Part 4 out of 10
Then, drawing a candle close to his elbow, he gathered all the
drawings to himself, as well what he had seen as the others, and
muttering, 'I must look at both sides now,' he eagerly commenced an
examination, which I watched, at first, with tolerable composure,
in the confidence that his vanity would not be gratified by any
further discoveries; for, though I must plead guilty to having
disfigured the backs of several with abortive attempts to delineate
that too fascinating physiognomy, I was sure that, with that one
unfortunate exception, I had carefully obliterated all such
witnesses of my infatuation. But the pencil frequently leaves an
impression upon cardboard that no amount of rubbing can efface.
Such, it seems, was the case with most of these; and, I confess, I
trembled when I saw him holding them so close to the candle, and
poring so intently over the seeming blanks; but still, I trusted,
he would not be able to make out these dim traces to his own
satisfaction. I was mistaken, however. Having ended his scrutiny,
he quietly remarked, - 'I perceive the backs of young ladies'
drawings, like the postscripts of their letters, are the most
important and interesting part of the concern.'
Then, leaning back in his chair, he reflected a few minutes in
silence, complacently smiling to himself, and while I was
concocting some cutting speech wherewith to check his
gratification, he rose, and passing over to where Annabella Wilmot
sat vehemently coquetting with Lord Lowborough, seated himself on
the sofa beside her, and attached himself to her for the rest of
'So then,' thought I, 'he despises me, because he knows I love
And the reflection made me so miserable I knew not what to do.
Milicent came and began to admire my drawings, and make remarks
upon them; but I could not talk to her - I could talk to no one,
and, upon the introduction of tea, I took advantage of the open
door and the slight diversion caused by its entrance to slip out -
for I was sure I could not take any - and take refuge in the
library. My aunt sent Thomas in quest of me, to ask if I were not
coming to tea; but I bade him say I should not take any to-night,
and, happily, she was too much occupied with her guests to make any
further inquiries at the time.
As most of the company had travelled far that day, they retired
early to rest; and having heard them all, as I thought, go up-
stairs, I ventured out, to get my candlestick from the drawing-room
sideboard. But Mr. Huntingdon had lingered behind the rest. He
was just at the foot of the stairs when I opened the door, and
hearing my step in the hall - though I could hardly hear it myself
- he instantly turned back.
'Helen, is that you?' said he. 'Why did you run away from us?'
'Good-night, Mr. Huntingdon,' said I, coldly, not choosing to
answer the question. And I turned away to enter the drawing-room.
'But you'll shake hands, won't you?' said he, placing himself in
the doorway before me. And he seized my hand and held it, much
against my will.
'Let me go, Mr. Huntingdon,' said I. 'I want to get a candle.'
'The candle will keep,' returned he.
I made a desperate effort to free my hand from his grasp.
'Why are you in such a hurry to leave me, Helen?' he said, with a
smile of the most provoking self-sufficiency. 'You don't hate me,
'Yes, I do - at this moment.'
'Not you. It is Annabella Wilmot you hate, not me.'
'I have nothing to do with Annabella Wilmot,' said I, burning with
'But I have, you know,' returned he, with peculiar emphasis.
'That is nothing to me, sir,' I retorted.
'Is it nothing to you, Helen? Will you swear it? Will you?'
'No I won't, Mr. Huntingdon! and I will go,' cried I, not knowing
whether to laugh, or to cry, or to break out into a tempest of
'Go, then, you vixen!' he said; but the instant he released my hand
he had the audacity to put his arm round my neck, and kiss me.
Trembling with anger and agitation, and I don't know what besides,
I broke away, and got my candle, and rushed up-stairs to my room.
He would not have done so but for that hateful picture. And there
he had it still in his possession, an eternal monument to his pride
and my humiliation.
It was but little sleep I got that night, and in the morning I rose
perplexed and troubled with the thoughts of meeting him at
breakfast. I knew not how it was to be done. An assumption of
dignified, cold indifference would hardly do, after what he knew of
my devotion - to his face, at least. Yet something must be done to
check his presumption - I would not submit to be tyrannised over by
those bright, laughing eyes. And, accordingly, I received his
cheerful morning salutation as calmly and coldly as my aunt could
have wished, and defeated with brief answers his one or two
attempts to draw me into conversation, while I comported myself
with unusual cheerfulness and complaisance towards every other
member of the party, especially Annabella Wilmot, and even her
uncle and Mr. Boarham were treated with an extra amount of civility
on the occasion, not from any motives of coquetry, but just to show
him that my particular coolness and reserve arose from no general
ill-humour or depression of spirits.
