Jane Austen

“A few days ago I was at a private ball given by Mr Ashburnham. As my mother never goes out she entrusted me to the care of Lady Greville who did me the honour of calling for me in her way and of allowing me to sit forwards, which is a favour about which I am very indifferent especially as I know it is considered as conferring a great obligation on me. 'So Miss Maria' (said her Ladyship as she saw me advancing to the door of the carriage) 'you seem very smart tonight - My poor girls will appear quite to disadvantage by you - I only hope your mother may not have distressed herself to set you off. Have you a new gown on?'
'Yes Ma'am,' replied I with as much indifference as I could assume.
'Aye, and a fine one too I think -' (feeling it, as by her permission I seated myself by her) 'I dare say it is all very smart - But I must own, for you know I always speak my mind, that I think it was quite a needless piece of expense - Why could you not have worn your old striped one? It is not my way to find fault with people because they are poor, for I always think that they are more to be despised and pitied than blamed for it, especially if they cannot help it, but at the same time I must say that in my opinion your old striped gown would have been quite fine enough for its wearer - for to tell you the truth (( always speak my mind) I am very much afraid that one half of the people in the room will not know whether you have a gown on or not - but I suppose you intend to make your fortune tonight -: Well, the sooner the better; and I wish you success.'
'Indeed, Ma'am, I have no such intention -'
'Who ever heard a young lady own that she was a fortune-hunter?' Miss Greville laughed, but I am sure Ellen felt for me.
'Was you mother gone to bed before you left her?' said her Ladyship -
'Dear Ma'am, ' said Ellen, 'it is but nine o'clock.'
'True, Ellen, but candles cost money, and Mrs Williams is too wise to be extravagant.'
'She was just sitting down to supper, Ma'am -'
'And what had she got for Supper?' 'I did not observe.'
'Bread and cheese I suppose.' 'I should never wish for a better supper,' said Ellen. 'You have never any reason' replied her mother, 'as a better is always provided for you.' Miss Greville laughed excessively, as she constantly does at her mother's wit.”

Jane Austen
tags: gown
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