[ocr errors]

different from a man's! Let her be handsome, on the charms of a certain new bay-window, which good-tempered, warm-hearted, and well-principled," Mr. Middleton had built for her, to her own little and she is a fit companion for the greatest man sitting-room.” The apartment in question had been that ever was born, always supposing she is de-a mere closet, but was now the prettiest in the vicvoted to him."

arage, with its delicately-tinted walls and white “ Without either refinement or intellect?” en- muslin curtains, its flower-strewn carpet, luxurious quired Clara.

couch, and low, embroidered chairs, its prints, and “ Certainly without intellect,” replied he; " in- its books, and, above all, its delicious, half-solitary, tellect in a wife gives one so much trouble. It half-social window, with a charming view of lawn, is rather in the way than otherwise. Let her be and ornamental flower-baskets, and winding walks, positively stupid, dull, slow of perception, if only and cool, shadowy trees in the background. It she looks handsome, and flatters one's vanity, by looked the very temple of pleasant study, dreamy seeming to be fond of one, you will find a clever leisure, or intimate causerie. man talk to her and busy himself about her for " What a boudoir !” cried Julia, as they walked hours together without being weary. And as to home. “ It is perfection. I declare, I think I could refinement, that too may be very easily dispensed marry Mr. Middleton for the sake of such a room with ; one grows accustomed to its absence, and as that!" so forgets to miss it. After habitual intercourse And how exactly the lady suits the room !" with a mind that is not refined, one's whole esti- rejoined George, who had accompanied his sisters ; mate alters, and a mind that is so, seems prudish, " she is much better-looking than I expected. She affected, oppressive to us."

has more elegance of person, if not of manners, than “Of course you are not in earnest,” said Clara; Mr. Archer led one to imagine. How blue her

you cannot really mean that the very highest eyes are! I do admire blue eyes." and closest union of which human creatures are “ Talking of the bride, of course," said Mr. capable, should -but why do I argue about it? Dacre, joining himself to the group. It is very absurd.'

· Yes," answered Clara ; " what do you think “I am not talking about theories," he answered, of her?” “such as young ladies cherish in the deep recess- “She is exquisite !" exclaimed Mr. Dacre ; “ and es of their hearts; but about plain matters-of-fact. so naïve and girlish-she is like one of Murillo's It may be very shocking that it should be thus ; pictures.” nevertheless, thus it is, and it is useless to attempt “She is very pretty and pleasant,” said Clara ; to conceal it. But I should like very much to hear but I do wish she had not made Mr. Middleton your notion of what a wife ought to be, though build that bay-window." I think I pretty well know it without asking." There was a general outcry, what could she

“ Tell me, and I will tell you if you are right,” mean? was it possible she did not admire it? It replied Clara.

was the greatest improvement conceivable, &c. &c. Mr. Archer heaved a deep sigh, cast up


“Well,” said Clara, “I think it is a great imand answered in a low, agitated voice : “She should provement in one sense, but not in another. Mr. live only for him ; be his in every word, thought, Middleton used to spend all he could save from his and feeling ; cling to him with the most submissive income in charity; and I think a clergyman's wife devotedness; and have her own way in everything." ought to help her husband in his self-denials, not

Mr. Dacre and Julia, who had joined the dispu- encourage him to relax them.” tants, laughed heartily at this definition, but Clara Oh, dreadful!

my dear Miss Capel,” cried Mr. looked cross. “ After this,” observed she, “ I can Dacre; “ the poor clergyman has trials enough out hardly be expected to state my theory."

of doors. Do, for pity's sake! let him find comfort Oh,” cried Mr. Archer, “I was n't talking and indulgence at home.” about theories, but about practice. Very few peo- Clara thought it perfectly necessary that he should ple would like the look of their practice if it was do so; but she did not think that a wife's devotion exhibited to them in the shape of a theory.” to her husband's comfort implied the necessity of “Clara, how can you look so grave ?" exclaimed her leading him into expenses for mere luxuries,

we all know Mr. Archer is not in earnest." and so she said. She said it, moreover, “ Indeed, I am," persisted he; “I never joke. unpleasant tone of voice, shortly and sternly, as if My witticisms are as lame as my leg. When I she were sentencing Mrs. Middleton to the galleys, introduce Mrs. Archer to you, you will all discover and feeling that she deserved it. that my theory, at least, suits my practice.”