He was not, however, to be repelled by such acting as this. He did
not talk much to me, but when he did speak it was with a degree of
freedom and openness, and kindliness too, that plainly seemed to
intimate he knew his words were music to my ears; and when his
looks met mine it was with a smile - presumptuous, it might be -
but oh! so sweet, so bright, so genial, that I could not possibly
retain my anger; every vestige of displeasure soon melted away
beneath it like morning clouds before the summer sun.
Soon after breakfast all the gentlemen save one, with boyish
eagerness, set out on their expedition against the hapless
partridges; my uncle and Mr. Wilmot on their shooting ponies, Mr.
Huntingdon and Lord Lowborough on their legs: the one exception
being Mr. Boarham, who, in consideration of the rain that had
fallen during the night, thought it prudent to remain behind a
little and join them in a while when the sun had dried the grass.
And he favoured us all with a long and minute disquisition upon the
evils and dangers attendant upon damp feet, delivered with the most
imperturbable gravity, amid the jeers and laughter of Mr.
Huntingdon and my uncle, who, leaving the prudent sportsman to
entertain the ladies with his medical discussions, sallied forth
with their guns, bending their steps to the stables first, to have
a look at the horses and let out the dogs.
Not desirous of sharing Mr. Boarham's company for the whole of the
morning, I betook myself to the library, and there brought forth my
easel and began to paint. The easel and the painting apparatus
would serve as an excuse for abandoning the drawing-room if my aunt
should come to complain of the desertion, and besides I wanted to
finish the picture. It was one I had taken great pains with, and I
intended it to be my masterpiece, though it was somewhat
presumptuous in the design. By the bright azure of the sky, and by
the warm and brilliant lights and deep long shadows, I had
endeavoured to convey the idea of a sunny morning. I had ventured
to give more of the bright verdure of spring or early summer to the
grass and foliage than is commonly attempted in painting. The
scene represented was an open glade in a wood. A group of dark
Scotch firs was introduced in the middle distance to relieve the
prevailing freshness of the rest; but in the foreground was part of
the gnarled trunk and of the spreading boughs of a large forest-
tree, whose foliage was of a brilliant golden green - not golden
from autumnal mellowness, but from the sunshine and the very
immaturity of the scarce expanded leaves. Upon this bough, that
stood out in bold relief against the sombre firs, were seated an
amorous pair of turtle doves, whose soft sad-coloured plumage
afforded a contrast of another nature; and beneath it a young girl
was kneeling on the daisy-spangled turf, with head thrown back and
masses of fair hair falling on her shoulders, her hands clasped,
lips parted, and eyes intently gazing upward in pleased yet earnest
contemplation of those feathered lovers - too deeply absorbed in
each other to notice her.
I had scarcely settled to my work, which, however, wanted but a few
touches to the finishing, when the sportsmen passed the window on
their return from the stables. It was partly open, and Mr.
Huntingdon must have seen me as he went by, for in half a minute he
came back, and setting his gun against the wall, threw up the sash
and sprang in, and set himself before my picture.
'Very pretty, i'faith,' said he, after attentively regarding it for
a few seconds; 'and a very fitting study for a young lady. Spring
just opening into summer - morning just approaching noon - girlhood
just ripening into womanhood, and hope just verging on fruition.
She's a sweet creature! but why didn't you make her black hair?'
'I thought light hair would suit her better. You see I have made
her blue-eyed and plump, and fair and rosy.'
'Upon my word - a very Hebe! I should fall in love with her if I
hadn't the artist before me. Sweet innocent! she's thinking there
will come a time when she will be wooed and won like that pretty
hen-dove by as fond and fervent a lover; and she's thinking how
pleasant it will be, and how tender and faithful he will find her.'
'And perhaps,' suggested I, 'how tender and faithful she shall find
'Perhaps, for there is no limit to the wild extravagance of Hope's
imaginings at such an age.'
'Do you call that, then, one of her wild, extravagant delusions?'
'No; my heart tells me it is not. I might have thought so once,
but now, I say, give me the girl I love, and I will swear eternal
constancy to her and her alone, through summer and winter, through
youth and age, and life and death! if age and death must come.'
He spoke this in such serious earnest that my heart bounded with
delight; but the minute after he changed his tone, and asked, with
a significant smile, if I had 'any more portraits.'
'No,' replied I, reddening with confusion and wrath.
But my portfolio was on the table: he took it up, and coolly sat
down to examine its contents.
'Mr. Huntingdon, those are my unfinished sketches,' cried I, 'and I
never let any one see them.'
