Part 3 out of 10
I had not thus looked, and wished, and wondered long, before I
vaulted over the barrier, unable to resist the temptation of taking
one glance through the window, just to if she were more composed
than when we parted; - and if I found her still in deep distress,
perhaps I might venture attempt a word of comfort - to utter one of
the many things I should have said before, instead of aggravating
her sufferings by my stupid impetuosity. I looked. Her chair was
vacant: so was the room. But at that moment some one opened the
outer door, and a voice - her voice - said, - 'Come out - I want to
see the moon, and breathe the evening air: they will do me good -
if anything will.'
Here, then, were she and Rachel coming to take a walk in the
garden. I wished myself safe back over the wall. I stood,
however, in the shadow of the tall holly-bush, which, standing
between the window and the porch, at present screened me from
observation, but did not prevent me from seeing two figures come
forth into the moonlight: Mrs. Graham followed by another - not
Rachel, but a young man, slender and rather tall. O heavens, how
my temples throbbed! Intense anxiety darkened my sight; but I
thought - yes, and the voice confirmed it - it was Mr. Lawrence!
'You should not let it worry you so much, Helen,' said he; 'I will
be more cautious in future; and in time - '
I did not hear the rest of the sentence; for he walked close beside
her and spoke so gently that I could not catch the words. My heart
was splitting with hatred; but I listened intently for her reply.
I heard it plainly enough.
'But I must leave this place, Frederick,' she said - 'I never can
be happy here, - nor anywhere else, indeed,' she added, with a
mirthless laugh, - 'but I cannot rest here.'
'But where could you find a better place?' replied he, 'so secluded
- so near me, if you think anything of that.'
'Yes,' interrupted she, 'it is all I could wish, if they could only
have left me alone.'
'But wherever you go, Helen, there will be the same sources of
annoyance. I cannot consent to lose you: I must go with you, or
come to you; and there are meddling fools elsewhere, as well as
While thus conversing they had sauntered slowly past me, down the
walk, and I heard no more of their discourse; but I saw him put his
arm round her waist, while she lovingly rested her hand on his
shoulder; - and then, a tremulous darkness obscured my sight, my
heart sickened and my head burned like fire: I half rushed, half
staggered from the spot, where horror had kept me rooted, and
leaped or tumbled over the wall - I hardly know which - but I know
that, afterwards, like a passionate child, I dashed myself on the
ground and lay there in a paroxysm of anger and despair - how long,
I cannot undertake to say; but it must have been a considerable
time; for when, having partially relieved myself by a torment of
tears, and looked up at the moon, shining so calmly and carelessly
on, as little influenced by my misery as I was by its peaceful
radiance, and earnestly prayed for death or forgetfulness, I had
risen and journeyed homewards - little regarding the way, but
carried instinctively by my feet to the door, I found it bolted
against me, and every one in bed except my mother, who hastened to
answer my impatient knocking, and received me with a shower of
questions and rebukes.
'Oh, Gilbert! how could you do so? Where have you been? Do come
in and take your supper. I've got it all ready, though you don't
deserve it, for keeping me in such a fright, after the strange
manner you left the house this evening. Mr. Millward was quite -
Bless the boy! how ill he looks. Oh, gracious! what is the
'Nothing, nothing - give me a candle.'
'But won't you take some supper?'
'No; I want to go to bed,' said I, taking a candle and lighting it
at the one she held in her hand.
'Oh, Gilbert, how you tremble!' exclaimed my anxious parent. 'How
white you look! Do tell me what it is? Has anything happened?'
'It's nothing,' cried I, ready to stamp with vexation because the
candle would not light. Then, suppressing my irritation, I added,
'I've been walking too fast, that's all. Good-night,' and marched
off to bed, regardless of the 'Walking too fast! where have you
been?' that was called after me from below.
My mother followed me to the very door of my room with her
questionings and advice concerning my health and my conduct; but I
implored her to let me alone till morning; and she withdrew, and at
length I had the satisfaction to hear her close her own door.
There was no sleep for me, however, that night as I thought; and
instead of attempting to solicit it, I employed myself in rapidly
pacing the chamber, having first removed my boots, lest my mother
should hear me. But the boards creaked, and she was watchful. I
had not walked above a quarter of an hour before she was at the
'Gilbert, why are you not in bed - you said you wanted to go?'
'Confound it! I'm going,' said I.
'But why are you so long about it? You must have something on your
mind - '
'For heaven's sake, let me alone, and get to bed yourself.'
'Can it be that Mrs. Graham that distresses you so?'
'No, no, I tell you - it's nothing.'
'I wish to goodness it mayn't,' murmured she, with a sigh, as she
returned to her own apartment, while I threw myself on the bed,
feeling most undutifully disaffected towards her for having
deprived me of what seemed the only shadow of a consolation that
remained, and chained me to that wretched couch of thorns.
Never did I endure so long, so miserable a night as that. And yet
it was not wholly sleepless. Towards morning my distracting
thoughts began to lose all pretensions to coherency, and shape
themselves into confused and feverish dreams, and, at length, there
followed an interval of unconscious slumber. But then the dawn of
bitter recollection that succeeded - the waking to find life a
blank, and worse than a blank, teeming with torment and misery -
not a mere barren wilderness, but full of thorns and briers - to
find myself deceived, duped, hopeless, my affections trampled upon,
my angel not an angel, and my friend a fiend incarnate - it was
worse than if I had not slept at all.
It was a dull, gloomy morning; the weather had changed like my
prospects, and the rain was pattering against the window. I rose,
nevertheless, and went out; not to look after the farm, though that
would serve as my excuse, but to cool my brain, and regain, if
possible, a sufficient degree of composure to meet the family at
the morning meal without exciting inconvenient remarks. If I got a
wetting, that, in conjunction with a pretended over-exertion before
breakfast, might excuse my sudden loss of appetite; and if a cold
ensued, the severer the better - it would help to account for the
sullen moods and moping melancholy likely to cloud my brow for long
'My dear Gilbert, I wish you would try to be a little more
amiable,' said my mother one morning after some display of
unjustifiable ill-humour on my part. 'You say there is nothing the
matter with you, and nothing has happened to grieve you, and yet I
never saw anyone so altered as you within these last few days. You
haven't a good word for anybody - friends and strangers, equals and
inferiors - it's all the same. I do wish you'd try to check it.'
'Why, your strange temper. You don't know how it spoils you. I'm
sure a finer disposition than yours by nature could not be, if
you'd let it have fair play: so you've no excuse that way.'
While she thus remonstrated, I took up a book, and laying it open
on the table before me, pretended to be deeply absorbed in its
perusal, for I was equally unable to justify myself and unwilling
to acknowledge my errors; and I wished to have nothing to say on
the matter. But my excellent parent went on lecturing, and then
came to coaxing, and began to stroke my hair; and I was getting to
feel quite a good boy, but my mischievous brother, who was idling
about the room, revived my corruption by suddenly calling out, -
'Don't touch him, mother! he'll bite! He's a very tiger in human
form. I've given him up for my part - fairly disowned him - cast
him off, root and branch. It's as much as my life is worth to come
within six yards of him. The other day he nearly fractured my
skull for singing a pretty, inoffensive love-song, on purpose to
'Oh, Gilbert! how could you?' exclaimed my mother.
'I told you to hold your noise first, you know, Fergus,' said I.
'Yes, but when I assured you it was no trouble and went on with the
next verse, thinking you might like it better, you clutched me by
the shoulder and dashed me away, right against the wall there, with
such force that I thought I had bitten my tongue in two, and
expected to see the place plastered with my brains; and when I put
my hand to my head, and found my skull not broken, I thought it was
a miracle, and no mistake. But, poor fellow!' added he, with a
sentimental sigh - 'his heart's broken - that's the truth of it -
and his head's - '
'Will you be silent NOW?' cried I, starting up, and eyeing the
fellow so fiercely that my mother, thinking I meant to inflict some
grievous bodily injury, laid her hand on my arm, and besought me to
let him alone, and he walked leisurely out, with his hands in his
pockets, singing provokingly - 'Shall I, because a woman's fair,'
'I'm not going to defile my fingers with him,' said I, in answer to
the maternal intercession. 'I wouldn't touch him with the tongs.'
I now recollected that I had business with Robert Wilson,
concerning the purchase of a certain field adjoining my farm - a
business I had been putting off from day to day; for I had no
interest in anything now; and besides, I was misanthropically
inclined, and, moreover, had a particular objection to meeting Jane
Wilson or her mother; for though I had too good reason, now, to
credit their reports concerning Mrs. Graham, I did not like them a
bit the better for it - or Eliza Millward either - and the thought
of meeting them was the more repugnant to me that I could not, now,
defy their seeming calumnies and triumph in my own convictions as
before. But to-day I determined to make an effort to return to my
duty. Though I found no pleasure in it, it would be less irksome
than idleness - at all events it would be more profitable. If life
promised no enjoyment within my vocation, at least it offered no
allurements out of it; and henceforth I would put my shoulder to
the wheel and toil away, like any poor drudge of a cart-horse that
was fairly broken in to its labour, and plod through life, not
wholly useless if not agreeable, and uncomplaining if not contented
with my lot.
Thus resolving, with a kind of sullen resignation, if such a term
may be allowed, I wended my way to Ryecote Farm, scarcely expecting
to find its owner within at this time of day, but hoping to learn
in what part of the premises he was most likely to be found.
Absent he was, but expected home in a few minutes; and I was
desired to step into the parlour and wait. Mrs. Wilson was busy in
the kitchen, but the room was not empty; and I scarcely checked an
involuntary recoil as I entered it; for there sat Miss Wilson
chattering with Eliza Millward. However, I determined to be cool
and civil. Eliza seemed to have made the same resolution on her
part. We had not met since the evening of the tea-party; but there
was no visible emotion either of pleasure or pain, no attempt at
pathos, no display of injured pride: she was cool in temper, civil
in demeanour. There was even an ease and cheerfulness about her
air and manner that I made no pretension to; but there was a depth
of malice in her too expressive eye that plainly told me I was not
forgiven; for, though she no longer hoped to win me to herself, she
still hated her rival, and evidently delighted to wreak her spite
on me. On the other hand, Miss Wilson was as affable and courteous
as heart could wish, and though I was in no very conversable humour
myself, the two ladies between them managed to keep up a pretty
continuous fire of small talk. But Eliza took advantage of the
first convenient pause to ask if I had lately seen Mrs. Graham, in
a tone of merely casual inquiry, but with a sidelong glance -
intended to be playfully mischievous - really, brimful and running
over with malice.