"My dear Clara,” observed George, “ I think

this is uncommonly like judging one's neighbors." Six weeks after this conversation, Clara and Julia Clara felt rebuked. She was never cross to anypaid their bridal visit at the vicarage, and were in- body except Mr. Archer ; so, after reflecting a motroduced to Mrs. Middleton. She was very pretty, ment, she looked up at George with a frank, bright with lively, open manners, and but little of the smile, and replied, “ It must be very like indeed, bashfulness which is generally supposed to be indis- George, for I suspect it is the thing itself; and as pensable to a bride. She made the girls feel quite that is a much worse offence than building unnecesat their ease, walked round the grounds with them, sary bay-windows, I will let poor Mrs. Middleton to exhibit the improvements, and dwelt particularly alone.”


in a very

“Yes, pray leave her to enjoy her sweet little tell you that she wants a new book from the libraboudoir unmolested," said Mr. Dacre. “All the ry, and that there was rather too much salt in the bloom and fragrance would be crushed out of life, broth. I was to tell you—not Julia, because if duty held it in so iron and perpetual a grasp. Julia never remembers. I have been hemming a A woman's greatest charm, after all, is that she is pocket handkerchief for mamma. 0, Clara, how -a woman! and that charm Mrs. Middleton pos- happy it is to be useful!" sesses in the highest degree.”

The little girl's face was radiant with innocent He turned to Julia as he finished, and the rest pride and glee ; and she looked up into her sisof the walk he spent in wrangling with her about ter's eyes for approval and sympathy. “Do you the color of her ribbons, and commenting upon think,” asked she, “when I grow up, I can ever the curls of her glossy dark hair, apparently quite be as useful as you are ?" Clara kissed her, as much to his own satisfaction as to hers. He without speaking ; and they went out together to followed them into the house to ask Clara's opin- procure the new book for Mrs. Capel. It was ion upon a difficult German passage, discussed it quite an expedition for Annie to go to the library, with her for about a quarter of an hour in a and she was in the highest exultation. As they steady, business-like manner, and then took his passed through the garden, they came upon a most leave.

busy and tumultuous scene ; the next day was Shall we admit the reader to another soliloquy Mr. Capel's birthday, and the children were to of Clara's, as in one of her rare half-hours of surprise him with a feast in the summer-house. idleness she stood at the table arranging some Emily and the boys had just completed their prepfreshly-gathered flowers to decorate her mother's arations, wreathing the pillars and pediment with bedroom? “ Charm !" she repeated slowly to green leaves, and bringing their choicest geraniherself, “ that is what I have not. Mrs. Middle- ums to stand on either side of the entrance ; they ton is captivating ; she may do what she pleases, were contemplating their finished work with the she has the gift, the mysterious, enviable gift of highest satisfaction. Poor Annie! She was to winning that interest and admiration which are have helped in the arrangements, but she had been sure to ripen into love. Julia, too—it is no mat- forgotten. True, they had called her, but she did ter what she does or says—she fascinates by what not answer, for she was in her mother's room ; she is. But I-people esteem me, and make use so they went merrily to work, and never thought of me, and are very much obliged to me, and of her again. She stood still, tears of anger and value me, and so forth ; but for me, for my own grief gathering in her eyes. Some slight sense self, they care nothing. It is the book I discuss, of wrong they had certainly, but after once sayor the sonata I play, or the service I perform, ing they were sorry, and it was a pity, they went about which they think ; the person who discusses, back to their chaplets, quite at ease, Emily exor plays, or does what they want, has no interest pressing a consolatory hope that she “would n't for them except as a vehicle. Those whom I best be such a baby as to cry about it.” Poor Annie ! love miss me in absence because of what I did for She had not even been missed, and the gathered them, not because of what I was to them. I have tears began to fall. not the gift-I have no charm." Poor Clara ! “Stay, and help them, darling," said the symwas she not a very woman? I am ashamed to pathizing Clara ; “ you may fetch the pink glaconfess it; but I suspect she would gladly have dioles from my garden—and, hark! don't say changed places with Julia at that moment, for the anything about it, but I will send for a parcel sake of possessing Julia's mysterious power of from the town, of something good for the feast !” attraction. I am afraid that she would rather 0, how quickly the tears changed into sparkhave been teased about ribbons than consulted ling smiles! O, how eagerly the little laborer about German. Then she resorted to Mrs. Mid- hurried to her welcome toil ! no sense of slight or dleton and her bay-window, and condemned her- sorrow remaining, working with all her might self for censoriousness ; but after all could not among the others, overflowing with gratitude and manage to bring herself into a right state of feel- happiness. ing about it. Surely it was, without doubt, a And as Clara went forth on her solitary walk, deliberate act of self-indulgence; and it was dif- her conscience said to her, “ The kingdom of ficult for Clara to be lenient to deliberate acts of heaven is of little children." self-indulgence in others when they were just the very things against which she was making so ve- A year passed away—another note was struck hement a crusade in herself. It is so hard to in the scale of life, as it rose towards its final caavoid self-consciousness in the voluntary and inde- dence. Who notices enough those solemn sounds pendent pursuit of duty.

