'No, R. W. Lavinia has not known the trial that Bella has known. The trial that your daughter Bella has undergone, is, perhaps, without a parallel, and has been borne, I will say, Nobly. When you see your daughter Bella in her black dress, which she alone of all the family wears, and when you remember the circumstances which have led to her wearing it, and when you know how those circumstances have been sustained, then, R. W., lay your head upon your pillow and say, "Poor Lavinia!"'
Here, Miss Lavinia, from her kneeling situation under the table, put in that she didn't want to be 'poored by pa', or anybody else.
'I am sure you do not, my dear,' returned her mother, 'for you have a fine brave spirit. And your sister Cecilia has a fine brave spirit of another kind, a spirit of pure devotion, a beau-ti-ful spirit! The self-sacrifice of Cecilia reveals a pure and womanly character, very seldom equalled, never surpassed. I have now in my pocket a letter from your sister Cecilia, received this morning--received three months after her marriage, poor child!--in which she tells me that her husband must unexpectedly shelter under their roof his reduced aunt. "But I will be true to him, mamma," she touchingly writes, "I will not leave him, I must not forget that he is my husband. Let his aunt come!" If this is not pathetic, if this is not woman's devotion--!' The good lady waved her gloves in a sense of the impossibility of saying more, and tied the pocket- handkerchief over her head in a tighter knot under her chin.
Bella, who was now seated on the rug to warm herself, with her brown eyes on the fire and a handful of her brown curls in her mouth, laughed at this, and then pouted and half cried.
'I am sure,' said she, 'though you have no feeling for me, pa, I am one of the most unfortunate girls that ever lived. You know how poor we are' (it is probable he did, having some reason to know it!), 'and what a glimpse of wealth I had, and how it melted away, and how I am here in this ridiculous mourning--which I hate!--a kind of a widow who never was married. And yet you don't feel for me.--Yes you do, yes you do.'
This abrupt change was occasioned by her father's face. She stopped to pull him down from his chair in an attitude highly favourable to strangulation, and to give him a kiss and a pat or two on the cheek.
'But you ought to feel for me, you know, pa.'
'My dear, I do.'
'Yes, and I say you ought to. If they had only left me alone and told me nothing about it, it would have mattered much less. But that nasty Mr Lightwood feels it his duty, as he says, to write and tell me what is in reserve for me, and then I am obliged to get rid of George Sampson.'
Here, Lavinia, rising to the surface with the last draughtman rescued, interposed, 'You never cared for George Sampson, Bella.'
'And did I say I did, miss?' Then, pouting again, with the curls in her mouth; 'George Sampson was very fond of me, and admired me very much, and put up with everything I did to him.'
'You were rude enough to him,' Lavinia again interposed.
'And did I say I wasn't, miss? I am not setting up to be sentimental about George Sampson. I only say George Sampson was better than nothing.'
'You didn't show him that you thought even that,' Lavinia again interposed.
'You are a chit and a little idiot,' returned Bella, 'or you wouldn't make such a dolly speech. What did you expect me to do? Wait till you are a woman, and don't talk about what you don't understand. You only show your ignorance!' Then, whimpering again, and at intervals biting the curls, and stopping to look how much was bitten off, 'It's a shame! There never was such a hard case! I shouldn't care so much if it wasn't so ridiculous. It was ridiculous enough to have a stranger coming over to marry me, whether he liked it or not. It was ridiculous enough to know what an embarrassing meeting it would be, and how we never could pretend to have an inclination of our own, either of us. It was ridiculous enough to know I shouldn't like him--how COULD I like him, left to him in a will, like a dozen of spoons, with everything cut and dried beforehand, like orange chips.