And I placed my hand on the portfolio to wrest it from him, but he
maintained his hold, assuring me that he 'liked unfinished sketches
of all things.'
'But I hate them to be seen,' returned I. 'I can't let you have
'Let me have its bowels then,' said he; and just as I wrenched the
portfolio from his hand, he deftly abstracted the greater part of
its contents, and after turning them over a moment he cried out, -
'Bless my stars, here's another;' and slipped a small oval of ivory
paper into his waistcoat pocket - a complete miniature portrait
that I had sketched with such tolerable success as to be induced to
colour it with great pains and care. But I was determined he
should not keep it.
'Mr. Huntingdon,' cried I, 'I insist upon having that back! It is
mine, and you have no right to take it. Give it me directly - I'll
never forgive you if you don't!'
But the more vehemently I insisted, the more he aggravated my
distress by his insulting, gleeful laugh. At length, however, he
restored it to me, saying, - 'Well, well, since you value it so
much, I'll not deprive you of it.'
To show him how I valued it, I tore it in two and threw it into the
fire. He was not prepared for this. His merriment suddenly
ceasing, he stared in mute amazement at the consuming treasure; and
then, with a careless 'Humph! I'll go and shoot now,' he turned on
his heel and vacated the apartment by the window as he came, and
setting on his hat with an air, took up his gun and walked away,
whistling as he went - and leaving me not too much agitated to
finish my picture, for I was glad, at the moment, that I had vexed
When I returned to the drawing-room, I found Mr. Boarham had
ventured to follow his comrades to the field; and shortly after
lunch, to which they did not think of returning, I volunteered to
accompany the ladies in a walk, and show Annabella and Milicent the
beauties of the country. We took a long ramble, and re-entered the
park just as the sportsmen were returning from their expedition.
Toil-spent and travel-stained, the main body of them crossed over
the grass to avoid us, but Mr. Huntingdon, all spattered and
splashed as he was, and stained with the blood of his prey - to the
no small offence of my aunt's strict sense of propriety - came out
of his way to meet us, with cheerful smiles and words for all but
me, and placing himself between Annabella Wilmot and myself, walked
up the road and began to relate the various exploits and disasters
of the day, in a manner that would have convulsed me with laughter
if I had been on good terms with him; but he addressed himself
entirely to Annabella, and I, of course, left all the laughter and
all the badinage to her, and affecting the utmost indifference to
whatever passed between them, walked along a few paces apart, and
looking every way but theirs, while my aunt and Milicent went
before, linked arm in arm and gravely discoursing together. At
length Mr. Huntingdon turned to me, and addressing me in a
confidential whisper, said, - 'Helen, why did you burn my picture?'
'Because I wished to destroy it,' I answered, with an asperity it
is useless now to lament.
'Oh, very good!' was the reply; 'if you don't value me, I must turn
to somebody that will.'
I thought it was partly in jest - a half-playful mixture of mock
resignation and pretended indifference: but immediately he resumed
his place beside Miss Wilmot, and from that hour to this - during
all that evening, and all the next day, and the next, and the next,
and all this morning (the 22nd), he has never given me one kind
word or one pleasant look - never spoken to me, but from pure
necessity - never glanced towards me but with a cold, unfriendly
look I thought him quite incapable of assuming.
My aunt observes the change, and though she has not inquired the
cause or made any remark to me on the subject, I see it gives her
pleasure. Miss Wilmot observes it, too, and triumphantly ascribes
it to her own superior charms and blandishments; but I am truly
miserable - more so than I like to acknowledge to myself. Pride
refuses to aid me. It has brought me into the scrape, and will not
help me out of it.
He meant no harm - it was only his joyous, playful spirit; and I,
by my acrimonious resentment - so serious, so disproportioned to
the offence - have so wounded his feelings, so deeply offended him,
that I fear he will never forgive me - and all for a mere jest! He
thinks I dislike him, and he must continue to think so. I must
lose him for ever, and Annabella may win him, and triumph as she
But it is not my loss nor her triumph that I deplore so greatly as
the wreck of my fond hopes for his advantage, and her unworthiness
of his affection, and the injury he will do himself by trusting his
happiness to her. She does not love him: she thinks only of
herself. She cannot appreciate the good that is in him: she will
neither see it, nor value it, nor cherish it. She will neither
deplore his faults nor attempt their amendment, but rather
aggravate them by her own. And I doubt whether she will not
deceive him after all. I see she is playing double between him and
Lord Lowborough, and while she amuses herself with the lively
Huntingdon, she tries her utmost to enslave his moody friend; and
should she succeed in bringing both to her feet, the fascinating
commoner will have but little chance against the lordly peer. If
he observes her artful by-play, it gives him no uneasiness, but
rather adds new zest to his diversion by opposing a stimulating
check to his otherwise too easy conquest.