—those lonely strikings upon the bell which tolls Clara went up stairs with her flowers, but was and then is silent—who takes heed whether the stopped in the dressing-room by little Annie, who note be higher or lower than the last utterance of came to meet her on tiptoe, and with her finger at that grave music, or whether it be unchanged? her lips. “Mamma is asleep,” whispered she; Our years, for the most part, are like poor Beau “I have been sitting to watch her, and she is Brummell's valet, who, whensoever his master quite fast asleep now. I gave mamma her dinner. went forth to a party, remained behind to gather She said, when you came in, I was to be sure and up the "failures” strewn about his dressing

them grow.

room, in the shape of some dozen cravats, rejected mother, listening to all her doubts and hopes, because the wearer had been unable to attain due sympathizing with all, dispelling the one by the perfection of tie. Only the parallel must not be earnest assurances with which she encouraged the carried too far-for, alas! we very often strew other. And then she told her father, and bore part the floor of time with our failures, and go forth in the somewhat colder discussion which ensued of uncravated, after all.

ways and means, and future position, times and “ Julia, dear, what is the matter? Won't you seasons, and such sublunary matters, of which it tell me? Why are you crying ?--are you un- would have been profane to breathe a word in happy about anything?"

Julia's presence.

And then she went out for a Clara's arms were around the waist of her sis- quiet walk with George, and listened and responded ter, who wept silently upon her shoulder. After to his unmixed delight—all brothers are so pleased a while she looked up, smiling, through her tears, when their sisters marry—with a very good grace. one of those bright, unmistakeable smiles which And each one of the three with whom she distell of warmth, life, and light, as truly as sun- cussed the great event wound up the conversation shine does when it falls upon rippling waters, or by saying, “Do you know it is such a surprise to woos spring flowers to unfold themselves. me! I fancied he liked you.And to each one

“ It is very silly to cry, when I am so happy," she answered, laughing, “Oh, how could you answered she, after the fashion of Miranda ; dream of such a thing !" can you guess what has happened ?"

Her vanity was a little morlified-s0 she told Clara looked earnestly into her face. “ Yes,” herself in her subsequent deliberations on the matsaid she, “ I think I can.

Dearest Julia ! I have ter. Mr. Dacre had belonged to her, and it was long expected it. Tell me everything as soon as not perfectly pleasant to see him appropriated by you can speak.”

another. He had from the first courted her friendClara's tears were flowing nearly as fast as her ship, and she was unused to be preferred, and she sister's. It is the way which women have of felt that her belief in her own incapacity for winwatering all the young, tender plants of happiness, ning affection was strongly confirmed. She could which spring up new in the garden of life, to make not escape sundry far from agreeable misgivings;

she had supposed him to be liking her best when “He spoke, this morning," said Julia, still hid- he was only thinking of Julia. How often must ing her blushing face. “And will you tell mamma? she have bored him by her conversation when he for I shall never find courage. Oh! Clara, it wanted to be talking to her sister! Her cheeks seems so strange—and I never thought he was in burned at the idea, and she inwardly resolved to love with me.

