“I shall be much obliged to you, cousin, if you will refrain from telling my sisters that she has a face like a horse!’
‘But, Charles, no blame attaches to Miss Wraxton! She cannot help it, and that, I assure you, I have always pointed out to your sisters!’
‘I consider Miss Wraxton’s countenance particularly well-bred!’
‘Yes, indeed, but you have quite misunderstood the matter! I meant a particularly well-bred horse!’
'You mean, as I am perfectly aware, to belittle Miss Wraxton!'
'No, no! I am very fond of horses!' Sophy said earnestly.
Before he could stop himself he found that he was replying to this. 'Selina, who repeated the remark to me, is not fond of horses, however, and she-' He broke off, seeing how absurd it was to argue on such a head.
'I expect she will be, when she has lived in the same house with Miss Wraxton for a month or two,' said Sophy encouragingly.”
“You are shameless!” he said angrily.
“Nonsense! You only say so because I drove your horses,” she answered. “Never mind! I will engage not to do so again.”
“I’ll take care of that!” he retorted. “Let me tell you, my dear Cousin, that I should be better pleased if you would refrain from meddling in the affairs of my family!”
“Now, that,” said Sophy, “I am very glad to know, because if ever I should desire to please you I shall know just how to set about it. I daresay I shan’t, but one likes to be prepared for any event, however unlikely.”
He turned his head to look at her, his eyes narrowed, and their expression was by no means pleasant. “Are you thinking of being so unwise as to cross swords with me?” he demanded. “I shan’t pretend to misunderstand you, Cousin, and I will leave you in no doubt of my own meaning! If you imagine that I will ever permit that puppy to marry my sister, you have yet something to learn of me!”
“Pooh!” said Sophy. “Mind your horses, Charles, and don’t talk fustian to me.”
“Well, sir, do you mean to remain there, commending my father’s taste in wine, or do you mean to accompany me to Ashtead?”
“Set off for Ashtead at this hour, when I have been traveling for two days?” said Sir Horace. “Now, do, my boy, have a little common sense! Why should I?”
“I imagine that your parental feeling, sir, must provide you with the answer! If it does not, so be it! I am leaving immediately!”
“What do you mean to do when you reach Lacy Manor?” asked Sir Horace, regarding him in some amusement.
“Wring Sophy’s neck!” said Mr. Rivenhall savagely.
“Well, you don’t need my help for that, my dear boy!” said Sir Horace, settling himself more comfortably in his chair.”
“Will you marry me, vile and abominable girl that you are?
Yes, but, mind, it only to save my neck from being wrung!”
“Sophy looked at him. Under his amazed and horrified gaze, large tears slowly welled over her eyelids, and rolled down her cheeks. She did not sniff, or gulp, or even sob: merely allowed her tears to gather and fall.
'Sophy, for God's sake do not cry!'
'Oh, do not stop me!' begged Sophy. 'Sir Horace says it is my only accomplishment.'
Mr. Rivenhall glared at her. 'What!'
'Very few persons are able to do it!' Sophy assured him. 'I discovered it by the veriest accident when I was seven years old. Sir Horace said I should cultivate it, for I would find it most useful.'
'You - you - ' Words failed Mr. Rivenhall. 'Stop at once!”
“You must not imagine that Papa or I have the least notion of compelling you to marry anyone whom you hold in aversion, for I am sure that such a thing would be quite shocking! And Charles would not do so either, would you, dear Charles?”(Elizabeth Ombersley)
“No, certainly not. But neither would I consent to her marriage with any such frippery fellow as Augustus Fawnhope!”
“Augustus,” announced Cecilia, putting up her chin, “will be remembered long after you have sunk into oblivion!”
“By his creditors? I don’t doubt it.”
“Is it not unsupportable to be held down to a canter when you long to gallop for miles?”
“Mr. Rivenhall said to Sophy, “If this is your doing—!”
“I promise you it is not. If I thought that he had the smallest notion of your hostility, I should say that he had rolled you up, Charles, foot and guns!”
He was obliged to laugh. “I doubt if he would have the smallest notion of anything less violent than a blow from a cudgel. How you can tolerate the fellow!”
“I told you that I was not at all nice in my ideas. Come, don’t let us talk of him! I have sworn an oath to heaven not to quarrel with you today.”
“You amaze me! Why?”
“Don’t be such an ape!” she begged. “I want to drive your grays, of course!”
“Your fate is writ clear;you will be murdered. I cannot conceive how it comes about that you were not murdered long since!
How odd!Charles himself once said that to me, or something like it!
There is nothing odd in it; any sensible man must say it!”
“Cecy, help me to collect the ducklings, and put them back into the box! If we were to place your muff on top of them they will very likely believe it to be their mother, and settle down!”
“Did you imagine that you would make me believe ill of Sophy with your foolish and spiteful letter!' he demanded. 'You have tried to set me against her from the outset, but you over-reached yourself today, my girl! How dared you write in such terms to me! How could you have been so crassly stupid as to suppose that Sophy could ever need your countenance to set her right in the eyes of the world, or that I would believe one word of slander against her?”