'Not lately,' I replied, in a careless tone, but sternly repelling
her odious glances with my eyes; for I was vexed to feel the colour
mounting to my forehead, despite my strenuous efforts to appear
'What! are you beginning to tire already? I thought so noble a
creature would have power to attach you for a year at least!'
'I would rather not speak of her now.'
'Ah! then you are convinced, at last, of your mistake - you have at
length discovered that your divinity is not quite the immaculate -
'I desired you not to speak of her, Miss Eliza.'
'Oh, I beg your pardon! I perceive Cupid's arrows have been too
sharp for you: the wounds, being more than skin-deep, are not yet
healed, and bleed afresh at every mention of the loved one's name.'
'Say, rather,' interposed Miss Wilson, 'that Mr. Markham feels that
name is unworthy to be mentioned in the presence of right-minded
females. I wonder, Eliza, you should think of referring to that
unfortunate person - you might know the mention of her would be
anything but agreeable to any one here present.'
How could this be borne? I rose and was about to clap my hat upon
my head and burst away, in wrathful indignation from the house; but
recollecting - just in time to save my dignity - the folly of such
a proceeding, and how it would only give my fair tormentors a merry
laugh at my expense, for the sake of one I acknowledged in my own
heart to be unworthy of the slightest sacrifice - though the ghost
of my former reverence and love so hung about me still, that I
could not bear to hear her name aspersed by others - I merely
walked to the window, and having spent a few seconds in vengibly
biting my lips and sternly repressing the passionate heavings of my
chest, I observed to Miss Wilson, that I could see nothing of her
brother, and added that, as my time was precious, it would perhaps
be better to call again to-morrow, at some time when I should be
sure to find him at home.
'Oh, no!' said she; 'if you wait a minute, he will be sure to come;
for he has business at L-' (that was our market-town), 'and will
require a little refreshment before he goes.'
I submitted accordingly, with the best grace I could; and, happily,
I had not long to wait. Mr. Wilson soon arrived, and, indisposed
for business as I was at that moment, and little as I cared for the
field or its owner, I forced my attention to the matter in hand,
with very creditable determination, and quickly concluded the
bargain - perhaps more to the thrifty farmer's satisfaction than he
cared to acknowledge. Then, leaving him to the discussion of his
substantial 'refreshment,' I gladly quitted the house, and went to
look after my reapers.
Leaving them busy at work on the side of the valley, I ascended the
hill, intending to visit a corn-field in the more elevated regions,
and see when it would be ripe for the sickle. But I did not visit
it that day; for, as I approached, I beheld, at no great distance,
Mrs. Graham and her son coming down in the opposite direction.
They saw me; and Arthur already was running to meet me; but I
immediately turned back and walked steadily homeward; for I had
fully determined never to encounter his mother again; and
regardless of the shrill voice in my ear, calling upon me to 'wait
a moment,' I pursued the even tenor of my way; and he soon
relinquished the pursuit as hopeless, or was called away by his
mother. At all events, when I looked back, five minutes after, not
a trace of either was to be seen.
This incident agitated and disturbed me most unaccountably - unless
you would account for it by saying that Cupid's arrows not only had
been too sharp for me, but they were barbed and deeply rooted, and
I had not yet been able to wrench them from my heart. However that
be, I was rendered doubly miserable for the remainder of the day.
Next morning, I bethought me, I, too, had business at L-; so I
mounted my horse, and set forth on the expedition soon after
breakfast. It was a dull, drizzly day; but that was no matter: it
was all the more suitable to my frame of mind. It was likely to be
a lonely journey; for it was no market-day, and the road I
traversed was little frequented at any other time; but that suited
me all the better too.
As I trotted along, however, chewing the cud of - bitter fancies, I
heard another horse at no great distance behind me; but I never
conjectured who the rider might be, or troubled my head about him,
till, on slackening my pace to ascend a gentle acclivity, or
rather, suffering my horse to slacken his pace into a lazy walk -
for, rapt in my own reflections, I was letting it jog on as
leisurely as it thought proper - I lost ground, and my fellow-
traveller overtook me. He accosted me by name, for it was no
stranger - it was Mr. Lawrence! Instinctively the fingers of my
whip-hand tingled, and grasped their charge with convulsive energy;
but I restrained the impulse, and answering his salutation with a
nod, attempted to push on; but he pushed on beside me, and began to
talk about the weather and the crops. I gave the briefest possible
answers to his queries and observations, and fell back. He fell
back too, and asked if my horse was lame. I replied with a look,
at which he placidly smiled.
I was as much astonished as exasperated at this singular
pertinacity and imperturbable assurance on his part. I had thought
the circumstances of our last meeting would have left such an
impression on his mind as to render him cold and distant ever
after: instead of that, he appeared not only to have forgotten all
former offences, but to be impenetrable to all present
incivilities. Formerly, the slightest hint, or mere fancied
coldness in tone or glance, had sufficed to repulse him: now,
positive rudeness could not drive him away. Had he heard of my
disappointment; and was he come to witness the result, and triumph
in my despair? I grasped my whip with more determined energy than
before - but still forbore to raise it, and rode on in silence,
waiting for some more tangible cause of offence, before I opened
the floodgates of my soul and poured out the dammed-up fury that
was foaming and swelling within.
'Markham,' said he, in his usual quiet tone, 'why do you quarrel
with your friends, because you have been disappointed in one
quarter? You have found your hopes defeated; but how am I to blame
for it? I warned you beforehand, you know, but you would not - '
He said no more; for, impelled by some fiend at my elbow, I had
seized my whip by the small end, and - swift and sudden as a flash
of lightning - brought the other down upon his head. It was not
without a feeling of savage satisfaction that I beheld the instant,
deadly pallor that overspread his face, and the few red drops that
trickled down his forehead, while he reeled a moment in his saddle,
and then fell backward to the ground. The pony, surprised to be so
strangely relieved of its burden, started and capered, and kicked a
little, and then made use of its freedom to go and crop the grass
of the hedge-bank: while its master lay as still and silent as a
corpse. Had I killed him? - an icy hand seemed to grasp my heart
and check its pulsation, as I bent over him, gazing with breathless
intensity upon the ghastly, upturned face. But no; he moved his
eyelids and uttered a slight groan. I breathed again - he was only
stunned by the fall. It served him right - it would teach him
better manners in future. Should I help him to his horse? No.
For any other combination of offences I would; but his were too
unpardonable. He might mount it himself, if he liked - in a while:
already he was beginning to stir and look about him - and there it
was for him, quietly browsing on the road-side.
So with a muttered execration I left the fellow to his fate, and
clapping spurs to my own horse, galloped away, excited by a
combination of feelings it would not be easy to analyse; and
perhaps, if I did so, the result would not be very creditable to my
disposition; for I am not sure that a species of exultation in what
I had done was not one principal concomitant.
Shortly, however, the effervescence began to abate, and not many
minutes elapsed before I had turned and gone back to look after the
fate of my victim. It was no generous impulse - no kind relentings
that led me to this - nor even the fear of what might be the
consequences to myself, if I finished my assault upon the squire by
leaving him thus neglected, and exposed to further injury; it was,
simply, the voice of conscience; and I took great credit to myself
for attending so promptly to its dictates - and judging the merit
of the deed by the sacrifice it cost, I was not far wrong.
Mr. Lawrence and his pony had both altered their positions in some
degree. The pony had wandered eight or ten yards further away; and
he had managed, somehow, to remove himself from the middle of the
road: I found him seated in a recumbent position on the bank, -
looking very white and sickly still, and holding his cambric
handkerchief (now more red than white) to his head. It must have
been a powerful blow; but half the credit - or the blame of it
(which you please) must be attributed to the whip, which was
garnished with a massive horse's head of plated metal. The grass,
being sodden with rain, afforded the young gentleman a rather
inhospitable couch; his clothes were considerably bemired; and his
hat was rolling in the mud on the other side of the road. But his
thoughts seemed chiefly bent upon his pony, on which he was
wistfully gazing - half in helpless anxiety, and half in hopeless
abandonment to his fate.
I dismounted, however, and having fastened my own animal to the
nearest tree, first picked up his hat, intending to clap it on his
head; but either he considered his head unfit for a hat, or the
hat, in its present condition, unfit for his head; for shrinking
away the one, he took the other from my hand, and scornfully cast
'It's good enough for you,' I muttered.
My next good office was to catch his pony and bring it to him,
which was soon accomplished; for the beast was quiet enough in the
main, and only winced and flirted a trifle till I got hold of the
bridle - but then, I must see him in the saddle.
'Here, you fellow - scoundrel - dog - give me your hand, and I'll
help you to mount.'
No; he turned from me in disgust. I attempted to take him by the
arm. He shrank away as if there had been contamination in my
'What, you won't! Well! you may sit there till doomsday, for what
I care. But I suppose you don't want to lose all the blood in your
body - I'll just condescend to bind that up for you.'
'Let me alone, if you please.'
'Humph; with all my heart. You may go to the d-l, if you choose -
and say I sent you.'
But before I abandoned him to his fate I flung his pony's bridle
over a stake in the hedge, and threw him my handkerchief, as his
own was now saturated with blood. He took it and cast it back to
me in abhorrence and contempt, with all the strength he could
muster. It wanted but this to fill the measure of his offences.
With execrations not loud but deep I left him to live or die as he
could, well satisfied that I had done my duty in attempting to save
him - but forgetting how I had erred in bringing him into such a
condition, and how insultingly my after-services had been offered -
and sullenly prepared to meet the consequences if he should choose
to say I had attempted to murder him - which I thought not
unlikely, as it seemed probable he was actuated by such spiteful
motives in so perseveringly refusing my assistance.