Messrs. Wilmot and Boarham have severally taken occasion by his
neglect of me to renew their advances; and if I were like Annabella
and some others I should take advantage of their perseverance to
endeavour to pique him into a revival of affection; but, justice
and honesty apart, I could not bear to do it. I am annoyed enough
by their present persecutions without encouraging them further; and
even if I did it would have precious little effect upon him. He
sees me suffering under the condescending attentions and prosaic
discourses of the one, and the repulsive obtrusions of the other,
without so much as a shadow of commiseration for me, or resentment
against my tormentors. He never could have loved me, or he would
not have resigned me so willingly, and he would not go on talking
to everybody else so cheerfully as he does - laughing and jesting
with Lord Lowborough and my uncle, teasing Milicent Hargrave, and
flirting with Annabella Wilmot - as if nothing were on his mind.
Oh! why can't I hate him? I must be infatuated, or I should scorn
to regret him as I do. But I must rally all the powers I have
remaining, and try to tear him from my heart. There goes the
dinner-bell, and here comes my aunt to scold me for sitting here at
my desk all day, instead of staying with the company: wish the
company were - gone.
Twenty Second: Night. - What have I done? and what will be the end
of it? I cannot calmly reflect upon it; I cannot sleep. I must
have recourse to my diary again; I will commit it to paper to-
night, and see what I shall think of it to-morrow.
I went down to dinner resolving to be cheerful and well-conducted,
and kept my resolution very creditably, considering how my head
ached and how internally wretched I felt. I don't know what is
come over me of late; my very energies, both mental and physical,
must be strangely impaired, or I should not have acted so weakly in
many respects as I have done; but I have not been well this last
day or two. I suppose it is with sleeping and eating so little,
and thinking so much, and being so continually out of humour. But
to return. I was exerting myself to sing and play for the
amusement, and at the request, of my aunt and Milicent, before the
gentlemen came into the drawing-room (Miss Wilmot never likes to
waste her musical efforts on ladies' ears alone). Milicent had
asked for a little Scotch song, and I was just in the middle of it
when they entered. The first thing Mr. Huntingdon did was to walk
up to Annabella.
'Now, Miss Wilmot, won't you give us some music to-night?' said he.
'Do now! I know you will, when I tell you that I have been
hungering and thirsting all day for the sound of your voice. Come!
the piano's vacant.'
It was, for I had quitted it immediately upon hearing his petition.
Had I been endowed with a proper degree of self-possession, I
should have turned to the lady myself, and cheerfully joined my
entreaties to his, whereby I should have disappointed his
expectations, if the affront had been purposely given, or made him
sensible of the wrong, if it had only arisen from thoughtlessness;
but I felt it too deeply to do anything but rise from the music-
stool, and throw myself back on the sofa, suppressing with
difficulty the audible expression of the bitterness I felt within.
I knew Annabella's musical talents were superior to mine, but that
was no reason why I should be treated as a perfect nonentity. The
time and the manner of his asking her appeared like a gratuitous
insult to me; and I could have wept with pure vexation.
Meantime, she exultingly seated herself at the piano, and favoured
him with two of his favourite songs, in such superior style that
even I soon lost my anger in admiration, and listened with a sort
of gloomy pleasure to the skilful modulations of her full-toned and
powerful voice, so judiciously aided by her rounded and spirited
touch; and while my ears drank in the sound, my eyes rested on the
face of her principal auditor, and derived an equal or superior
delight from the contemplation of his speaking countenance, as he
stood beside her - that eye and brow lighted up with keen
enthusiasm, and that sweet smile passing and appearing like gleams
of sunshine on an April day. No wonder he should hunger and thirst
to hear her sing. I now forgave him from my heart his reckless
slight of me, and I felt ashamed at my pettish resentment of such a
trifle - ashamed too of those bitter envious pangs that gnawed my
inmost heart, in spite of all this admiration and delight.
'There now,' said she, playfully running her fingers over the keys
when she had concluded the second song. 'What shall I give you
But in saying this she looked back at Lord Lowborough, who was
standing a little behind, leaning against the back of a chair, an
attentive listener, too, experiencing, to judge by his countenance,
much the same feelings of mingled pleasure and sadness as I did.