withdraw more than ever from attention in society; “But everybody else thought so," replied Clara. she must be vain, indeed, far vainer than she had “ His manner has shown it for a long time-only, suspected, to have fallen into such an error. She I know it is a matter of course that these things would watch herself strictly for the future. are discovered by the lookers-on, and not by the The real truth was that Mr. Dacre had liked persons whom they most concern. I dare say you her best orginally, but had ceased to do so, partly thought he was quite indifferent to you, and rather from natural instability of character, partly from wondered that he did not pay you more atten- another cause which may perhaps seem utterly tion."

improbable, but which did, nevertheless, exist. “ Yes, indeed !" murmured Julia ; “I always Clara's strenuous efforts to be practical and useful thought he liked you the best !”

had impaired her attractions in his eyes. When Clara felt greatly astonished, for such a blunder he first became acquainted with her she had been as this outdid the ordinary mistakes of young exactly the kind of person about whom he could ladies in Julia's situation. “Liked me the best !” dream to his heart's content; there was no oprepeated she. 66 What! Mr. Archer!"

pressive reality about her; no substance of char“ Mr. Archer !" exclaimed Julia, kindling into acter. Her time was divided pretty equally bean articulateness and decision scarcely to be ex-tween study, music, and conversation-all three pected of her. “Who was thinking of Mr. very elegant employments which did not in the Archer ?"

slightest degree interfere with the consistency of Clara looked at her without speaking. “ It is his ideal portraiture of her. But when she took Mr. Dacre,” added Julia, holding down her face to darning stockings the ideal began to fade ; and and relapsing into bashfulness.

when she was heard pronouncing decided opinions There was a silence of some minutes, and then on matters of fact—when she was seen not merely Clara warmly renewed her congratulations, and hurrying, but absolutely bustling, about her housewent to tell the news with all possible tenderness hold concerns—when she cut short a disquisition to her mother. How did she feel? It is difficult on æsthetics to go and assist in putting up the to say. There was immense astonishment and a drawing-room curtains, and was too busy settling momentary pang of something that was neither accounts to come and play Beethoven, he quietly disappointment nor jealousy, and yet there was a gave her up and betook himself to her sister. It pang, vehemently and instantly chidden into quiet- may sound paradoxical, but the truth is, that ness, with a sensation of horror at its selfishness. Julia's uselessness was her great attraction in his And then she talked long and gently with her eyes. Of course he was unconscious of it, but so it was. In the first place, it enabled her to be solemn words, and two faint voices slowly falteralways at his beck and call; no imperative duty ing their responses, speaking, in fact, with their thrust itself between them. As she had nothing hearts, which seems to be almost as difficult as particular to do, she might just as well be making reading with the back of one's neck ; and there herself agreeable to him. Moreover, she was was a cluster of faces in the little vestry looking never preoccupied—a great charm to man's vanity like rain-clouds at sunset, so glowing and yet so -because, in fact, she was never occupied at all tearful; and there was a small collection of autoexcept when he occupied her. And the very ab- graphs made by trembling hands for the benefit of sence of all that was definite or interesting in her the parish ; and there was hurrying back to the character, while it ensured placidity of temper, sound of a perfect steeple-chase of bells ; and there gave

his restless imagination free play. She was was a breakfast which was a dinner in a stage disnothing at all, and therefore he might fancy her guise which deceived nobody, but just enabled to be just whatsoever he pleased. There are certain people to call it by a wrong name ; and there were smooth tablets on which you may write whatever a few desperate struggles at small talk made and you like; it needs but a wet sponge to efface the then abandoned ; and there were healths drunk, whole inscription. It is said that these tablets and speeches grotesquely pathetic delivered, and a are made of the skin of an ass, but I would not band outside playing “ Hearts of Oak,” with a for the world make an uncivil use of this fact in vague idea that it was appropriate to the occasion ; natural history.