Having remounted my horse, I just looked back to see how he was
getting on, before I rode away. He had risen from the ground, and
grasping his pony's mane, was attempting to resume his seat in the
saddle; but scarcely had he put his foot in the stirrup, when a
sickness or dizziness seemed to overpower him: he leant forward a
moment, with his head drooped on the animal's back, and then made
one more effort, which proving ineffectual, he sank back on the
bank, where I left him, reposing his head on the oozy turf, and to
all appearance, as calmly reclining as if he had been taking his
rest on his sofa at home.
I ought to have helped him in spite of himself - to have bound up
the wound he was unable to staunch, and insisted upon getting him
on his horse and seeing him safe home; but, besides my bitter
indignation against himself, there was the question what to say to
his servants - and what to my own family. Either I should have to
acknowledge the deed, which would set me down as a madman, unless I
acknowledged the motive too - and that seemed impossible - or I
must get up a lie, which seemed equally out of the question -
especially as Mr. Lawrence would probably reveal the whole truth,
and thereby bring me to tenfold disgrace - unless I were villain
enough, presuming on the absence of witnesses, to persist in my own
version of the case, and make him out a still greater scoundrel
than he was. No; he had only received a cut above the temple, and
perhaps a few bruises from the fall, or the hoofs of his own pony:
that could not kill him if he lay there half the day; and, if he
could not help himself, surely some one would be coming by: it
would be impossible that a whole day should pass and no one
traverse the road but ourselves. As for what he might choose to
say hereafter, I would take my chance about it: if he told lies, I
would contradict him; if he told the truth, I would bear it as best
I could. I was not obliged to enter into explanations further than
I thought proper. Perhaps he might choose to be silent on the
subject, for fear of raising inquiries as to the cause of the
quarrel, and drawing the public attention to his connection with
Mrs. Graham, which, whether for her sake or his own, he seemed so
very desirous to conceal.
Thus reasoning, I trotted away to the town, where I duly transacted
my business, and performed various little commissions for my mother
and Rose, with very laudable exactitude, considering the different
circumstances of the case. In returning home, I was troubled with
sundry misgivings about the unfortunate Lawrence. The question,
What if I should find him lying still on the damp earth, fairly
dying of cold and exhaustion - or already stark and chill? thrust
itself most unpleasantly upon my mind, and the appalling
possibility pictured itself with painful vividness to my
imagination as I approached the spot where I had left him. But no,
thank heaven, both man and horse were gone, and nothing was left to
witness against me but two objects - unpleasant enough in
themselves to be sure, and presenting a very ugly, not to say
murderous appearance - in one place, the hat saturated with rain
and coated with mud, indented and broken above the brim by that
villainous whip-handle; in another, the crimson handkerchief,
soaking in a deeply tinctured pool of water - for much rain had
fallen in the interim.
Bad news flies fast: it was hardly four o'clock when I got home,
but my mother gravely accosted me with - 'Oh, Gilbert! - Such an
accident! Rose has been shopping in the village, and she's heard
that Mr. Lawrence has been thrown from his horse and brought home
This shocked me a trifle, as you may suppose; but I was comforted
to hear that he had frightfully fractured his skull and broken a
leg; for, assured of the falsehood of this, I trusted the rest of
the story was equally exaggerated; and when I heard my mother and
sister so feelingly deploring his condition, I had considerable
difficulty in preventing myself from telling them the real extent
of the injuries, as far as I knew them.
'You must go and see him to-morrow,' said my mother.
'Or to-day,' suggested Rose: 'there's plenty of time; and you can
have the pony, as your horse is tired. Won't you, Gilbert - as
soon as you've had something to eat?'
'No, no - how can we tell that it isn't all a false report? It's
'Oh, I'm sure it isn't; for the village is all alive about it; and
I saw two people that had seen others that had seen the man that
found him. That sounds far-fetched; but it isn't so when you think
'Well, but Lawrence is a good rider; it is not likely he would fall
from his horse at all; and if he did, it is highly improbable he
would break his bones in that way. It must be a gross exaggeration
'No; but the horse kicked him - or something.'
'What, his quiet little pony?'
'How do you know it was that?'
'He seldom rides any other.'
'At any rate,' said my mother, 'you will call to-morrow. Whether
it be true or false, exaggerated or otherwise, we shall like to
know how he is.'
'Fergus may go.'
'Why not you?'
'He has more time. I am busy just now.'
'Oh! but, Gilbert, how can you be so composed about it? You won't
mind business for an hour or two in a case of this sort, when your
friend is at the point of death.'
'He is not, I tell you.'
'For anything you know, he may be: you can't tell till you have
seen him. At all events, he must have met with some terrible
accident, and you ought to see him: he'll take it very unkind if
'Confound it! I can't. He and I have not been on good terms of
'Oh, my dear boy! Surely, surely you are not so unforgiving as to
carry your little differences to such a length as - '
'Little differences, indeed!' I muttered.
'Well, but only remember the occasion. Think how - '
'Well, well, don't bother me now - I'll see about it,' I replied.
And my seeing about it was to send Fergus next morning, with my
mother's compliments, to make the requisite inquiries; for, of
course, my going was out of the question - or sending a message
either. He brought back intelligence that the young squire was
laid up with the complicated evils of a broken head and certain
contusions (occasioned by a fall - of which he did not trouble
himself to relate the particulars - and the subsequent misconduct
of his horse), and a severe cold, the consequence of lying on the
wet ground in the rain; but there were no broken bones, and no
immediate prospects of dissolution.
It was evident, then, that for Mrs. Graham's sake it was not his
intention to criminate me.
That day was rainy like its predecessor; but towards evening it
began to clear up a little, and the next morning was fair and
promising. I was out on the hill with the reapers. A light wind
swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine. The
lark was rejoicing among the silvery floating clouds. The late
rain had so sweetly freshened and cleared the air, and washed the
sky, and left such glittering gems on branch and blade, that not
even the farmers could have the heart to blame it. But no ray of
sunshine could reach my heart, no breeze could freshen it; nothing
could fill the void my faith, and hope, and joy in Helen Graham had
left, or drive away the keen regrets and bitter dregs of lingering
love that still oppressed it.
While I stood with folded arms abstractedly gazing on the
undulating swell of the corn, not yet disturbed by the reapers,
something gently pulled my skirts, and a small voice, no longer
welcome to my ears, aroused me with the startling words, - 'Mr.
Markham, mamma wants you.'
'Wants me, Arthur?'
'Yes. Why do you look so queer?' said he, half laughing, half
frightened at the unexpected aspect of my face in suddenly turning
towards him, - 'and why have you kept so long away? Come! Won't
'I'm busy just now,' I replied, scarce knowing what to answer.
He looked up in childish bewilderment; but before I could speak
again the lady herself was at my side.
'Gilbert, I must speak with you!' said she, in a tone of suppressed
I looked at her pale cheek and glittering eye, but answered
'Only for a moment,' pleaded she. 'Just step aside into this other
field.' She glanced at the reapers, some of whom were directing
looks of impertinent curiosity towards her. 'I won't keep you a
I accompanied her through the gap.
'Arthur, darling, run and gather those bluebells,' said she,
pointing to some that were gleaming at some distance under the
hedge along which we walked. The child hesitated, as if unwilling
to quit my side. 'Go, love!' repeated she more urgently, and in a
tone which, though not unkind, demanded prompt obedience, and
'Well, Mrs. Graham?' said I, calmly and coldly; for, though I saw
she was miserable, and pitied her, I felt glad to have it in my
power to torment her.
She fixed her eyes upon me with a look that pierced me to the
heart; and yet it made me smile.
'I don't ask the reason of this change, Gilbert,' said she, with
bitter calmness: 'I know it too well; but though I could see
myself suspected and condemned by every one else, and bear it with
calmness, I cannot endure it from you. - Why did you not come to
hear my explanation on the day I appointed to give it?'
'Because I happened, in the interim, to learn all you would have
told me - and a trifle more, I imagine.'
'Impossible, for I would have told you all!' cried she,
passionately - 'but I won't now, for I see you are not worthy of
And her pale lips quivered with agitation.
'Why not, may I ask?'
She repelled my mocking smile with a glance of scornful
'Because you never understood me, or you would not soon have
listened to my traducers - my confidence would be misplaced in you
- you are not the man I thought you. Go! I won't care what you
think of me.'
She turned away, and I went; for I thought that would torment her
as much as anything; and I believe I was right; for, looking back a
minute after, I saw her turn half round, as if hoping or expecting
to find me still beside her; and then she stood still, and cast one
look behind. It was a look less expressive of anger than of bitter
anguish and despair; but I immediately assumed an aspect of
indifference, and affected to be gazing carelessly around me, and I
suppose she went on; for after lingering awhile to see if she would
come back or call, I ventured one more glance, and saw her a good
way off, moving rapidly up the field, with little Arthur running by
her side and apparently talking as he went; but she kept her face
averted from him, as if to hide some uncontrollable emotion. And I
returned to my business.
But I soon began to regret my precipitancy in leaving her so soon.
It was evident she loved me - probably she was tired of Mr.
Lawrence, and wished to exchange him for me; and if I had loved and
reverenced her less to begin with, the preference might have
gratified and amused me; but now the contrast between her outward
seeming and her inward mind, as I supposed, - between my former and
my present opinion of her, was so harrowing - so distressing to my
feelings, that it swallowed up every lighter consideration.
