“That is a grand pianoforte, and he might think it too large for Mrs. Bates’s house.”

“You may say what you chuse—but you countenance testifies that your thoughts on this subject are very much like mine.”

“I do not know. I rather believe you are giving me more credit for acuteness than I deserve. I smile because you smile, and shall probably suspect whatever I find you suspect; but at present I do not see what there is to question. If Col. Campbell is not the person, who can be?”

“What do you say to Mrs. Dixon?”

“Mrs. Dixon! very true indeed. I had not thought of Mrs. Dixon. She must know as well as her father, how acceptable an instrument would be; and perhaps the mode of it, the mystery, the surprize, is more like a young woman’s scheme than an elderly man’s. It is Mrs. Dixon I dare say. I told you that your suspicions would guide mine.”

“If so, you must extend your suspicions and comprehend Mr. Dixon in them.”

“Mr. Dixon.—Very well. Yes, I immediately perceive that is must be the joint present of Mr. and Mrs. Dixon. We were speaking the other day, you know, of his being so warm an admirer of her performance.”

“Yes, and what you told me on that head, confirmed an idea which I had entertained before.—I do not mean to reflect upon the good intentions of either Mr. Dixon or Miss Fairfax, but I cannot help suspecting either that, after making his proposals to her friend, he had the misfortune to fall in love with her, or that he became conscious of a little attachment on her side. One might guess twenty things without guessing exactly the right; but I am sure there must be a particular cause for her chusing to come to Highbury instead of going with the Campbells to Ireland. Here she must be leading a


life of privation and penance; there it would have been all enjoyment. As to the pretence of trying her native air, I look upon that as a mere excuse.—In the summer it might have passed; but what can any body’s native air do for them in the months of January, February, and March? Good fires and carriages would be much more to the purpose in most cases of delicate health, and I dare say in her’s. I do not require you to adopt all my suspicions, though you make so noble a profession of doing it, but I honestly tell you what they are.”

“And, upon my word, they have an air of great probability. Mr. Dixon’s preference of her music to her friend’s, I can answer for being very decided.”

“And then, he saved her life. Did you ever hear of that?—-A water-party; and by some accident she was falling overboard. He caught her.”

“He did. I was there—one of the party.”

“Were you really?—Well!—But you observed nothing of course, for it seems to be a new idea to you.—-If I had been there, I think I should have made some discoveries.”

“I dare say you would; but I, simple I, saw nothing but the fact, that Miss Fairfax was nearly dashed from the vessel and that Mr. Dixon caught her.—-It was the work of a moment. And though the consequent shock and alarm was very great and much more durable—-indeed I believe it was half an hour before any of us were comfortable again—-yet that was too general a sensation for any thing of peculiar anxiety to be observable. I do not mean to say, however, that you might not have made discoveries.”

The general conversation was here interrupted. They were called on to share in the awkwardness of a rather long interval between the courses, and obliged to be as formal and as orderly as the others; but when the table was again safely covered, when

Vol. i. X