“Alas I have quarreled so dreadfully with Charles that I am obliged to seek refuge at Lacy Manor!” She said mournfully.
“And have doubtless left a note behind you to inform him of this!”
“I foresee a happy meeting!” he commented bitterly.
“That,” she acknowledged, “was the difficulty! But I think I can overcome it. I promise you, Charlbury, you shall come out of it with a whole skin—sell, no, perhaps not quite that, but very nearly!”
“Sophy, strongly practical, could not feel that Mr. Fawnhope would make a satisfactory husband, for he lacked visible means of support, and was apt, when under the influence of his Muse, to forget such mundane considerations as dinner-engagements, or the delivery of important messages.”
“I find it a marvellous circumstance, cousin, that no one has yet strangled you!”
“since he was himself of a forthright disposition he was inclined to like Sophy's frank, open manners, and obstinately refused to agree that she put herself forward unbecomingly. He did not think that she put herself forward at all, which made it difficult to see just how it was that she contrived to introduce quite a new atmosphere into the house.”
“And that reminds me, Mama! I have just intercepted another of that puppy’s floral offerings to my sister. This billet was attached to it.” (Charles)”
“Only trust me! You have fallen into a fit of despondency and there is not the least need! In fact, nothing could be more fatal, in any predicament! It encourages one to suppose that there is nothing to be done, when a little resolution is all that is wanted to bring matters to a happy conclusion.”
“I hope you mean to contribute a handsome wreath to my obsequies?’ ‘Certainly! In the nature of things, it is likely that you will predecease me.’ ‘If I survive this adventure there can be no question of that. Your fate is writ clear: you will be murdered. I cannot conceive how it comes about that you were not murdered long since!’ ‘How odd! Charles himself once said that to me, or something like it!’ ‘There is nothing odd in it: any sensible man must say it!”
“He would not object, he said, to accepting a post as a librarian. But as Cecilia was unable to imagine that her father or her brother would feel any marked degree of satisfaction in giving her in marriage to a librarian, this very handsome concession on Mr Fawnhope's part merely added to her despondency.”
“he never allowed himself to think about unpleasant things, which answered very well, and could be supported in times of really inescapable stress by his genius for persuading himself that any disagreeable necessity forced upon him by his own folly, or his son's overriding will, was the outcome of his own choice and wise decision.”
“Yes, but we do not know that he snores, my love,’ Lady Ombersley pointed out. ‘Indeed, we may be almost certain that he does not, for his manners are so very gentleman-like!’ ‘A man who would contract the mumps,’ declared Cecilia, ‘would do anything!”
“Cecilia could have told him that Mr. Fawnhope's intrepidity sprang more from a sublime unconsciousness of the risk of infection than from any deliberate heroism; but since she was not in the habit of discussing her lover with her brother he continued in a happy state of ignorance, himself too practical a man to comprehend the density of the veil in which a poet could wrap himself.”
“Your strength lies in being precisely the kind of man who can procure one a chair when it has come on to rain.”
“Eggs I must instantly have!" she announced. "And Lope de Vega I will not have, though in general a fine poet, but not in the kitchen!”
“Now, that,’ said Sophy, ‘I am very glad to know, because if ever I should desire to please you I shall know just how to set about it. I daresay I shan’t, but one likes to be prepared for any event, however unlikely.”
“It is abominable, Sophy!"
“Yes, if the motive were not pure!”
“To listen to a poet arguing with himself – for she could scarcely have been said to have borne any part in the discussion – on the merits of blank verse as a dramatic medium was naturally a privilege of which any young lady must be proud, but there could be no denying that to talk for half an hour to a man who listened with interest to anything she said was, if not precisely a relief, certainly a welcome variation in her life.”
“Ten or twelve couples? No, no, Dassett would not be talking of red carpets and awnings for such a paltry affair as that!’ said his lordship. These ominous words struck a chill into his wife’s soul.”
“From being a female sunk below reproach Sophy became rapidly an unconventional girl whose unaffected manners were refreshing in an age of simpers and high flights.”
“Eugenia never wears modish gowns. She says there are more important things to think of than one's dresses.'
'What a stupid thing to say!' remarked Sophy. 'Naturally there are, but not, I hold, when one is dressing for dinner.”
“Riddles, I hate fucking riddles,” Ristan growled and shook his dark head. “Why couldn’t she have sent a minotaur, or maybe David Bowie and a bunch of Muppets to mess with us?”
“A sword age, a wind age, a wolf age. No longer is there mercy among men.”
“He obviously needed more practice, but no matter how often I abandoned him out there, his sense of direction never seemed to improve.”
“That’s what makes life an adventure. Sometimes you just have to jump in and trust in the universe.”
“Are you okay?" she whispers, giggling.
Me? Oh sure. You might have to carry me out of here, though."
I created a distraction."
I gathered that."
Step stool, encyclopedias, floor."
I see. Well, I can't thank you enough."
Sure you can. Help me flunk enough tests, so I drop out of the 'torian range."
Can't you just tell Abernethy that you have a reputation as a dumbshit to keep up, and you don't want the attention?"
Flunking is more fun.”
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