But still I was curious to know what sort of an explanation she
would have given me - or would give now, if I pressed her for it -
how much she would confess, and how she would endeavour to excuse
herself. I longed to know what to despise, and what to admire in
her; how much to pity, and how much to hate; - and, what was more,
I would know. I would see her once more, and fairly satisfy myself
in what light to regard her, before we parted. Lost to me she was,
for ever, of course; but still I could not bear to think that we
had parted, for the last time, with so much unkindness and misery
on both sides. That last look of hers had sunk into my heart; I
could not forget it. But what a fool I was! Had she not deceived
me, injured me - blighted my happiness for life? 'Well, I'll see
her, however,' was my concluding resolve, 'but not to-day: to-day
and to-night she may think upon her sins, and be as miserable as
she will: to-morrow I will see her once again, and know something
more about her. The interview may be serviceable to her, or it may
not. At any rate, it will give a breath of excitement to the life
she has doomed to stagnation, and may calm with certainty some
I did go on the morrow, but not till towards evening, after the
business of the day was concluded, that is, between six and seven;
and the westering sun was gleaming redly on the old Hall, and
flaming in the latticed windows, as I reached it, imparting to the
place a cheerfulness not its own. I need not dilate upon the
feelings with which I approached the shrine of my former divinity -
that spot teeming with a thousand delightful recollections and
glorious dreams - all darkened now by one disastrous truth
Rachel admitted me into the parlour, and went to call her mistress,
for she was not there: but there was her desk left open on the
little round table beside the high-backed chair, with a book laid
upon it. Her limited but choice collection of books was almost as
familiar to me as my own; but this volume I had not seen before. I
took it up. It was Sir Humphry Davy's 'Last Days of a
Philosopher,' and on the first leaf was written, 'Frederick
Lawrence.' I closed the book, but kept it in my hand, and stood
facing the door, with my back to the fire-place, calmly waiting her
arrival; for I did not doubt she would come. And soon I heard her
step in the hall. My heart was beginning to throb, but I checked
it with an internal rebuke, and maintained my composure - outwardly
at least. She entered, calm, pale, collected.
'To what am I indebted for this favour, Mr. Markham?' said she,
with such severe but quiet dignity as almost disconcerted me; but I
answered with a smile, and impudently enough, -
'Well, I am come to hear your explanation.'
'I told you I would not give it,' said she. 'I said you were
unworthy of my confidence.'
'Oh, very well,' replied I, moving to the door.
'Stay a moment,' said she. 'This is the last time I shall see you:
don't go just yet.'
I remained, awaiting her further commands.
'Tell me,' resumed she, 'on what grounds you believe these things
against me; who told you; and what did they say?'
I paused a moment. She met my eye as unflinchingly as if her bosom
had been steeled with conscious innocence. She was resolved to
know the worst, and determined to dare it too. 'I can crush that
bold spirit,' thought I. But while I secretly exulted in my power,
I felt disposed to dally with my victim like a cat. Showing her
the book that I still held, in my hand, and pointing to the name on
the fly-leaf, but fixing my eye upon her face, I asked, - 'Do you
know that gentleman?'
'Of course I do,' replied she; and a sudden flush suffused her
features - whether of shame or anger I could not tell: it rather
resembled the latter. 'What next, sir?'
'How long is it since you saw him?'
'Who gave you the right to catechize me on this or any other
'Oh, no one! - it's quite at your option whether to answer or not.
And now, let me ask - have you heard what has lately befallen this
friend of yours? - because, if you have not - '
'I will not be insulted, Mr. Markham!' cried she, almost infuriated
at my manner. 'So you had better leave the house at once, if you
came only for that.'
'I did not come to insult you: I came to hear your explanation.'
'And I tell you I won't give it!' retorted she, pacing the room in
a state of strong excitement, with her hands clasped tightly
together, breathing short, and flashing fires of indignation from
her eyes. 'I will not condescend to explain myself to one that can
make a jest of such horrible suspicions, and be so easily led to
'I do not make a jest of them, Mrs. Graham,' returned I, dropping
at once my tone of taunting sarcasm. 'I heartily wish I could find
them a jesting matter. And as to being easily led to suspect, God
only knows what a blind, incredulous fool I have hitherto been,
perseveringly shutting my eyes and stopping my ears against
everything that threatened to shake my confidence in you, till
proof itself confounded my infatuation!'
'What proof, sir?'
'Well, I'll tell you. You remember that evening when I was here
'Even then you dropped some hints that might have opened the eyes
of a wiser man; but they had no such effect upon me: I went on
trusting and believing, hoping against hope, and adoring where I
could not comprehend. It so happened, however, that after I left
you I turned back - drawn by pure depth of sympathy and ardour of
affection - not daring to intrude my presence openly upon you, but
unable to resist the temptation of catching one glimpse through the
window, just to see how you were: for I had left you apparently in
great affliction, and I partly blamed my own want of forbearance
and discretion as the cause of it. If I did wrong, love alone was
my incentive, and the punishment was severe enough; for it was just
as I had reached that tree, that you came out into the garden with
your friend. Not choosing to show myself, under the circumstances,
I stood still, in the shadow, till you had both passed by.'
'And how much of our conversation did you hear?'
'I heard quite enough, Helen. And it was well for me that I did
hear it; for nothing less could have cured my infatuation. I
always said and thought, that I would never believe a word against
you, unless I heard it from your own lips. All the hints and
affirmations of others I treated as malignant, baseless slanders;
your own self-accusations I believed to be overstrained; and all
that seemed unaccountable in your position I trusted that you could
account for if you chose.'
Mrs. Graham had discontinued her walk. She leant against one end
of the chimney-piece, opposite that near which I was standing, with
her chin resting on her closed hand, her eyes - no longer burning
with anger, but gleaming with restless excitement - sometimes
glancing at me while I spoke, then coursing the opposite wall, or
fixed upon the carpet.
'You should have come to me after all,' said she, 'and heard what I
had to say in my own justification. It was ungenerous and wrong to
withdraw yourself so secretly and suddenly, immediately after such
ardent protestations of attachment, without ever assigning a reason
for the change. You should have told me all-no matter how
bitterly. It would have been better than this silence.'
'To what end should I have done so? You could not have enlightened
me further, on the subject which alone concerned me; nor could you
have made me discredit the evidence of my senses. I desired our
intimacy to be discontinued at once, as you yourself had
acknowledged would probably be the case if I knew all; but I did
not wish to upbraid you, - though (as you also acknowledged) you
had deeply wronged me. Yes, you have done me an injury you can
never repair - or any other either - you have blighted the
freshness and promise of youth, and made my life a wilderness! I
might live a hundred years, but I could never recover from the
effects of this withering blow - and never forget it! Hereafter -
You smile, Mrs. Graham,' said I, suddenly stopping short, checked
in my passionate declamation by unutterable feelings to behold her
actually smiling at the picture of the ruin she had wrought.
'Did I?' replied she, looking seriously up; 'I was not aware of it.
If I did, it was not for pleasure at the thoughts of the harm I had
done you. Heaven knows I have had torment enough at the bare
possibility of that; it was for joy to find that you had some depth
of soul and feeling after all, and to hope that I had not been
utterly mistaken in your worth. But smiles and tears are so alike
with me, they are neither of them confined to any particular
feelings: I often cry when I am happy, and smile when I am sad.'
She looked at me again, and seemed to expect a reply; but I
'Would you be very glad,' resumed she, 'to find that you were
mistaken in your conclusions?'
'How can you ask it, Helen?'
'I don't say I can clear myself altogether,' said she, speaking low
and fast, while her heart beat visibly and her bosom heaved with
excitement, - 'but would you be glad to discover I was better than
you think me?'
'Anything that could in the least degree tend to restore my former
opinion of you, to excuse the regard I still feel for you, and
alleviate the pangs of unutterable regret that accompany it, would
be only too gladly, too eagerly received!' Her cheeks burned, and
her whole frame trembled, now, with excess of agitation. She did
not speak, but flew to her desk, and snatching thence what seemed a
thick album or manuscript volume, hastily tore away a few leaves
from the end, and thrust the rest into my hand, saying, 'You
needn't read it all; but take it home with you,' and hurried from
the room. But when I had left the house, and was proceeding down
the walk, she opened the window and called me back. It was only to
say, - 'Bring it back when you have read it; and don't breathe a
word of what it tells you to any living being. I trust to your
Before I could answer she had closed the casement and turned away.
I saw her cast herself back in the old oak chair, and cover her
face with her hands. Her feelings had been wrought to a pitch that
rendered it necessary to seek relief in tears.
Panting with eagerness, and struggling to suppress my hopes, I
hurried home, and rushed up-stairs to my room, having first
provided myself with a candle, though it was scarcely twilight yet
- then, shut and bolted the door, determined to tolerate no
interruption; and sitting down before the table, opened out my
prize and delivered myself up to its perusal - first hastily
turning over the leaves and snatching a sentence here and there,
and then setting myself steadily to read it through.
I have it now before me; and though you could not, of course,
peruse it with half the interest that I did, I know you would not
be satisfied with an abbreviation of its contents, and you shall
have the whole, save, perhaps, a few passages here and there of
merely temporary interest to the writer, or such as would serve to
encumber the story rather than elucidate it. It begins somewhat
abruptly, thus - but we will reserve its commencement for another
June 1st, 1821. - We have just returned to Staningley - that is, we
returned some days ago, and I am not yet settled, and feel as if I
never should be. We left town sooner than was intended, in
consequence of my uncle's indisposition; - I wonder what would have
been the result if we had stayed the full time. I am quite ashamed
of my new-sprung distaste for country life. All my former
occupations seem so tedious and dull, my former amusements so
insipid and unprofitable. I cannot enjoy my music, because there
is no one to hear it. I cannot enjoy my walks, because there is no
one to meet. I cannot enjoy my books, because they have not power
to arrest my attention: my head is so haunted with the
recollections of the last few weeks, that I cannot attend to them.
My drawing suits me best, for I can draw and think at the same
time; and if my productions cannot now be seen by any one but
myself, and those who do not care about them, they, possibly, may
be, hereafter. But, then, there is one face I am always trying to
paint or to sketch, and always without success; and that vexes me.
As for the owner of that face, I cannot get him out of my mind -
and, indeed, I never try. I wonder whether he ever thinks of me;
and I wonder whether I shall ever see him again. And then might
follow a train of other wonderments - questions for time and fate
to answer - concluding with - Supposing all the rest be answered in
the affirmative, I wonder whether I shall ever repent it? as my
aunt would tell me I should, if she knew what I was thinking about.
How distinctly I remember our conversation that evening before our
departure for town, when we were sitting together over the fire, my
uncle having gone to bed with a slight attack of the gout.
'Helen,' said she, after a thoughtful silence, 'do you ever think
'Yes, aunt, often.'
'And do you ever contemplate the possibility of being married
yourself, or engaged, before the season is over?'
'Sometimes; but I don't think it at all likely that I ever shall.'
