a life—I would rather do anything than that!"
"But to marry without love—that must surely be worse," persisted Emma.
"Oh, I would not marry without love, exactly; but I think I could easily love any tolerably good-tempered man, who could give me a comfortable home. I am sure I would make any body a good wife; unless they were very cross. But your idea of loving is just another of your refinements, Emma; and only does for rich people who can afford such luxuries."
Emma did not reply; but presently said—
"I think there is only one Miss Edwards, you told me."
"Oh yes, Mary Edwards is the only daughter; and I wish you particularly to observe who she dances with; whether she is much with the officers, especially if Captain Hunter is very attentive to her. I must write to Sam soon, and he will be anxious to hear—"
"Why should he care?" enquired Emma.
"Because, poor fellow, he is very much in love with her himself—and he begged me to watch for him, and let him know what chance he has—I must say, I do not think he has any at all; and even if Mary liked him, her father, and certainly her mother, would not encourage it. If Sam were set up for himself even, as an apothecary, I do not know that they would let her think of him; but being merely an assistant to a country doctor, I am sure he ought to have no hopes."
"Poor fellow," said Emma, "you think he loves her, do you?"
"Oh yes, I have no doubt of his love being very strong; he is always writing about her, and, when he comes home, trying to see her: however, he says now, he does not mean to see her again, unless he gets some decided encouragement; or else he might have tried to come here and meet her at this ball: he will not ask for a day at Christmas, unless I send him a good account."
"Well, I will be sure to observe," replied Emma.
No more conversation could pass between the sisters, as they had reached the outskirts of the town; and the noise of the carriage wheels on the rough pitching of the street, made all attempts to be heard quite fruitless. Elizabeth whipped and urged on the old horse into something like an animated trot, and they soon were threading their way between the carts of cabbages, and turnips—waggons of hay—stalls of cattle, and sheep—old women with baskets—young women with fine gowns—boors with open mouths, and idle boys and girls with mischievous fingers congregating in the untidy market-place of a small country town. Having successfully crossed these, and escaped without accident, though not without some apprehension on Emma's part, they proceeded along the High Street in safety, until the house of Mr. Edwards was reached. Elizabeth certainly expected Emma to be somewhat impressed with the grandeur of this, the principal residence of the town; but the bright red-brick house created no peculiar sensation in her mind, though she saw it was one story higher than the neighbouring buildings. The dark green door, glittering brass knocker, and snow white steps, were likewise considered by Emma as things of course, being unaware that they testified to the wealth and taste of the proprietor, and when their knock was answered by a footman in livery, as Elizabeth had foretold, she was yet so entirely ignorant as to regard him without emotion, or entertain any feeling of extra respect for his master.
They found Mrs. and Miss Edwards sitting together—the father, of course, was at his office and not likely to appear till dinner time. Mary Edwards was a pleasing looking girl, though the curl papers, which were a part of her preparation for the evening, did not improve her appearance. Her manner was rather reserved, but less so than that her mother—whose formal stiffness was so great, that Emma almost fancied herself an unwelcome guest; and felt so uncomfortable and frightened, as to be more than half inclined to accompany Elizabeth home again. When, after sitting a short time, the latter rose to depart, leaving her sister with a sinking heart, Mrs. Edwards tried to be agreeable, enquired how Emma liked their country—whether she walked much—and if she usually enjoyed good health—to all which questions, Emma returned answers as coherent and intelligible as could be expected from a person whose thoughts were fixed on another subject. Her mind was involved in a labyrinth of wonder, as to the reason why Mrs. Edwards had so far punished herself as to have invited one to whom she seemed so very unfriendly.
After half an hour of this unpleasant intercourse, the ladies went up stairs to dress; and as the two girls were now together, without the mother's cold looks to distress them, they soon became more easy and intimate. The little cares of the toilette—the assistance they mutually afforded each other—the interest thereby raised, quickly dispersed the apparent coldness of Mary Edwards' manner; and she even ventured to observe to Emma, that she thought her like her brother. It was easy to guess which brother she meant, and Emma did not force her to particularise; but as Miss Edwards turned away directly after uttering this, and bent over a drawer to search for something, which she never found, it was impossible to decide as to the degree of her blushing; but Emma thought, at the moment, her companion looked so very pretty and lady-like in her ball-dress, that she felt no surprise at her brother's predilection.
Mr. Edwards joined them at dinner; and, whilst he was helping the soup, he repeated the observation, which his daughter had previously and privately made, that Miss Emma Watson was very like her brother.
Mrs. Edwards coolly replied she did not see it.
"We are very well acquainted with your brother, Mr. Sam." resumed Mr. Edwards. "He usually dines with us, when he is at home."
Emma did not know exactly what to answer, but Mrs. Edwards took up the subject in her peculiarly cold manner, and observed:
"It is, now, many months since we have seen anything of Mr. Sam Watson—though, I believe, he did dine with you, Mr. Edwards, whilst we were at Bath, last year."
Mary's cheeks became of a decidedly deeper shade of pink during this discourse, but she ate her soup without speaking.
"I hope he was well, when you heard of him last," persisted Mr. Edwards, seeming, in a very husband-like way, bent on continuing the conversation which his wife desired to stop.
"I do not think my sister has heard, since I have been at Winston," replied Emma.
"Young men in business, have not much time for idle correspondence," observed the elder lady, so much as if she thought Miss Watson ought not to have received a letter, that Emma ventured to observe she supposed that was the reason.
Mr. Edwards did not, any further, provoke his wife by persevering on this subject, and the rest of the dinner passed calmly and uneventfully away.
Mrs. Edwards, anxious to secure a comfortable seat by the fire, was determined to be, as usual, very early in the ball-room—and her husband was roused from his after-dinner nap, to accompany them—which he unwillingly did; after settling his cravat and arranging his wig at the glass, which surmounted the drawing-room chimney-piece. The coach conveyed them very safely to the assembly rooms in the Red Lion; and as they were mounting the stairs in the dark, for they were so early that the lamp in the lobby was not lighted, the door of a bed-room was suddenly opened, and a young man appeared in dishabille.
"Ha! Mrs. Edwards!" said he, "early, as usual! you always take care to be the first in the field. When you come, I know it is time for me to dine; but I think I must dress first—don't you think so?"
Mrs. Edwards replied by begging they might not interrupt him in so necessary an occupation; and, with a formal bow, passed on—looking round anxiously to see whether her two young charges were following.
"Do you know him?" whispered Mary.
"No," replied Emma, in the same tone.
"It is Tom Musgrove," said Miss Edwards, a little louder, as they advanced further from the vicinity of his apartment.
"Mr. Musgrove," said her mother, with a peculiar emphasis.
Mary blushed and was silent.
They entered the ball-room; it looked very cold and very dull; the candles as yet hardly lighted, and the fires yielding far more smoke than heat. Over one of these several officers were lounging; Mrs. Edwards directed her steps to the other, and seated herself on the warmest side; her two companions found chairs near her, Mr. Edwards having left them at the door of the ball-room, to seek out his old associates at the whist-tables. But it was all so new to Emma, that she did not feel any of the annoyance at their early appearance with which a more experienced young lady would have been afflicted. Everything interested her happy mind, and she even felt amused in ascertaining the number of lights, and listening to the scraping of the fiddles tuning in the orchestra. They had not been seated many minutes, when they were joined by a young officer, whom Emma immediately guessed to be Captain Hunter, and from the pleasure which the quiet Mary demonstrated at his addresses, she augured unfavourably for her brother's prospects.