8. The 'Coming Out'
AT eighteen, Miss Murray was to emerge from the quiet obscurity of the
schoolroom into the full blaze of the fashionable world - as much of it, at least, as
could be had out of London; for her papa could not be persuaded to leave his
rural pleasures and pursuits, even for a few weeks' residence in town. She was
to make her debut on the third of January, at a magnificent ball, which her
mamma proposed to give to all the nobility and choice gentry of O- and its
neighbourhood for twenty miles round. Of course, she looked forward to it with
the wildest impatience, and the most extravagant anticipations of delight.
'Miss Grey,' said she, one evening, a month before the all- important day, as I
was perusing a long and extremely interesting letter of my sister's - which I had
just glanced at in the morning to see that it contained no very bad news, and kept
till now, unable before to find a quiet moment for reading it, - 'Miss Grey, do put
away that dull, stupid letter, and listen to me! I'm sure my talk must be far more
amusing than that.'
She seated herself on the low stool at my feet; and I, suppressing a sigh of
vexation, began to fold up the epistle.
'You should tell the good people at home not to bore you with such long letters,'
said she; 'and, above all, do bid them write on proper note-paper, and not on
those great vulgar sheets. You should see the charming little lady-like notes
mamma writes to her friends.'
'The good people at home,' replied I, 'know very well that the longer their letters
are, the better I like them. I should be very sorry to receive a charming little lady-
like note from any of them; and I thought you were too much of a lady yourself,
Miss Murray, to talk about the "vulgarity" of writing on a large sheet of paper.'
'Well, I only said it to tease you. But now I want to talk about the ball; and to tell
you that you positively must put off your holidays till it is over.'
'Why so? - I shall not be present at the ball.'
'No, but you will see the rooms decked out before it begins, and hear the music,
and, above all, see me in my splendid new dress. I shall be so charming, you'll
be ready to worship me - you really must stay.'
'I should like to see you very much; but I shall have many opportunities of seeing
you equally charming, on the occasion of some of the numberless balls and
parties that are to be, and I cannot disappoint my friends by postponing my return