'Because, I imagine, there must be only a very, very few men in the
world that I should like to marry; and of those few, it is ten to
one I may never be acquainted with one; or if I should, it is
twenty to one he may not happen to be single, or to take a fancy to
'That is no argument at all. It may be very true - and I hope is
true, that there are very few men whom you would choose to marry,
of yourself. It is not, indeed, to be supposed that you would wish
to marry any one till you were asked: a girl's affections should
never be won unsought. But when they are sought - when the citadel
of the heart is fairly besieged - it is apt to surrender sooner
than the owner is aware of, and often against her better judgment,
and in opposition to all her preconceived ideas of what she could
have loved, unless she be extremely careful and discreet. Now, I
want to warn you, Helen, of these things, and to exhort you to be
watchful and circumspect from the very commencement of your career,
and not to suffer your heart to be stolen from you by the first
foolish or unprincipled person that covets the possession of it. -
You know, my dear, you are only just eighteen; there is plenty of
time before you, and neither your uncle nor I are in any hurry to
get you off our hands, and I may venture to say, there will be no
lack of suitors; for you can boast a good family, a pretty
considerable fortune and expectations, and, I may as well tell you
likewise - for, if I don't, others will - that you have a fair
share of beauty besides - and I hope you may never have cause to
'I hope not, aunt; but why should you fear it?'
'Because, my dear, beauty is that quality which, next to money, is
generally the most attractive to the worst kinds of men; and,
therefore, it is likely to entail a great deal of trouble on the
'Have you been troubled in that way, aunt?'
'No, Helen,' said she, with reproachful gravity, 'but I know many
that have; and some, through carelessness, have been the wretched
victims of deceit; and some, through weakness, have fallen into
snares and temptations terrible to relate.'
'Well, I shall be neither careless nor weak.'
'Remember Peter, Helen! Don't boast, but watch. Keep a guard over
your eyes and ears as the inlets of your heart, and over your lips
as the outlet, lest they betray you in a moment of unwariness.
Receive, coldly and dispassionately, every attention, till you have
ascertained and duly considered the worth of the aspirant; and let
your affections be consequent upon approbation alone. First study;
then approve; then love. Let your eyes be blind to all external
attractions, your ears deaf to all the fascinations of flattery and
light discourse. - These are nothing - and worse than nothing -
snares and wiles of the tempter, to lure the thoughtless to their
own destruction. Principle is the first thing, after all; and next
to that, good sense, respectability, and moderate wealth. If you
should marry the handsomest, and most accomplished and
superficially agreeable man in the world, you little know the
misery that would overwhelm you if, after all, you should find him
to be a worthless reprobate, or even an impracticable fool.'
'But what are all the poor fools and reprobates to do, aunt? If
everybody followed your advice, the world would soon come to an
'Never fear, my dear! the male fools and reprobates will never want
for partners, while there are so many of the other sex to match
them; but do you follow my advice. And this is no subject for
jesting, Helen - I am sorry to see you treat the matter in that
light way. Believe me, matrimony is a serious thing.' And she
spoke it so seriously, that one might have fancied she had known it
to her cost; but I asked no more impertinent questions, and merely
answered, - 'I know it is; and I know there is truth and sense in
what you say; but you need not fear me, for I not only should think
it wrong to marry a man that was deficient in sense or in
principle, but I should never be tempted to do it; for I could not
like him, if he were ever so handsome, and ever so charming, in
other respects; I should hate him - despise him - pity him -
anything but love him. My affections not only ought to be founded
on approbation, but they will and must be so: for, without
approving, I cannot love. It is needless to say, I ought to be
able to respect and honour the man I marry, as well as love him,
for I cannot love him without. So set your mind at rest.'
'I hope it may be so,' answered she.
'I know it is so,' persisted I.
'You have not been tried yet, Helen - we can but hope,' said she in
her cold, cautious way.
'I was vexed at her incredulity; but I am not sure her doubts were
entirely without sagacity; I fear I have found it much easier to
remember her advice than to profit by it; - indeed, I have
sometimes been led to question the soundness of her doctrines on
those subjects. Her counsels may be good, as far as they go - in
the main points at least; - but there are some things she has
overlooked in her calculations. I wonder if she was ever in love.
I commenced my career - or my first campaign, as my uncle calls it
- kindling with bright hopes and fancies - chiefly raised by this
conversation - and full of confidence in my own discretion. At
first, I was delighted with the novelty and excitement of our
London life; but soon I began to weary of its mingled turbulence
and constraint, and sigh for the freshness and freedom of home. My
new acquaintances, both male and female, disappointed my
expectations, and vexed and depressed me by turns; I for I soon
grew tired of studying their peculiarities, and laughing at their
foibles - particularly as I was obliged to keep my criticisms to
myself, for my aunt would not hear them - and they - the ladies
especially - appeared so provokingly mindless, and heartless, and
artificial. The gentlemen scorned better, but, perhaps, it was
because I knew them less - perhaps, because they flattered me; but
I did not fall in love with any of them; and, if their attentions
pleased me one moment, they provoked me the next, because they put
me out of humour with myself, by revealing my vanity and making me
fear I was becoming like some of the ladies I so heartily despised.
There was one elderly gentleman that annoyed me very much; a rich
old friend of my uncle's, who, I believe, thought I could not do
better than marry him; but, besides being old, he was ugly and
disagreeable, - and wicked, I am sure, though my aunt scolded me
for saying so; but she allowed he was no saint. And there was
another, less hateful, but still more tiresome, because she
favoured him, and was always thrusting him upon me, and sounding
his praises in my ears - Mr. Boarham by name, Bore'em, as I prefer
spelling it, for a terrible bore he was: I shudder still at the
remembrance of his voice - drone, drone, drone, in my ear - while
he sat beside me, prosing away by the half-hour together, and
beguiling himself with the notion that he was improving my mind by
useful information, or impressing his dogmas upon me and reforming
my errors of judgment, or perhaps that he was talking down to my
level, and amusing me with entertaining discourse. Yet he was a
decent man enough in the main, I daresay; and if he had kept his
distance, I never would have hated him. As it was, it was almost
impossible to help it, for he not only bothered me with the
infliction of his own presence, but he kept me from the enjoyment
of more agreeable society.
One night, however, at a ball, he had been more than usually
tormenting, and my patience was quite exhausted. It appeared as if
the whole evening was fated to be insupportable: I had just had
one dance with an empty-headed coxcomb, and then Mr. Boarham had
come upon me and seemed determined to cling to me for the rest of
the night. He never danced himself, and there he sat, poking his
head in my face, and impressing all beholders with the idea that he
was a confirmed, acknowledged lover; my aunt looking complacently
on all the time, and wishing him God-speed. In vain I attempted to
drive him away by giving a loose to my exasperated feelings, even
to positive rudeness: nothing could convince him that his presence
was disagreeable. Sullen silence was taken for rapt attention, and
gave him greater room to talk; sharp answers were received as smart
sallies of girlish vivacity, that only required an indulgent
rebuke; and flat contradictions were but as oil to the flames,
calling forth new strains of argument to support his dogmas, and
bringing down upon me endless floods of reasoning to overwhelm me
But there was one present who seemed to have a better appreciation
of my frame of mind. A gentleman stood by, who had been watching
our conference for some time, evidently much amused at my
companion's remorseless pertinacity and my manifest annoyance, and
laughing to himself at the asperity and uncompromising spirit of my
replies. At length, however, he withdrew, and went to the lady of
the house, apparently for the purpose of asking an introduction to
me, for, shortly after, they both came up, and she introduced him
as Mr. Huntingdon, the son of a late friend of my uncle's. He
asked me to dance. I gladly consented, of course; and he was my
companion during the remainder of my stay, which was not long, for
my aunt, as usual, insisted upon an early departure.
I was sorry to go, for I had found my new acquaintance a very
lively and entertaining companion. There was a certain graceful
ease and freedom about all he said and did, that gave a sense of
repose and expansion to the mind, after so much constraint and
formality as I had been doomed to suffer. There might be, it is
true, a little too much careless boldness in his manner and
address, but I was in so good a humour, and so grateful for my late
deliverance from Mr. Boarham, that it did not anger me.
'Well, Helen, how do you like Mr. Boarham now?' said my aunt, as we
took our seats in the carriage and drove away.
'Worse than ever,' I replied.
She looked displeased, but said no more on that subject.
'Who was the gentleman you danced with last,' resumed she, after a
pause - 'that was so officious in helping you on with your shawl?'
'He was not officious at all, aunt: he never attempted to help me
till he saw Mr. Boarham coming to do so; and then he stepped
laughingly forward and said, "Come, I'll preserve you from that
'Who was it, I ask?' said she, with frigid gravity.
'It was Mr. Huntingdon, the son of uncle's old friend.'
'I have heard your uncle speak of young Mr. Huntingdon. I've heard
him say, "He's a fine lad, that young Huntingdon, but a bit
wildish, I fancy." So I'd have you beware.'
'What does "a bit wildish" mean?' I inquired.
'It means destitute of principle, and prone to every vice that is
common to youth.'
'But I've heard uncle say he was a sad wild fellow himself, when he
She sternly shook her head.
'He was jesting then, I suppose,' said I, 'and here he was speaking
at random - at least, I cannot believe there is any harm in those
laughing blue eyes.'
'False reasoning, Helen!' said she, with a sigh.
'Well, we ought to be charitable, you know, aunt - besides, I don't
think it is false: I am an excellent physiognomist, and I always
judge of people's characters by their looks - not by whether they
are handsome or ugly, but by the general cast of the countenance.
For instance, I should know by your countenance that you were not
of a cheerful, sanguine disposition; and I should know by Mr.
Wilmot's, that he was a worthless old reprobate; and by Mr.
Boarham's, that he was not an agreeable companion; and by Mr.
Huntingdon's, that he was neither a fool nor a knave, though,
possibly, neither a sage nor a saint - but that is no matter to me,
as I am not likely to meet him again - unless as an occasional
partner in the ball-room.'