But the look she gave him plainly said, 'Do you choose for me now:
I have done enough for him, and will gladly exert myself to gratify
you;' and thus encouraged, his lordship came forward, and turning
over the music, presently set before her a little song that I had
noticed before, and read more than once, with an interest arising
from the circumstance of my connecting it in my mind with the
reigning tyrant of my thoughts. And now, with my nerves already
excited and half unstrung, I could not hear those words so sweetly
warbled forth without some symptoms of emotion I was not able to
suppress. Tears rose unbidden to my eyes, and I buried my face in
the sofa-pillow that they might flow unseen while I listened. The
air was simple, sweet, and sad. It is still running in my head,
and so are the words:-
Farewell to thee! but not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of thee:
Within my heart they still shall dwell;
And they shall cheer and comfort me.
O beautiful, and full of grace!
If thou hadst never met mine eye,
I had not dreamed a living face
Could fancied charms so far outvie.
If I may ne'er behold again
That form and face so dear to me,
Nor hear thy voice, still would I fain
Preserve, for aye, their memory.
That voice, the magic of whose tone
Can wake an echo in my breast,
Creating feelings that, alone,
Can make my tranced spirit blest.
That laughing eye, whose sunny beam
My memory would not cherish less; -
And oh, that smile! I whose joyous gleam
No mortal languish can express.
Adieu! but let me cherish, still,
The hope with which I cannot part.
Contempt may wound, and coldness chill,
But still it lingers in my heart.
And who can tell but Heaven, at last,
May answer all my thousand prayers,
And bid the future pay the past
With joy for anguish, smiles for tears.
When it ceased, I longed for nothing so much as to be out of the
room. The sofa was not far from the door, but I did not dare to
raise my head, for I knew Mr. Huntingdon was standing near me, and
I knew by the sound of his voice, as he spoke in answer to some
remark of Lord Lowborough's, that his face was turned towards me.
Perhaps a half-suppressed sob had caught his ear, and caused him to
look round - heaven forbid! But with a violent effort, I checked
all further signs of weakness, dried my tears, and, when I thought
he had turned away again, rose, and instantly left the apartment,
taking refuge in my favourite resort, the library.
There was no light there but the faint red glow of the neglected
fire; - but I did not want a light; I only wanted to indulge my
thoughts, unnoticed and undisturbed; and sitting down on a low
stool before the easy-chair, I sunk my head upon its cushioned
seat, and thought, and thought, until the tears gushed out again,
and I wept like any child. Presently, however, the door was gently
opened and someone entered the room. I trusted it was only a
servant, and did not stir. The door was closed again - but I was
not alone; a hand gently touched my shoulder, and a voice said,
softly, - 'Helen, what is the matter?'
I could not answer at the moment.
'You must, and shall tell me,' was added, more vehemently, and the
speaker threw himself on his knees beside me on the rug, and
forcibly possessed himself of my hand; but I hastily caught it
away, and replied, - 'It is nothing to you, Mr. Huntingdon.'
'Are you sure it is nothing to me?' he returned; 'can you swear
that you were not thinking of me while you wept?' This was
unendurable. I made an effort to rise, but he was kneeling on my
'Tell me,' continued he - 'I want to know, - because if you were, I
have something to say to you, - and if not, I'll go.'
'Go then!' I cried; but, fearing he would obey too well, and never
come again, I hastily added - 'Or say what you have to say, and
have done with it!'
'But which?' said he - 'for I shall only say it if you really were
thinking of me. So tell me, Helen.'
'You're excessively impertinent, Mr. Huntingdon!'
'Not at all - too pertinent, you mean. So you won't tell me? -
Well, I'll spare your woman's pride, and, construing your silence
into "Yes," I'll take it for granted that I was the subject of your
thoughts, and the cause of your affliction - '
'Indeed, sir - '
'If you deny it, I won't tell you my secret,' threatened he; and I
did not interrupt him again, or even attempt to repulse him:
though he had taken my hand once more, and half embraced me with
his other arm, I was scarcely conscious of it at the time.
'It is this,' resumed he: 'that Annabella Wilmot, in comparison
with you, is like a flaunting peony compared with a sweet, wild
rosebud gemmed with dew - and I love you to distraction! - Now,
tell me if that intelligence gives you any pleasure. Silence
again? That means yes. Then let me add, that I cannot live
without you, and if you answer No to this last question, you will
drive me mad. - Will you bestow yourself upon me? - you will!' he
cried, nearly squeezing me to death in his arms.
'No, no!' I exclaimed, struggling to free myself from him - 'you
must ask my uncle and aunt.'
'They won't refuse me, if you don't.'
'I'm not so sure of that - my aunt dislikes you.'
