Precaution/Chapter 2

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The morning succeeding the day of the dinner at the Hall, Mrs. Wilson, with all her nieces and her nephew, availed herself of the fineness of the weather to walk to the rectory, where they were all in the habit of making informal and friendly visits. They had just got out of the little village of B——, which lay in their route, when a rather handsome travelling carriage and four passed them, and took the road which led to the deanery.

"As I live," cried John, "there go our new neighbors the Jarvises; yes, yes, that must be the old merchant muffled up in the corner; I mistook him at first for a pile of bandboxes; then the rosy-cheeked lady, with so many feathers, must be the old lady—Heaven forgive me, Mrs. Jarvis I mean—aye, and the two others the belles."

"You are in a hurry to pronounce them belles, John," said Jane, pettishly; "it would be well to see more of them before you speak so decidedly."

"Oh!" replied John, "I have seen enough of them, and"—he was interrupted by the whirling of a tilbury and tandem, followed by a couple of servants on horseback. All about this vehicle and its masters bore the stamp of decided fashion, and our party had followed it with their eyes for a short distance, when, having reached a fork in the roads, it stopped, and evidently waited the coming up of the pedestrians, as if to make an inquiry. A single glance of the eye was sufficient to apprise the gentleman on the cushion (who held the reins) of the kind of people he had to deal with, and stepping from his carriage, he met them with a graceful bow, and after handsomely apologizing for the trouble he was giving, he desired to know which road led to the deanery. "The right," replied John, returning his salutation.

"Ask them, colonel," cried the charioteer, "whether the old gentleman went right or not."

The colonel, in the manner of a perfect gentleman, but with a look of compassion for his companion's want of tact, made the desired inquiry; which being satisfactorily answered, he again bowed and was retiring, as one of several pointers who followed the cavalcade sprang upon Jane, and soiled her walking-dress with his dirty feet.

"Come hither, Dido," cried the colonel, hastening to beat the dog back from the young lady; and again he apologized in the same collected and handsome manner, then turning to one of the servants, he said, "Call in the dog, sir," and rejoined his companion. The air of this gentleman was peculiarly pleasant: it would not have been difficult to pronounce him a soldier, had he not been addressed as such by his younger and certainly less polished companion. The colonel was apparently about thirty, and of extremely handsome face and figure, while his driving friend appeared several years younger, and of altogether different materials.

"I wonder," said Jane, as they turned a corner which hid them from view, "who they are?"

"Who they are?" cried the brother; "why the Jarvises to be sure; didn't you hear them ask the road to the deanery?"

"Oh! the one that drove, he may be a Jarvis, but not the gentleman who spoke to us—surely not, John; besides, he was called colonel, you know."

"Yes, yes," said John, with one of his quizzing expressions, "Colonel Jarvis, that must be the alderman: they are commonly colonels of city volunteers: yes, that must have been the old gem'mun who spoke to us, and I was right after all about the bandboxes."

"You forget," said Clara, smiling, "the polite inquiry concerning the old gem'mun."

"Ah! true; who the deuce can this colonel be then, for young Jarvis is only a captain, I know: who do you think he is, Jane?"

"How do you think I can tell you, John? But whoever he is, he owns the tilbury, although he did not drive it and he is a gentleman both by birth and manners."

"Why, Jane, if you know so much of him, you should know more; but it is all guess with you."

"No; it is not guess—I am certain of what I say."

The aunt and sisters, who had taken little interest in the dialogue, looked at her with some surprise, which John observing, he exclaimed, "Poh: she knows no more than we all know."

"Indeed I do."

"Poh, poh! if you know, tell."

"Why, the arms were different."

John laughed as he said, "That is a good reason, sure enough, for the tilbury's being the colonel's property; but now for his blood; how did you discover that, sis; by his gait and actions, as we say of horses?"

Jane colored a little, and laughed faintly. "The arms on the tilbury had six quarterings."

Emily now laughed, and Mrs. Wilson and Clara smiled, while John continued his teasing until they reached the rectory.

While chatting with the doctor and his wife, Francis returned from his morning ride, and told them the Jarvis family had arrived: he had witnessed an unpleasant accident to a gig, in which were Captain Jarvis, and a friend, a Colonel Egerton: it had been awkwardly driven in turning into the deanery gate, and upset: the colonel received some injury to his ankle, nothing serious, however, he hoped, but such as to put him under the care of the young ladies probably for a few days. After the exclamations which usually follow such details, Jane ventured to inquire who Colonel Egerton was.

"I understood at the time, from one of the servants, that he is a nephew of Sir Edgar Egerton, and a lieutenant-colonel on half-pay, or furlough, or some such thing."

"How did be bear his misfortune, Mr. Francis?" inquired Mrs. Wilson.