It was not so, however, for I met him again next morning. He came
to call upon my uncle, apologising for not having done so before,
by saying he was only lately returned from the Continent, and had
not heard, till the previous night, of my uncle's arrival in town;
and after that I often met him; sometimes in public, sometimes at
home; for he was very assiduous in paying his respects to his old
friend, who did not, however, consider himself greatly obliged by
'I wonder what the deuce the lad means by coming so often,' he
would say, - 'can you tell, Helen? - Hey? He wants none o' my
company, nor I his - that's certain.'
'I wish you'd tell him so, then,' said my aunt.
'Why, what for? If I don't want him, somebody does, mayhap'
(winking at me). 'Besides, he's a pretty tidy fortune, Peggy, you
know - not such a catch as Wilmot; but then Helen won't hear of
that match: for, somehow, these old chaps don't go down with the
girls - with all their money, and their experience to boot. I'll
bet anything she'd rather have this young fellow without a penny,
than Wilmot with his house full of gold. Wouldn't you, Nell?'
'Yes, uncle; but that's not saying much for Mr. Huntingdon; for I'd
rather be an old maid and a pauper than Mrs. Wilmot.'
'And Mrs. Huntingdon? What would you rather be than Mrs.
Huntingdon - eh?'
'I'll tell you when I've considered the matter.'
'Ah! it needs consideration, then? But come, now - would you
rather be an old maid - let alone the pauper?'
'I can't tell till I'm asked.'
And I left the room immediately, to escape further examination.
But five minutes after, in looking from my window, I beheld Mr.
Boarham coming up to the door. I waited nearly half-an-hour in
uncomfortable suspense, expecting every minute to be called, and
vainly longing to hear him go. Then footsteps were heard on the
stairs, and my aunt entered the room with a solemn countenance, and
closed the door behind her.
'Here is Mr. Boarham, Helen,' said she. 'He wishes to see you.'
'Oh, aunt! - Can't you tell him I'm indisposed? - I'm sure I am -
to see him.'
'Nonsense, my dear! this is no trifling matter. He is come on a
very important errand - to ask your hand in marriage of your uncle
'I hope my uncle and you told him it was not in your power to give
it. What right had he to ask any one before me?'
'What did my uncle say?'
'He said he would not interfere in the matter; if you liked to
accept Mr. Boarham's obliging offer, you - '
'Did he say obliging offer?'
'No; he said if you liked to take him you might; and if not, you
might please yourself.'
'He said right; and what did you say?'
'It is no matter what I said. What will you say? - that is the
question. He is now waiting to ask you himself; but consider well
before you go; and if you intend to refuse him, give me your
'I shall refuse him, of course; but you must tell me how, for I
want to be civil and yet decided - and when I've got rid of him,
I'll give you my reasons afterwards.'
'But stay, Helen; sit down a little and compose yourself. Mr.
Boarham is in no particular hurry, for he has little doubt of your
acceptance; and I want to speak with you. Tell me, my dear, what
are your objections to him? Do you deny that he is an upright,
'Do you deny that he is sensible, sober, respectable?'
'No; he may be all this, but - '
'But, Helen! How many such men do you expect to meet with in the
world? Upright, honourable, sensible, sober, respectable! Is this
such an every-day character that you should reject the possessor of
such noble qualities without a moment's hesitation? Yes, noble I
may call them; for think of the full meaning of each, and how many
inestimable virtues they include (and I might add many more to the
list), and consider that all this is laid at your feet. It is in
your power to secure this inestimable blessing for life - a worthy
and excellent husband, who loves you tenderly, but not too fondly
so as to blind him to your faults, and will be your guide
throughout life's pilgrimage, and your partner in eternal bliss.
Think how - '
'But I hate him, aunt,' said I, interrupting this unusual flow of
'Hate him, Helen! Is this a Christian spirit? - you hate him? and
he so good a man!'
'I don't hate him as a man, but as a husband. As a man, I love him
so much that I wish him a better wife than I - one as good as
himself, or better - if you think that possible - provided she
could like him; but I never could, and therefore - '
'But why not? What objection do you find?'
'Firstly, he is at least forty years old - considerably more, I
should think - and I am but eighteen; secondly, he is narrow-minded
and bigoted in the extreme; thirdly, his tastes and feelings are
wholly dissimilar to mine; fourthly, his looks, voice, and manner
are particularly displeasing to me; and, finally, I have an
aversion to his whole person that I never can surmount.'
'Then you ought to surmount it. And please to compare him for a
moment with Mr. Huntingdon, and, good looks apart (which contribute
nothing to the merit of the man, or to the happiness of married
life, and which you have so often professed to hold in light
esteem), tell me which is the better man.'
'I have no doubt Mr. Huntingdon is a much better man than you think
him; but we are not talking about him now, but about Mr. Boarham;
and as I would rather grow, live, and die in single blessedness -
than be his wife, it is but right that I should tell him so at
once, and put him out of suspense - so let me go.'
'But don't give him a flat denial; he has no idea of such a thing,
and it would offend him greatly: say you have no thoughts of
matrimony at present - '
'But I have thoughts of it.'
'Or that you desire a further acquaintance.'
'But I don't desire a further acquaintance - quite the contrary.'
And without waiting for further admonitions I left the room and
went to seek Mr. Boarham. He was walking up and down the drawing-
room, humming snatches of tunes and nibbling the end of his cane.
'My dear young lady,' said he, bowing and smirking with great
complacency, 'I have your kind guardian's permission - '
'I know, sir,' said I, wishing to shorten the scene as much as
possible, 'and I am greatly obliged for your preference, but must
beg to decline the honour you wish to confer, for I think we were
not made for each other, as you yourself would shortly discover if
the experiment were tried.'
My aunt was right. It was quite evident he had had little doubt of
my acceptance, and no idea of a positive denial. He was amazed,
astounded at such an answer, but too incredulous to be much
offended; and after a little humming and hawing, he returned to the
'I know, my dear, that there exists a considerable disparity
between us in years, in temperament, and perhaps some other things;
but let me assure you, I shall not be severe to mark the faults and
foibles of a young and ardent nature such as yours, and while I
acknowledge them to myself, and even rebuke them with all a
father's care, believe me, no youthful lover could be more tenderly
indulgent towards the object of his affections than I to you; and,
on the other hand, let me hope that my more experienced years and
graver habits of reflection will be no disparagement in your eyes,
as I shall endeavour to make them all conducive to your happiness.
Come, now! What do you say? Let us have no young lady's
affectations and caprices, but speak out at once.'
'I will, but only to repeat what I said before, that I am certain
we were not made for each other.'
'You really think so?'
'But you don't know me - you wish for a further acquaintance - a
longer time to - '
'No, I don't. I know you as well as I ever shall, and better than
you know me, or you would never dream of uniting yourself to one so
incongruous - so utterly unsuitable to you in every way.'
'But, my dear young lady, I don't look for perfection; I can excuse
'Thank you, Mr. Boarham, but I won't trespass upon your goodness.
You may save your indulgence and consideration for some more worthy
object, that won't tax them so heavily.'
'But let me beg you to consult your aunt; that excellent lady, I am
sure, will - '
'I have consulted her; and I know her wishes coincide with yours;
but in such important matters, I take the liberty of judging for
myself; and no persuasion can alter my inclinations, or induce me
to believe that such a step would be conducive to my happiness or
yours - and I wonder that a man of your experience and discretion
should think of choosing such a wife.'
'Ah, well!' said he, 'I have sometimes wondered at that myself. I
have sometimes said to myself, "Now Boarham, what is this you're
after? Take care, man - look before you leap! This is a sweet,
bewitching creature, but remember, the brightest attractions to the
lover too often prove the husband's greatest torments!" I assure
you my choice has not been made without much reasoning and
reflection. The seeming imprudence of the match has cost me many
an anxious thought by day, and many a sleepless hour by night; but
at length I satisfied myself that it was not, in very deed,
imprudent. I saw my sweet girl was not without her faults, but of
these her youth, I trusted, was not one, but rather an earnest of
virtues yet unblown - a strong ground of presumption that her
little defects of temper and errors of judgment, opinion, or manner
were not irremediable, but might easily be removed or mitigated by
the patient efforts of a watchful and judicious adviser, and where
I failed to enlighten and control, I thought I might safely
undertake to pardon, for the sake of her many excellences.
Therefore, my dearest girl, since I am satisfied, why should you
object - on my account, at least?'
'But to tell you the truth, Mr. Boarham, it is on my own account I
principally object; so let us - drop the subject,' I would have
said, 'for it is worse than useless to pursue it any further,' but
he pertinaciously interrupted me with, - 'But why so? I would love
you, cherish you, protect you,' &c., &c.
I shall not trouble myself to put down all that passed between us.
Suffice it to say, that I found him very troublesome, and very hard
to convince that I really meant what I said, and really was so
obstinate and blind to my own interests, that there was no shadow
of a chance that either he or my aunt would ever be able to
overcome my objections. Indeed, I am not sure that I succeeded
after all; though wearied with his so pertinaciously returning to
the same point and repeating the same arguments over and over
again, forcing me to reiterate the same replies, I at length turned
short and sharp upon him, and my last words were, - 'I tell you
plainly, that it cannot be. No consideration can induce me to
marry against my inclinations. I respect you - at least, I would
respect you, if you would behave like a sensible man - but I cannot
love you, and never could - and the more you talk the further you
repel me; so pray don't say any more about it.'
Whereupon he wished me a good-morning, and withdrew, disconcerted
and offended, no doubt; but surely it was not my fault.
The next day I accompanied my uncle and aunt to a dinner-party at
Mr. Wilmot's. He had two ladies staying with him: his niece
Annabella, a fine dashing girl, or rather young woman, - of some
five-and-twenty, too great a flirt to be married, according to her
own assertion, but greatly admired by the gentlemen, who
universally pronounced her a splendid woman; and her gentle cousin,
Milicent Hargrave, who had taken a violent fancy to me, mistaking
me for something vastly better than I was. And I, in return, was
very fond of her. I should entirely exclude poor Milicent in my
general animadversions against the ladies of my acquaintance. But
it was not on her account, or her cousin's, that I have mentioned
the party: it was for the sake of another of Mr. Wilmot's guests,
to wit Mr. Huntingdon. I have good reason to remember his presence
there, for this was the last time I saw him.
