‘Indeed, my love, he paid Teresa very great attention on the last assembly night,’ said Mrs. Malderton, addressing her spouse, who, after the fatigues of the day in the City, was sitting with a silk handkerchief over his head, and his feet on the fender, drinking his port;—‘very great attention; and I say again, every possible encouragement ought to be given him. He positively must be asked down here to dine.’
‘Who must?’ inquired Mr. Malderton.
‘Why, you know whom I mean, my dear—the young man with the black whiskers and the white cravat, who has just come out at our assembly, and whom all the girls are talking about. Young—dear me! what’s his name?—Marianne, what is his name?’ continued Mrs. Malderton, addressing her youngest daughter, who was engaged in netting a purse, and looking sentimental.
‘Mr. Horatio Sparkins, ma,’ replied Miss Marianne, with a sigh.
‘Oh! yes, to be sure—Horatio Sparkins,’ said Mrs. Malderton. ‘Decidedly the most gentleman-like young man I ever saw. I am sure in the beautifully-made coat he wore the other night, he looked like—like—’
‘Like Prince Leopold, ma—so noble, so full of sentiment!’ suggested Marianne, in a tone of enthusiastic admiration.
‘You should recollect, my dear,’ resumed Mrs. Malderton, ‘that Teresa is now eight-and-twenty; and that it really is very important that something should be done.’
Miss Teresa Malderton was a very little girl, rather fat, with vermilion cheeks, but good-humoured, and still disengaged, although, to do her justice, the misfortune arose from no lack of perseverance on her part. In vain had she flirted for ten years; in vain had Mr. and Mrs. Malderton assiduously kept up an extensive acquaintance among the young eligible bachelors of Camberwell, and even of Wandsworth and Brixton; to say nothing of those who ‘dropped in’ from town. Miss Malderton was as well known as the lion on the top of Northumberland House, and had an equal chance of ‘going off.’
‘I am quite sure you’d like him,’ continued Mrs. Malderton, ‘he is so gentlemanly!’
‘So clever!’ said Miss Marianne.
‘And has such a flow of language!’ added Miss Teresa.
‘He has a great respect for you, my dear,’ said Mrs. Malderton to her husband. Mr. Malderton coughed, and looked at the fire.
‘Yes I’m sure he’s very much attached to pa’s society,’ said Miss Marianne.
‘No doubt of it,’ echoed Miss Teresa.
‘Indeed, he said as much to me in confidence,’ observed Mrs. Malderton.
‘Well, well,’ returned Mr. Malderton, somewhat flattered; ‘if I see him at the assembly to-morrow, perhaps I’ll ask him down. I hope he knows we live at Oak Lodge, Camberwell, my dear?’
‘Of course—and that you keep a one-horse carriage.’
‘I’ll see about it,’ said Mr. Malderton, composing himself for a nap; ‘I’ll see about it.’
Mr. Malderton was a man whose whole scope of ideas was limited to Lloyd’s, the Exchange, the India House, and the Bank. A few successful speculations had raised him from a situation of obscurity and comparative poverty, to a state of affluence. As frequently happens in such cases, the ideas of himself and his family became elevated to an extraordinary pitch as their means increased; they affected fashion, taste, and many other fooleries, in imitation of their betters, and had a very decided and becoming horror of anything which could, by possibility, be considered low. He was hospitable from ostentation, illiberal from ignorance, and prejudiced from conceit. Egotism and the love of display induced him to keep an excellent table: convenience, and a love of good things of this life, ensured him plenty of guests. He liked to have clever men, or what he considered such, at his table, because it was a great thing to talk about; but he never could endure what he called ‘sharp fellows.’ Probably, he cherished this feeling out of compliment to his two sons, who gave their respected parent no uneasiness in that particular. The family were ambitious of forming acquaintances and connexions in some sphere of society superior to that in which they themselves moved; and one of the necessary consequences of this desire, added to their utter ignorance of the world beyond their own small circle, was, that any one who could lay claim to an acquaintance with people of rank and title, had a sure passport to the table at Oak Lodge, Camberwell.