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Art And Nature
by [?]

“Now, girls,” said Mrs. Ellis Grey to her daughters, “here is a letter from George Somers, and he is to be down here next week; so I give you fair warning.”

“Warning?” said Fanny Grey, looking up from her embroidery; “what do you mean by that, mamma?”

“Now that’s just you, Fanny,” said the elder sister, laughing. “You dear little simplicity, you can never understand any thing unless it is stated as definitely as the multiplication table.”

“But we need no warning in the case of Cousin George, I’m sure,” said Fanny.

“Cousin George, to be sure! Do you hear the little innocent?” said Isabella, the second sister. “I suppose, Fanny, you never heard that he had been visiting all the courts of Europe, seeing all the fine women, stone, picture, and real, that are to be found. Such an amateur and connoisseur !”

“Besides having received a fortune of a million or so,” said Emma. “I dare say now, Fanny, you thought he was coming home to make dandelion chains, and play with button balls, as he used to do when he was a little boy.”

“Fanny will never take the world as it is,” said Mrs. Grey. “I do believe she will be a child as long as she lives.” Mrs. Grey said this as if she were sighing over some radical defect in the mind of her daughter, and the delicate cheek of Fanny showed a tint somewhat deeper as she spoke, and she went on with her embroidery in silence.

Mrs. Grey had been left, by the death of her husband, sole guardian of the three girls whose names have appeared on the page. She was an active, busy, ambitious woman, one of the sort for whom nothing is ever finished enough, or perfect enough, without a few touches, and dashes, and emendations; and, as such people always make a mighty affair of education, Mrs. Grey had made it a life’s enterprise to order, adjust, and settle the character of her daughters; and when we use the word character, as Mrs. Grey understood it, we mean it to include both face, figure, dress, accomplishments, as well as those more unessential items, mind and heart.

Mrs. Grey had determined that her daughters should be something altogether out of the common way; and accordingly she had conducted the training of the two eldest with such zeal and effect, that every trace of an original character was thoroughly educated out of them. All their opinions, feelings, words, and actions, instead of gushing naturally from their hearts, were, according to the most approved authority, diligently compared and revised. Emma, the eldest, was an imposing, showy girl, of some considerable talent, and she had been assiduously trained to make a sensation as a woman of ability and intellect. Her mind had been filled with information on all sorts of subjects, much faster than she had power to digest or employ it; and the standard which her ambitious mother had set for her being rather above the range of her abilities, there was a constant sensation of effort in her keeping up to it. In hearing her talk you were constantly reminded, “I am a woman of intellect–I am entirely above the ordinary level of woman;” and on all subjects she was so anxiously and laboriously, well and circumstantially, informed, that it was enough to make one’s head ache to hear her talk.

Isabella, the second daughter, was, par excellence, a beauty–a tall, sparkling, Cleopatra-looking girl, whose rich color, dazzling eyes, and superb figure might have bid defiance to art to furnish an extra charm; nevertheless, each grace had been as indefatigably drilled and manoeuvred as the members of an artillery company. Eyes, lips, eyelashes, all had their lesson; and every motion of her sculptured limbs, every intonation of her silvery voice, had been studied, considered, and corrected, till even her fastidious mother could discern nothing that was wanting. Then were added all the graces of belles lettres –all the approved rules of being delighted with music, painting, and poetry–and last of all came the tour of the continent; travelling being generally considered a sort of pumice stone, for rubbing down the varnish, and giving the very last touch to character.