He did not sit near me at dinner; for it was his fate to hand in a
capacious old dowager, and mine to be handed in by Mr. Grimsby, a
friend of his, but a man I very greatly disliked: there was a
sinister cast in his countenance, and a mixture of lurking ferocity
and fulsome insincerity in his demeanour, that I could not away
with. What a tiresome custom that is, by-the-by - one among the
many sources of factitious annoyance of this ultra-civilised life.
If the gentlemen must lead the ladies into the dining-room, why
cannot they take those they like best?
I am not sure, however, that Mr. Huntingdon would have taken me, if
he had been at liberty to make his own selection. It is quite
possible he might have chosen Miss Wilmot; for she seemed bent upon
engrossing his attention to herself, and he seemed nothing loth to
pay the homage she demanded. I thought so, at least, when I saw
how they talked and laughed, and glanced across the table, to the
neglect and evident umbrage of their respective neighbours - and
afterwards, as the gentlemen joined us in the drawing-room, when
she, immediately upon his entrance, loudly called upon him to be
the arbiter of a dispute between herself and another lady, and he
answered the summons with alacrity, and decided the question
without a moment's hesitation in her favour - though, to my
thinking, she was obviously in the wrong - and then stood chatting
familiarly with her and a group of other ladies; while I sat with
Milicent Hargrave at the opposite end of the room, looking over the
latter's drawings, and aiding her with my critical observations and
advice, at her particular desire. But in spite of my efforts to
remain composed, my attention wandered from the drawings to the
merry group, and against my better judgment my wrath rose, and
doubtless my countenance lowered; for Milicent, observing that I
must be tired of her daubs and scratches, begged I would join the
company now, and defer the examination of the remainder to another
opportunity. But while I was assuring her that I had no wish to
join them, and was not tired, Mr. Huntingdon himself came up to the
little round table at which we sat.
'Are these yours?' said he, carelessly taking up one of the
'No, they are Miss Hargrave's.'
'Oh! well, let's have a look at them.'
And, regardless of Miss Hargrave's protestations that they were not
worth looking at, he drew a chair to my side, and receiving the
drawings, one by one from my hand, successively scanned them over,
and threw them on the table, but said not a word about them, though
he was talking all the time. I don't know what Milicent Hargrave
thought of such conduct, but I found his conversation extremely
interesting; though, as I afterwards discovered, when I came to
analyse it, it was chiefly confined to quizzing the different
members of the company present; and albeit he made some clever
remarks, and some excessively droll ones, I do not think the whole
would appear anything very particular, if written here, without the
adventitious aids of look, and tone, and gesture, and that
ineffable but indefinite charm, which cast a halo over all he did
and said, and which would have made it a delight to look in his
face, and hear the music of his voice, if he had been talking
positive nonsense - and which, moreover, made me feel so bitter
against my aunt when she put a stop to this enjoyment, by coming
composedly forward, under pretence of wishing to see the drawings,
that she cared and knew nothing about, and while making believe to
examine them, addressing herself to Mr. Huntingdon, with one of her
coldest and most repellent aspects, and beginning a series of the
most common-place and formidably formal questions and observations,
on purpose to wrest his attention from me - on purpose to vex me,
as I thought: and having now looked through the portfolio, I left
them to their TETE-E-TETE, and seated myself on a sofa, quite apart
from the company - never thinking how strange such conduct would
appear, but merely to indulge, at first, the vexation of the
moment, and subsequently to enjoy my private thoughts.
But I was not left long alone, for Mr. Wilmot, of all men the least
welcome, took advantage of my isolated position to come and plant
himself beside me. I had flattered myself that I had so
effectually repulsed his advances on all former occasions, that I
had nothing more to apprehend from his unfortunate predilection;
but it seems I was mistaken: so great was his confidence, either
in his wealth or his remaining powers of attraction, and so firm
his conviction of feminine weakness, that he thought himself
warranted to return to the siege, which he did with renovated
ardour, enkindled by the quantity of wine he had drunk - a
circumstance that rendered him infinitely the more disgusting; but
greatly as I abhorred him at that moment, I did not like to treat
him with rudeness, as I was now his guest, and had just been
enjoying his hospitality; and I was no hand at a polite but
determined rejection, nor would it have greatly availed me if I
had, for he was too coarse-minded to take any repulse that was not
as plain and positive as his own effrontery. The consequence was,
that he waxed more fulsomely tender, and more repulsively warm, and
I was driven to the very verge of desperation, and about to say I
know not what, when I felt my hand, that hung over the arm of the
sofa, suddenly taken by another and gently but fervently pressed.
Instinctively, I guessed who it was, and, on looking up, was less
surprised than delighted to see Mr. Huntingdon smiling upon me. It
was like turning from some purgatorial fiend to an angel of light,
come to announce that the season of torment was past.
'Helen,' said he (he frequently called me Helen, and I never
resented the freedom), 'I want you to look at this picture. Mr.
Wilmot will excuse you a moment, I'm sure.'
I rose with alacrity. He drew my arm within his, and led me across
the room to a splendid painting of Vandyke's that I had noticed
before, but not sufficiently examined. After a moment of silent
contemplation, I was beginning to comment on its beauties and
peculiarities, when, playfully pressing the hand he still retained
within his arm, he interrupted me with, - 'Never mind the picture:
it was not for that I brought you here; it was to get you away from
that scoundrelly old profligate yonder, who is looking as if he
would like to challenge me for the affront.'
'I am very much obliged to you,' said I. 'This is twice you have
delivered me from such unpleasant companionship.'
'Don't be too thankful,' he answered: 'it is not all kindness to
you; it is partly from a feeling of spite to your tormentors that
makes me delighted to do the old fellows a bad turn, though I don't
think I have any great reason to dread them as rivals. Have I,
'You know I detest them both.'
'I have no reason to detest you.'
'But what are your sentiments towards me? Helen - Speak! How do
you regard me?'
And again he pressed my hand; but I feared there was more of
conscious power than tenderness in his demeanour, and I felt he had
no right to extort a confession of attachment from me when he had
made no correspondent avowal himself, and knew not what to answer.
At last I said, - 'How do you regard me?'
'Sweet angel, I adore you! I - '
'Helen, I want you a moment,' said the distinct, low voice of my
aunt, close beside us. And I left him, muttering maledictions
against his evil angel.
'Well, aunt, what is it? What do you want?' said I, following her
to the embrasure of the window.
'I want you to join the company, when you are fit to be seen,'
returned she, severely regarding me; 'but please to stay here a
little, till that shocking colour is somewhat abated, and your eyes
have recovered something of their natural expression. I should be
ashamed for anyone to see you in your present state.'
Of course, such a remark had no effect in reducing the 'shocking
colour'; on the contrary, I felt my face glow with redoubled fires
kindled by a complication of emotions, of which indignant, swelling
anger was the chief. I offered no reply, however, but pushed aside
the curtain and looked into the night - or rather into the lamp-lit
'Was Mr. Huntingdon proposing to you, Helen?' inquired my too
'What was he saying then? I heard something very like it.'
'I don't know what he would have said, if you hadn't interrupted
'And would you have accepted him, Helen, if he had proposed?'
'Of course not - without consulting uncle and you.'
'Oh! I'm glad, my dear, you have so much prudence left. Well,
now,' she added, after a moment's pause, 'you have made yourself
conspicuous enough for one evening. The ladies are directing
inquiring glances towards us at this moment, I see: I shall join
them. Do you come too, when you are sufficiently composed to
appear as usual.'
'I am so now.'
'Speak gently then, and don't look so malicious,' said my calm, but
provoking aunt. 'We shall return home shortly, and then,' she
added with solemn significance, 'I have much to say to you.'
So I went home prepared for a formidable lecture. Little was said
by either party in the carriage during our short transit homewards;
but when I had entered my room and thrown myself into an easy-
chair, to reflect on the events of the day, my aunt followed me
thither, and having dismissed Rachel, who was carefully stowing
away my ornaments, closed the door; and placing a chair beside me,
or rather at right angles with mine, sat down. With due deference
I offered her my more commodious seat. She declined it, and thus
opened the conference: 'Do you remember, Helen, our conversation
the night but one before we left Staningley?'
'And do you remember how I warned you against letting your heart be
stolen from you by those unworthy of its possession, and fixing
your affections where approbation did not go before, and where
reason and judgment withheld their sanction?'
'Yes; but my reason - '
'Pardon me - and do you remember assuring me that there was no
occasion for uneasiness on your account; for you should never be
tempted to marry a man who was deficient in sense or principle,
however handsome or charming in other respects he might be, for you
could not love him; you should hate - despise - pity - anything but
love him - were not those your words?'
'Yes; but - '
'And did you not say that your affection must be founded on
approbation; and that, unless you could approve and honour and
respect, you could not love?'
'Yes; but I do approve, and honour, and respect - '
'How so, my dear? Is Mr. Huntingdon a good man?'
'He is a much better man than you think him.'
'That is nothing to the purpose. Is he a good man?'
'Yes - in some respects. He has a good disposition.'
'Is he a man of principle?'
'Perhaps not, exactly; but it is only for want of thought. If he
had some one to advise him, and remind him of what is right - '
'He would soon learn, you think - and you yourself would willingly
undertake to be his teacher? But, my dear, he is, I believe, full
ten years older than you - how is it that you are so beforehand in
'Thanks to you, aunt, I have been well brought up, and had good
examples always before me, which he, most likely, has not; and,
besides, he is of a sanguine temperament, and a gay, thoughtless
temper, and I am naturally inclined to reflection.'
'Well, now you have made him out to be deficient in both sense and
principle, by your own confession - '
'Then, my sense and my principle are at his service.'
'That sounds presumptuous, Helen. Do you think you have enough for
both; and do you imagine your merry, thoughtless profligate would
allow himself to be guided by a young girl like you?'
'No; I should not wish to guide him; but I think I might have
influence sufficient to save him from some errors, and I should
think my life well spent in the effort to preserve so noble a
nature from destruction. He always listens attentively now when I
speak seriously to him (and I often venture to reprove his random
way of talking), and sometimes he says that if he had me always by
his side he should never do or say a wicked thing, and that a
little daily talk with me would make him quite a saint. It may he
partly jest and partly flattery, but still - '
'But still you think it may be truth?'