'But you don't, Helen - say you love me, and I'll go.'
'I wish you would go!' I replied.
'I will, this instant, - if you'll only say you love me.'
'You know I do,' I answered. And again he caught me in his arms,
and smothered me with kisses.
At that moment my aunt opened wide the door, and stood before us,
candle in hand, in shocked and horrified amazement, gazing
alternately at Mr. Huntingdon and me - for we had both started up,
and now stood wide enough asunder. But his confusion was only for
a moment. Rallying in an instant, with the most enviable
assurance, he began, - 'I beg ten thousand pardons, Mrs. Maxwell!
Don't be too severe upon me. I've been asking your sweet niece to
take me for better, for worse; and she, like a good girl, informs
me she cannot think of it without her uncle's and aunt's consent.
So let me implore you not to condemn me to eternal wretchedness:
if you favour my cause, I am safe; for Mr. Maxwell, I am certain,
can refuse you nothing.'
'We will talk of this to-morrow, sir,' said my aunt, coldly. 'It
is a subject that demands mature and serious deliberation. At
present, you had better return to the drawing-room.'
'But meantime,' pleaded he, 'let me commend my cause to your most
indulgent - '
'No indulgence for you, Mr. Huntingdon, must come between me and
the consideration of my niece's happiness.'
'Ah, true! I know she is an angel, and I am a presumptuous dog to
dream of possessing such a treasure; but, nevertheless, I would
sooner die than relinquish her in favour of the best man that ever
went to heaven - and as for her happiness, I would sacrifice my
body and soul - '
'Body and soul, Mr. Huntingdon - sacrifice your soul?'
'Well, I would lay down life - '
'You would not be required to lay it down.'
'I would spend it, then - devote my life - and all its powers to
the promotion and preservation - '
'Another time, sir, we will talk of this - and I should have felt
disposed to judge more favourably of your pretensions, if you too
had chosen another time and place, and let me add - another manner
for your declaration.'
'Why, you see, Mrs. Maxwell,' he began -
'Pardon me, sir,' said she, with dignity - 'The company are
inquiring for you in the other room.' And she turned to me.
'Then you must plead for me, Helen,' said he, and at length
'You had better retire to your room, Helen,' said my aunt, gravely.
'I will discuss this matter with you, too, to-morrow.'
'Don't be angry, aunt,' said I.
'My dear, I am not angry,' she replied: 'I am surprised. If it is
true that you told him you could not accept his offer without our
consent - '
'It is true,' interrupted I.
'Then how could you permit -?'
'I couldn't help it, aunt,' I cried, bursting into tears. They
were not altogether the tears of sorrow, or of fear for her
displeasure, but rather the outbreak of the general tumultuous
excitement of my feelings. But my good aunt was touched at my
agitation. In a softer tone, she repeated her recommendation to
retire, and, gently kissing my forehead, bade me good-night, and
put her candle in my hand; and I went; but my brain worked so, I
could not think of sleeping. I feel calmer now that I have written
all this; and I will go to bed, and try to win tired nature's sweet
September 24th. - In the morning I rose, light and cheerful - nay,
intensely happy. The hovering cloud cast over me by my aunt's
views, and by the fear of not obtaining her consent, was lost in
the bright effulgence of my own hopes, and the too delightful
consciousness of requited love. It was a splendid morning; and I
went out to enjoy it, in a quiet ramble, in company with my own
blissful thoughts. The dew was on the grass, and ten thousand
gossamers were waving in the breeze; the happy red-breast was
pouring out its little soul in song, and my heart overflowed with
silent hymns of gratitude and praise to heaven.
But I had not wandered far before my solitude was interrupted by
the only person that could have disturbed my musings, at that
moment, without being looked upon as an unwelcome intruder: Mr.
Huntingdon came suddenly upon me. So unexpected was the
apparition, that I might have thought it the creation of an over-
excited imagination, had the sense of sight alone borne witness to
his presence; but immediately I felt his strong arm round my waist
and his warm kiss on my cheek, while his keen and gleeful
salutation, 'My own Helen!' was ringing in my ear.