and an agitated toilette, in which it seemed wonClara's next feeling was compassion for Mr. derful that the lady's stockings did not get upon Archer. She was quite sure that he was disap- her hands, or her bonnet upon her feet ; and a pointed, and, in fact, he had reason so to feel. rushing down stairs and sundry close embraces in Even a man so free from vanity as he was might the hall, silent and sobbing, as though the form have been led to believe himself preferred, by thus passionately grasped were just about to be Julia's manner. She wondered how he would committed to the executioner; and four horses take it, but could not help laughing when she gallopping as fast as four horses ought to do when caught herself devising gentle means of breaking they are carrying joy away from sorrow; and it it to him. Soon afterwards he drank tea with the was all over. Capels; his congratulations were cold, decidedly Clara felt very lonely—not that Julia had been cold; Clara was certain that it cost him much to a companion to her in the highest sense of the offer them at all. She exerted herself to talk to word-nevertheless, it seemed as though a comhim, and though he was in a more than ordinarily pleter kind of solitude than heretofore were come sarcastic humor, she did not lose her patience, for upon her life. She had no one but George to it seemed to her quite natural. Subsequently she whom she could now speak of what she felt, and prevailed on her father to forego his intention of to him she clung with a fervor of affection absoasking Mr. Archer to the wedding, and reflected lutely passionate. This was, in truth, the greatest with pleasure that she had at least spared him that fault of her character, and it may be described in pain. As a matter of fact, Mr. Archer, being a single phrasethe need of idolizing. That a wholly unconscious of the special kindness which woman must needs lean and love who will deny ? dictated his exclusion, was a good deal hurt by it, But that she should lean helplessly, and love imwhich Clara, happily, never discovered. moderately, is the evil. Yet never was there

And the wedding came and passed—a common- woman in the world, of true woman-nature, to place wedding enough. The bride, of course, had whom this was not a danger narrowly escaped, an never looked so pretty, and the bridegroom be- obstacle scarcely surmounted, if, indeed, escaped or haved admirably. I never yet heard of a wedding surmounted at all. Clara followed her brother's at which it was not expressly stated that the bride- college career with proud and joyful devotion ; in groom behaved admirably. Sometimes I cannot a very agony of hope she watched through each help wondering what it can be that bridegrooms crisis of the course, and language is powerless, are so strongly tempted to do, that resisting the indeed, to express the rapture of her thankfulness temptation is enough 10 entitle them to such ex- when the final trial was passed, and the honors travagant praise. The bridegroom on the present of the first class were won. With her whole heart occasion looked at least as well as he behaved, be- she believed that the world had never before owned ing, by good luck, an unusually handsome man, such a genius as George's. She associated hertall, and distinguished in figure. There was a self in all his pursuits, tastes, troubles, and pleasgreat deal of white lace, and a great many tears, and ures, with a touching mixture of reverence and a crowd of people staring at the bride, and prophet- tenderness, and so made him her all, that she ically calling her“ poor dear” at every third word, could scarcely be satisfied to be less than all to and a quantity of flowers to walk upon, which per- him. The incredulous scorn with which she formed their symbolism to perfection, looking bright turned away from sundry intrusive whispers, that and fresh when the bride set her fairy feet upon he was not quite so steady as he might have been, them, but getting crushed and decidedly shabby by was too lofty to be otherwise than calm. It is the time that the other members of the procession little to say that she would have given her life followed, and there was a priest in white saying for him. An every-day affection could do thus much out of mere shame, if the alternative were | He looked a little pale, he had certainly overworked distinctly set before it; but she gave her life to himself. Now she was come, that could never haphim, and that is far more.

pen again ; she would beguile bim into the refreshHis college course was now over, and, in one of ment of a walk, or the luxury of a little chat; she those fits of enthusiasm natural to a character of his could help him in all his labors, and ensure his stamp, he announced his intention of devoting a year not overdoing them. to retirement and study preparatory to his examina- “ You look tired, dear!” was her observation, tion for deacon's orders. He talked and felt beau- her eyes fondly fixed upon his face. tifully concerning the responsibility about to come “I was up late, last night,” he replied ; " and I upon him; and his sister's warm heart bowed itself have a little headache.” before him as he talked, grateful to him for thus