'If I do think there is any mixture of truth in it, it is not from
confidence in my own powers, but in his natural goodness. And you
have no right to call him a profligate, aunt; he is nothing of the
'Who told you so, my dear? What was that story about his intrigue
with a married lady - Lady who was it? - Miss Wilmot herself was
telling you the other day?'
'It was false - false!' I cried. 'I don't believe a word of it.'
'You think, then, that he is a virtuous, well-conducted young man?'
'I know nothing positive respecting his character. I only know
that I have heard nothing definite against it - nothing that could
be proved, at least; and till people can prove their slanderous
accusations, I will not believe them. And I know this, that if he
has committed errors, they are only such as are common to youth,
and such as nobody thinks anything about; for I see that everybody
likes him, and all the mammas smile upon him, and their daughters -
and Miss Wilmot herself - are only too glad to attract his
'Helen, the world may look upon such offences as venial; a few
unprincipled mothers may be anxious to catch a young man of fortune
without reference to his character; and thoughtless girls may be
glad to win the smiles of so handsome a gentleman, without seeking
to penetrate beyond the surface; but you, I trusted, were better
informed than to see with their eyes, and judge with their
perverted judgment. I did not think you would call these venial
'Nor do I, aunt; but if I hate the sins, I love the sinner, and
would do much for his salvation, even supposing your suspicions to
be mainly true, which I do not and will not believe.'
'Well, my dear, ask your uncle what sort of company he keeps, and
if he is not banded with a set of loose, profligate young men, whom
he calls his friends, his jolly companions, and whose chief delight
is to wallow in vice, and vie with each other who can run fastest
and furthest down the headlong road to the place prepared for the
devil and his angels.'
'Then I will save him from them.'
'Oh, Helen, Helen! you little know the misery of uniting your
fortunes to such a man!'
'I have such confidence in him, aunt, notwithstanding all you say,
that I would willingly risk my happiness for the chance of securing
his. I will leave better men to those who only consider their own
advantage. If he has done amiss, I shall consider my life well
spent in saving him from the consequences of his early errors, and
striving to recall him to the path of virtue. God grant me
Here the conversation ended, for at this juncture my uncle's voice
was heard from his chamber, loudly calling upon my aunt to come to
bed. He was in a bad humour that night; for his gout was worse.
It had been gradually increasing upon him ever since we came to
town; and my aunt took advantage of the circumstance next morning
to persuade him to return to the country immediately, without
waiting for the close of the season. His physician supported and
enforced her arguments; and contrary to her usual habits, she so
hurried the preparations for removal (as much for my sake as my
uncle's, I think), that in a very few days we departed; and I saw
no more of Mr. Huntingdon. My aunt flatters herself I shall soon
forget him - perhaps she thinks I have forgotten him already, for I
never mention his name; and she may continue to think so, till we
meet again - if ever that should be. I wonder if it will?
August 25th. - I am now quite settled down to my usual routine of
steady occupations and quiet amusements - tolerably contented and
cheerful, but still looking forward to spring with the hope of
returning to town, not for its gaieties and dissipations, but for
the chance of meeting Mr. Huntingdon once again; for still he is
always in my thoughts and in my dreams. In all my employments,
whatever I do, or see, or hear, has an ultimate reference to him;
whatever skill or knowledge I acquire is some day to be turned to
his advantage or amusement; whatever new beauties in nature or art
I discover are to be depicted to meet his eye, or stored in my
memory to be told him at some future period. This, at least, is
the hope that I cherish, the fancy that lights me on my lonely way.
It may be only an ignis fatuus, after all, but it can do no harm to
follow it with my eyes and rejoice in its lustre, as long as it
does not lure me from the path I ought to keep; and I think it will
not, for I have thought deeply on my aunt's advice, and I see
clearly, now, the folly of throwing myself away on one that is
unworthy of all the love I have to give, and incapable of
responding to the best and deepest feelings of my inmost heart - so
clearly, that even if I should see him again, and if he should
remember me and love me still (which, alas! is too little probable,
considering how he is situated, and by whom surrounded), and if he
should ask me to marry him - I am determined not to consent until I
know for certain whether my aunt's opinion of him or mine is
nearest the truth; for if mine is altogether wrong, it is not he
that I love; it is a creature of my own imagination. But I think
it is not wrong - no, no - there is a secret something - an inward
instinct that assures me I am right. There is essential goodness
in him; - and what delight to unfold it! If he has wandered, what
bliss to recall him! If he is now exposed to the baneful influence
of corrupting and wicked companions, what glory to deliver him from
them! Oh! if I could but believe that Heaven has designed me for
* * * * *
To-day is the first of September; but my uncle has ordered the
gamekeeper to spare the partridges till the gentlemen come. 'What
gentlemen?' I asked when I heard it. A small party he had invited
to shoot. His friend Mr. Wilmot was one, and my aunt's friend, Mr.
Boarham, another. This struck me as terrible news at the moment;
but all regret and apprehension vanished like a dream when I heard
that Mr. Huntingdon was actually to be a third! My aunt is greatly
against his coming, of course: she earnestly endeavoured to
dissuade my uncle from asking him; but he, laughing at her
objections, told her it was no use talking, for the mischief was
already done: he had invited Huntingdon and his friend Lord
Lowborough before we left London, and nothing now remained but to
fix the day for their coming. So he is safe, and I am sure of
seeing him. I cannot express my joy. I find it very difficult to
conceal it from my aunt; but I don't wish to trouble her with my
feelings till I know whether I ought to indulge them or not. If I
find it my absolute duty to suppress them, they shall trouble no
one but myself; and if I can really feel myself justified in
indulging this attachment, I can dare anything, even the anger and
grief of my best friend, for its object - surely, I shall soon
know. But they are not coming till about the middle of the month.
We are to have two lady visitors also: Mr. Wilmot is to bring his
niece and her cousin Milicent. I suppose my aunt thinks the latter
will benefit me by her society, and the salutary example of her
gentle deportment and lowly and tractable spirit; and the former I
suspect she intends as a species of counter-attraction to win Mr.
Huntingdon's attention from me. I don't thank her for this; but I
shall be glad of Milicent's company: she is a sweet, good girl,
and I wish I were like her - more like her, at least, than I am.
* * * * *
19th. - They are come. They came the day before yesterday. The
gentlemen are all gone out to shoot, and the ladies are with my
aunt, at work in the drawing-room. I have retired to the library,
for I am very unhappy, and I want to be alone. Books cannot divert
me; so having opened my desk, I will try what may be done by
detailing the cause of my uneasiness. This paper will serve
instead of a confidential friend into whose ear I might pour forth
the overflowings of my heart. It will not sympathise with my
distresses, but then it will not laugh at them, and, if I keep it
close, it cannot tell again; so it is, perhaps, the best friend I
could have for the purpose.
First, let me speak of his arrival - how I sat at my window, and
watched for nearly two hours, before his carriage entered the park-
gates - for they all came before him, - and how deeply I was
disappointed at every arrival, because it was not his. First came
Mr. Wilmot and the ladies. When Milicent had got into her room, I
quitted my post a few minutes to look in upon her and have a little
private conversation, for she was now my intimate friend, several
long epistles having passed between us since our parting. On
returning to my window, I beheld another carriage at the door. Was
it his? No; it was Mr. Boarham's plain dark chariot; and there
stood he upon the steps, carefully superintending the dislodging of
his various boxes and packages. What a collection! One would have
thought he projected a visit of six months at least. A
considerable time after, came Lord Lowborough in his barouche. Is
he one of the profligate friends, I wonder? I should think not;
for no one could call him a jolly companion, I'm sure, - and,
besides, he appears too sober and gentlemanly in his demeanour to
merit such suspicions. He is a tall, thin, gloomy-looking man,
apparently between thirty and forty, and of a somewhat sickly,
At last, Mr. Huntingdon's light phaeton came bowling merrily up the
lawn. I had but a transient glimpse of him: for the moment it
stopped, he sprang out over the side on to the portico steps, and
disappeared into the house.
I now submitted to be dressed for dinner - a duty which Rachel had
been urging upon me for the last twenty minutes; and when that
important business was completed, I repaired to the drawing-room,
where I found Mr. and Miss Wilmot and Milicent Hargrave already
assembled. Shortly after, Lord Lowborough entered, and then Mr.
Boarham, who seemed quite willing to forget and forgive my former
conduct, and to hope that a little conciliation and steady
perseverance on his part might yet succeed in bringing me to
reason. While I stood at the window, conversing with Milicent, he
came up to me, and was beginning to talk in nearly his usual
strain, when Mr. Huntingdon entered the room.
'How will he greet me, I wonder?' said my bounding heart; and,
instead of advancing to meet him, I turned to the window to hide or
subdue my emotion. But having saluted his host and hostess, and
the rest of the company, he came to me, ardently squeezed my hand,
and murmured he was glad to see me once again. At that moment
dinner was announced: my aunt desired him to take Miss Hargrave
into the dining-room, and odious Mr. Wilmot, with unspeakable
grimaces, offered his arm to me; and I was condemned to sit between
himself and Mr. Boarham. But afterwards, when we were all again
assembled in the drawing-room, I was indemnified for so much
suffering by a few delightful minutes of conversation with Mr.
In the course of the evening, Miss Wilmot was called upon to sing
and play for the amusement of the company, and I to exhibit my
drawings, and, though he likes music, and she is an accomplished
musician, I think I am right in affirming, that he paid more
attention to my drawings than to her music.
So far so good; - but hearing him pronounce, sotto voce, but with
peculiar emphasis, concerning one of the pieces, 'This is better
than all!' - I looked up, curious to see which it was, and, to my
horror, beheld him complacently gazing at the back of the picture:-
it was his own face that I had sketched there and forgotten to rub
out! To make matters worse, in the agony of the moment, I
attempted to snatch it from his hand; but he prevented me, and
exclaiming, 'No - by George, I'll keep it!' placed it against his
waistcoat and buttoned his coat upon it with a delighted chuckle.