'Not yours yet!' said I, hastily swerving aside from this too
presumptuous greeting. 'Remember my guardians. You will not
easily obtain my aunt's consent. Don't you see she is prejudiced
'I do, dearest; and you must tell me why, that I may best know how
to combat her objections. I suppose she thinks I am a prodigal,'
pursued he, observing that I was unwilling to reply, 'and concludes
that I shall have but little worldly goods wherewith to endow my
better half? If so, you must tell her that my property is mostly
entailed, and I cannot get rid of it. There may be a few mortgages
on the rest - a few trifling debts and incumbrances here and there,
but nothing to speak of; and though I acknowledge I am not so rich
as I might be - or have been - still, I think, we could manage
pretty comfortably on what's left. My father, you know, was
something of a miser, and in his latter days especially saw no
pleasure in life but to amass riches; and so it is no wonder that
his son should make it his chief delight to spend them, which was
accordingly the case, until my acquaintance with you, dear Helen,
taught me other views and nobler aims. And the very idea of having
you to care for under my roof would force me to moderate my
expenses and live like a Christian - not to speak of all the
prudence and virtue you would instil into my mind by your wise
counsels and sweet, attractive goodness.'
'But it is not that,' said I; 'it is not money my aunt thinks
about. She knows better than to value worldly wealth above its
'What is it, then?'
'She wishes me to - to marry none but a really good man.'
'What, a man of "decided piety"? - ahem! - Well, come, I'll manage
that too! It's Sunday to-day, isn't it? I'll go to church
morning, afternoon, and evening, and comport myself in such a godly
sort that she shall regard me with admiration and sisterly love, as
a brand plucked from the burning. I'll come home sighing like a
furnace, and full of the savour and unction of dear Mr. Blatant's
discourse - '
'Mr. Leighton,' said I, dryly.
'Is Mr. Leighton a "sweet preacher," Helen - a "dear, delightful,
'He is a good man, Mr. Huntingdon. I wish I could say half as much
'Oh, I forgot, you are a saint, too. I crave your pardon, dearest
- but don't call me Mr. Huntingdon; my name is Arthur.'
'I'll call you nothing - for I'll have nothing at all to do with
you if you talk in that way any more. If you really mean to
deceive my aunt as you say, you are very wicked; and if not, you
are very wrong to jest on such a subject.'
'I stand corrected,' said he, concluding his laugh with a sorrowful
sigh. 'Now,' resumed he, after a momentary pause, 'let us talk
about something else. And come nearer to me, Helen, and take my
arm; and then I'll let you alone. I can't be quiet while I see you
I complied; but said we must soon return to the house.
'No one will be down to breakfast yet, for long enough,' he
answered. 'You spoke of your guardians just now, Helen, but is not
your father still living?'
'Yes, but I always look upon my uncle and aunt as my guardians, for
they are so in deed, though not in name. My father has entirely
given me up to their care. I have never seen him since dear mamma
died, when I was a very little girl, and my aunt, at her request,
offered to take charge of me, and took me away to Staningley, where
I have remained ever since; and I don't think he would object to
anything for me that she thought proper to sanction.'
'But would he sanction anything to which she thought proper to
'No, I don't think he cares enough about me.'
'He is very much to blame - but he doesn't know what an angel he
has for his daughter - which is all the better for me, as, if he
did, he would not be willing to part with such a treasure.'
'And Mr. Huntingdon,' said I, 'I suppose you know I am not an
He protested he had never given it a thought, and begged I would
not disturb his present enjoyment by the mention of such
uninteresting subjects. I was glad of this proof of disinterested
affection; for Annabella Wilmot is the probable heiress to all her
uncle's wealth, in addition to her late father's property, which
she has already in possession.
I now insisted upon retracing our steps to the house; but we walked
slowly, and went on talking as we proceeded. I need not repeat all
we said: let me rather refer to what passed between my aunt and
me, after breakfast, when Mr. Huntingdon called my uncle aside, no
doubt to make his proposals, and she beckoned me into another room,
where she once more commenced a solemn remonstrance, which,
however, entirely failed to convince me that her view of the case
was preferable to my own.
'You judge him uncharitably, aunt, I know,' said I. 'His very
friends are not half so bad as you represent them. There is Walter
Hargrave, Milicent's brother, for one: he is but a little lower
than the angels, if half she says of him is true. She is
continually talking to me about him, and lauding his many virtues
to the skies.'
'You will form a very inadequate estimate of a man's character,'
replied she, 'if you judge by what a fond sister says of him. The
worst of them generally know how to hide their misdeeds from their
sisters' eyes, and their mother's, too.'
'And there is Lord Lowborough,' continued I, 'quite a decent man.'
'Who told you so? Lord Lowborough is a desperate man. He has
dissipated his fortune in gambling and other things, and is now
seeking an heiress to retrieve it. I told Miss Wilmot so; but
you're all alike: she haughtily answered she was very much obliged
to me, but she believed she knew when a man was seeking her for her
fortune, and when for herself; she flattered herself she had had
experience enough in those matters to be justified in trusting to
her own judgment - and as for his lordship's lack of fortune, she
cared nothing about that, as she hoped her own would suffice for
both; and as for his wildness, she supposed he was no worse than
others - besides, he was reformed now. Yes, they can all play the
hypocrite when they want to take in a fond, misguided woman!'