“ You will have no more headaches now I am realizing its highest ideal. There was a painful come,” said she. " When I think bed-time has struggle in her mind when he asked her if she would arrived, I shall take away the books, and put out come with him to the cottage which he had chosen the candles. I have no notion of letting you work in a retired village on the sea-coast. At first she so hard in the present as to impair your power of believed that her duty forbade her this great happi- working for the future.” ness, and that she must needs stay at home to up- He laughed. “Oh!” answered he; “I was hold the system of domestic comfort which she had ot working last night. Wonderful to relate, I was constructed; but she was overruled in her own favor at a party! Three old college friends of mine have by her parents. They did not tell her all the mo- taken a shooting-box in the neighborhood, and I tives which determined them upon sending her with dined with them, and we kept it up rather late George, for many reasons; but the fact was that They are capital fellows.” their experience had by no means encouraged them “I am so glad !" cried Clara ; " I was afraid you to a perfect reliance upon his steadiness, and they had no society or amusement at all here, and that had so grown into the habit of looking to Clara in must be bad for anybody. You know, love, you all trials, of seeing her arrange all difficulties, endure must n't think of me; I am used to be alone, and all annoyances, and bring order and comfort out of rather like it. So I hope you will spend as much all confusions, that they felt, as though by estab- time with your friends as you did before I came. lishing her under her brother's roof, they were set- Are they studying too ?-how lucky it was that you ting a guardian angel to watch over him, and keep met them here!” him from going astray. Circumstances, unfortu- “ Not exactly. Very lucky!” replied George, nately, prevented this plan from being put into prac- with a slightly embarrassed manner; and the next tice according to their original intention. Little minute he began to talk of home, and they sepaAnnie was ill, and Clara was obliged to stay at rated for rest, after one of the most delightful evenhome to nurse her. George had been more than ings that Clara had ever spent. The next morning, four months in his solitary abode when his sister set after a happy tête-à-tête breakfast, she fetched her forth to join him. Long enough to commence, to work and sat quietly down, anxious not to be waver in, and to forsake his original resolution—or troublesome or officious in her offers of service, but to persevere in it till he made a habit of it.

ready to work, to wait, to talk, to be silent, to Clara had never in her life felt so perfectly happy sympathize, with alacrity, as she might find that as she did when her brother's arms received her on she was wanted. George produced his books and alighting from the stage-coach. The solitary papers, and took his seat with a desultory yawn. journey, always a nervous business, was over; the The length of time that it cost him to find his place, warm welcome so long looked forward to was actu- the vague, aimless manner in which he went to ally being received. She was now with him ; in work, the parade of new pens and clean paper five minutes more she was making tea for him. might have caused a more suspicious person than How comfortable the little room looked in her eyes, Clara to guess that, at the very least, he was rewith its soiled carpet, gaudy paper, straight-backed suming an interrupted habit. He had not been chairs, and narrow horse-hair sofa! How delicious employed above an hour, when a note was brought was the tea, made with water guiltless of having him, and he started up eagerly. “I am going out, ever boiled; and surely never before was such a Clara, dear, I shall be back to dinner;" and he dainty tasted as the under-done mutton-chop which was gone, without further explanation. That day the good offices of the hostess had provided for the he did return to dinner ; but the compliment to his refreshment of the traveller! If she noticed any- sister was not often repeated. Gradually, even her thing amiss it was only with the agreeable anticipa- loving incredulity was forced to confess that he was tion of reforming it, and so making him more com- idle-even her faith in him, which could have refortable than he could possibly have been without moved mountains, began to waver. He was scarcely her. And she looked greedily at the well-filled conscious himself how far he had departed from his book-shelf, and thought how she should make ex- own determinations ; he was so resolutely blind to tracts and look out passages for him, and sit by his his own defects, that it would have nee a stronger side while he worked, holding her breath lest she hand than poor Clara's, who, alas! was only anxmight disturb him ; and how delightful it would be ious to be blind with him, to open his eyes. Morewhen he should look up for a moment to read a over, he did work by fits and starts ; and she restriking sentence, or discuss a doubtful argument! membered each day of work with a vigilance more,

« ElőzőTovább »