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Agnes Grey

22.
The Visit
ASHBY PARK was certainly a very delightful residence. The mansion was stately
without, commodious and elegant within; the park was spacious and beautiful,
chiefly on account of its magnificent old trees, its stately herds of deer, its broad
sheet of water, and the ancient woods that stretched beyond it: for there was no
broken ground to give variety to the landscape, and but very little of that
undulating swell which adds so greatly to the charm of park scenery. And so, this
was the place Rosalie Murray had so longed to call her own, that she must have
a share of it, on whatever terms it might be offered - whatever price was to be
paid for the title of mistress, and whoever was to be her partner in the honour
and bliss of such a possession! Well I am not disposed to censure her now.
She received me very kindly; and, though I was a poor clergyman's daughter, a
governess, and a schoolmistress, she welcomed me with unaffected pleasure to
her home; and - what surprised me rather - took some pains to make my visit
agreeable. I could see, it is true, that she expected me to be greatly struck with
the magnificence that surrounded her; and, I confess, I was rather annoyed at
her evident efforts to reassure me, and prevent me from being overwhelmed by
so much grandeur - too much awed at the idea of encountering her husband and
mother-in-law, or too much ashamed of my own humble appearance. I was not
ashamed of it at all; for, though plain, I had taken good care not to shabby or
mean, and should have been pretty considerably at my ease, if my
condescending hostess had not taken such manifest pains to make me so; and,
as for the magnificence that surrounded her, nothing that met my eyes struck me
or affected me half so much as her own altered appearance.
Whether from the influence of fashionable dissipation, or some other evil, a
space of little more than twelve months had had the effect that might be expected
from as many years, in reducing the plumpness of her form, the freshness of her
complexion, the vivacity of her movements, and the exuberance of her spirits.
I wished to know if she was unhappy; but I felt it was not my province to inquire: I
might endeavour to win her confidence; but, if she chose to conceal her
matrimonial cares from me, I would trouble her with no obtrusive questions. I,
therefore, at first, confined myself to a few general inquiries about her health and
welfare, and a few commendations on the beauty of the park, and of the little girl
that should have been a boy: a small delicate infant of seven or eight weeks old,
whom its mother seemed to regard with no remarkable degree of interest or
affection, though full as much as I expected her to show.
Shortly after my arrival, she commissioned her maid to conduct me to my room
and see that I had everything I wanted; it was a small, unpretending, but
sufficiently comfortable apartment. When I descended thence - having divested
 
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