"Certainly as a gentleman, madam, if not as a Christian," replied the young clergyman, slyly smiling: "indeed, most men of gallantry would, I believe, rejoice in an accident which drew forth so much sympathy as both the Miss Jarvises manifested."

"How fortunate you should all happen to be near!" said the tender-hearted Clara.

"Are the young ladies pretty?" asked Jane, with something of hesitation in her manner.

"Why, I rather think they are; but I took very little notice of their appearance, as the colonel was really in evident pain."

"This, then," cried the doctor, "affords me an additional excuse for calling on them at an early day, so I'll e'en go to-morrow."

"I trust Doctor Ives wants no apologies for performing his duty," said Mrs. Wilson.

"He is fond of making them, though," said Mrs. Ives, speaking with a benevolent smile, and for the first time in the little conversation.

It was then arranged that the rector should make his official visit, as intended by himself; and on his report the ladies would act. After remaining at the rectory an hour, they returned to the hall, attended by Francis.

The next day the doctor drove in, and informed them the Jarvis family were happily settled, and the colonel in no danger, excepting from the fascinations of the two young ladies, who took such palpable care of him that he wanted for nothing, and they might drive over whenever they pleased, without fear of intruding unseasonably.

Mr. Jarvis received his guests with the frankness of good feelings, if not with the polish of high life; while his wife, who seldom thought of the former, would have been mortally offended with the person who could have suggested that she omitted any of the elegancies of the latter. Her daughters were rather pretty, but wanted, both in appearance and manner, the inexpressible air of haut ton which so eminently distinguished the easy but polished deportment of Colonel Egerton, whom they found reclining on a sofa with his leg on a chair, amply secured in numerous bandages, but unable to rise. Notwithstanding the awkwardness of his situation, he was by far the least discomposed person of the party, and having pleasantly excused the awkwardness of his situation, he appeared to think no more of the matter.

The captain, Mrs. Jarvis remarked, had gone out with his dogs to try the grounds around them; "for he seems to live only with his horses and his gun: young men, my lady, nowadays, appear to forget that there are any things in the world hut themselves; now I told Harry that your ladyship and daughters would favor us with a call this morning—but no: there be went, as if Mr. Jarvis was unable to buy us a dinner, and we should all starve but for his quails and pheasants."

"Quails and pheasants!" cried John, in consternation, "does Captain Jarvis shoot quails and pheasants at this time of the year?"

"Mrs. Jarvis, sir," said Colonel Egerton, with a correcting smile, "understands the allegiance due from us gentlemen to the ladies, better than the rules of sporting; my friend, the captain, has taken his fishing rod, I believe."

"It is all one, fish or birds," continued Mrs. Jarvis, "he is out of the way when he is wanted; and I believe we can buy fish as easily as birds: I wish he would take pattern after yourself, colonel, in these matters."

Colonel Egerton laughed pleasantly, but he did not blush; and Miss Jarvis observed, with a look of something like admiration thrown on his reclining figure, "that when Harry had been in the army as long as his friend, he would know the usages of good society, she hoped, as well."

"Yes," said her mother, "the army is certainly the place to polish a young man;" and turning to Mrs. Wilson, she abruptly added, "Your husband, I believe, was in the army, ma'am?"

"I hope," said Emily hastily, "that we shall have the pleasure of seeing you soon, Miss Jarvis, at the Hall," preventing by her promptitude the necessity of a reply from her aunt. The young lady promised to make an early visit, and the subject changed to a general and uninteresting discourse on the neighborhood, the country, the weather, and other ordinary topics.

"Now, John," cried Jane in triumph, as they drove from the door, "you must acknowledge my heraldic witchcraft, so you are pleased to call it, is right for once at least."

"Oh! no doubt, Jenny," said John, who was accustomed to use that appellation to her as a provocation, when he wished what he called an enlivening scene; but Mrs. Wilson put a damper on his hopes by a remark to his mother, and the habitual respect of both the combatants kept them silent.

Jane Moseley was endowed by nature with an excellent understanding, one at least equal to that of her brother, but she wanted the more essential requisites of a well governed mind. Masters had been provided by Sir Edward for all his daughters, and if they were not acquainted with the usual acquirements of young women in their rank of life, it was not his fault: his system of economy had not embraced a denial of opportunity to any of his children, and the baronet was apt to think all was done, when they were put where all might be done. Feeling herself and parents entitled to enter into all the gayeties and splendors of some of the richer families in their vicinity, Jane, who had grown up during the temporary eclipse of Sir Edward's fortunes, had sought that self-consolation so common to people in her situation, which was to be found in reviewing the former grandeur of her house, and she had thus contracted a degree of family pride. If Clara's weaknesses were less striking than those of Jane, it was because she had less imagination, and that in loving Francis Ives she had so long admired a character, where so little was to be found that could be censured, that she might be said to have contracted a habit of judging correctly, without being able at all times to give a reason for her conduct on hear opinions.