Repeated pulls at the bell, and arrivals too numerous to particularise: papas and mammas, and aunts and uncles, the owners and guardians of the different pupils; the singing-master, Signor Lobskini, in a black wig; the piano-forte player and the violins; the harp, in a state of intoxication; and some twenty young men, who stood near the door, and talked to one another, occasionally bursting into a giggle. A general hum of conversation. Coffee handed round, and plentifully partaken of by fat mammas, who looked like the stout people who come on in pantomimes for the sole purpose of being knocked down.
The popular Mr. Hilton was the next arrival; and he having, at the request of the Miss Crumptons, undertaken the office of Master of the Ceremonies, the quadrilles commenced with considerable spirit. The young men by the door gradually advanced into the middle of the room, and in time became sufficiently at ease to consent to be introduced to partners. The writing-master danced every set, springing about with the most fearful agility, and his wife played a rubber in the back-parlour--a little room with five book-shelves, dignified by the name of the study. Setting her down to whist was a half-yearly piece of generalship on the part of the Miss Crumptons; it was necessary to hide her somewhere, on account of her being a fright.
The interesting Lavinia Brook Dingwall was the only girl present, who appeared to take no interest in the proceedings of the evening. In vain was she solicited to dance; in vain was the universal homage paid to her as the daughter of a member of parliament. She was equally unmoved by the splendid tenor of the inimitable Lobskini, and the brilliant execution of Miss Laetitia Parsons, whose performance of 'The Recollections of Ireland' was universally declared to be almost equal to that of Moscheles himself. Not even the announcement of the arrival of Mr. Theodosius Butler could induce her to leave the corner of the back drawing-room in which she was seated.
'Now, Theodosius,' said Miss Maria Crumpton, after that enlightened pamphleteer had nearly run the gauntlet of the whole company, 'I must introduce you to our new pupil.'
Theodosius looked as if he cared for nothing earthly.
'She's the daughter of a member of parliament,' said Maria.-- Theodosius started.
'And her name is--?' he inquired.
'Miss Brook Dingwall.'
'Great Heaven!' poetically exclaimed Theodosius, in a low tone.
Miss Crumpton commenced the introduction in due form. Miss Brook Dingwall languidly raised her head.
'Edward!' she exclaimed, with a half-shriek, on seeing the well- known nankeen legs.
Fortunately, as Miss Maria Crumpton possessed no remarkable share of penetration, and as it was one of the diplomatic arrangements that no attention was to be paid to Miss Lavinia's incoherent exclamations, she was perfectly unconscious of the mutual agitation of the parties; and therefore, seeing that the offer of his hand for the next quadrille was accepted, she left him by the side of Miss Brook Dingwall.
'Oh, Edward!' exclaimed that most romantic of all romantic young ladies, as the light of science seated himself beside her, 'Oh, Edward, is it you?'
Mr. Theodosius assured the dear creature, in the most impassioned manner, that he was not conscious of being anybody but himself.
'Then why--why--this disguise? Oh! Edward M'Neville Walter, what have I not suffered on your account?'
'Lavinia, hear me,' replied the hero, in his most poetic strain. 'Do not condemn me unheard. If anything that emanates from the soul of such a wretch as I, can occupy a place in your recollection--if any being, so vile, deserve your notice--you may remember that I once published a pamphlet (and paid for its publication) entitled "Considerations on the Policy of Removing the Duty on Bees'-wax."'
'I do--I do!' sobbed Lavinia.
'That,' continued the lover, 'was a subject to which your father was devoted heart and soul.'
'He was--he was!' reiterated the sentimentalist.