'Well, I think he's about as good as she is,' said I. 'But when
Mr. Huntingdon is married, he won't have many opportunities of
consorting with his bachelor friends; - and the worse they are, the
more I long to deliver him from them.'
'To be sure, my dear; and the worse he is, I suppose, the more you
long to deliver him from himself.'
'Yes, provided he is not incorrigible - that is, the more I long to
deliver him from his faults - to give him an opportunity of shaking
off the adventitious evil got from contact with others worse than
himself, and shining out in the unclouded light of his own genuine
goodness - to do my utmost to help his better self against his
worse, and make him what he would have been if he had not, from the
beginning, had a bad, selfish, miserly father, who, to gratify his
own sordid passions, restricted him in the most innocent enjoyments
of childhood and youth, and so disgusted him with every kind of
restraint; - and a foolish mother who indulged him to the top of
his bent, deceiving her husband for him, and doing her utmost to
encourage those germs of folly and vice it was her duty to
suppress, - and then, such a set of companions as you represent his
friends to be - '
'Poor man!' said she, sarcastically, 'his kind have greatly wronged
'They have!' cried I - 'and they shall wrong him no more - his wife
shall undo what his mother did!'
'Well,' said she, after a short pause, 'I must say, Helen, I
thought better of your judgment than this - and your taste too.
How you can love such a man I cannot tell, or what pleasure you can
find in his company; for "what fellowship hath light with darkness;
or he that believeth with an infidel?"'
'He is not an infidel; - and I am not light, and he is not
darkness; his worst and only vice is thoughtlessness.'
'And thoughtlessness,' pursued my aunt, 'may lead to every crime,
and will but poorly excuse our errors in the sight of God. Mr.
Huntingdon, I suppose, is not without the common faculties of men:
he is not so light-headed as to be irresponsible: his Maker has
endowed him with reason and conscience as well as the rest of us;
the Scriptures are open to him as well as to others; - and "if he
hear not them, neither will he hear though one rose from the dead."
And remember, Helen,' continued she, solemnly, '"the wicked shall
be turned into hell, and they that forget God!"' And suppose,
even, that he should continue to love you, and you him, and that
you should pass through life together with tolerable comfort - how
will it be in the end, when you see yourselves parted for ever;
you, perhaps, taken into eternal bliss, and he cast into the lake
that burneth with unquenchable fire - there for ever to - '
'Not for ever,' I exclaimed, '"only till he has paid the uttermost
farthing;" for "if any man's work abide not the fire, he shall
suffer loss, yet himself shall be saved, but so as by fire;" and He
that "is able to subdue all things to Himself will have all men to
be saved," and "will, in the fulness of time, gather together in
one all things in Christ Jesus, who tasted death for every man, and
in whom God will reconcile all things to Himself, whether they be
things in earth or things in heaven."'
'Oh, Helen! where did you learn all this?'
'In the Bible, aunt. I have searched it through, and found nearly
thirty passages, all tending to support the same theory.'
'And is that the use you make of your Bible? And did you find no
passages tending to prove the danger and the falsity of such a
'No: I found, indeed, some passages that, taken by themselves,
might seem to contradict that opinion; but they will all bear a
different construction to that which is commonly given, and in most
the only difficulty is in the word which we translate "everlasting"
or "eternal." I don't know the Greek, but I believe it strictly
means for ages, and might signify either endless or long-enduring.
And as for the danger of the belief, I would not publish it abroad
if I thought any poor wretch would be likely to presume upon it to
his own destruction, but it is a glorious thought to cherish in
one's own heart, and I would not part with it for all the world can
Here our conference ended, for it was now high time to prepare for
church. Every one attended the morning service, except my uncle,
who hardly ever goes, and Mr. Wilmot, who stayed at home with him
to enjoy a quiet game of cribbage. In the afternoon Miss Wilmot
and Lord Lowborough likewise excused themselves from attending; but
Mr. Huntingdon vouchsafed to accompany us again. Whether it was to
ingratiate himself with my aunt I cannot tell, but, if so, he
certainly should have behaved better. I must confess, I did not
like his conduct during service at all. Holding his prayer-book
upside down, or open at any place but the right, he did nothing but
stare about him, unless he happened to catch my aunt's eye or mine,
and then he would drop his own on his book, with a puritanical air
of mock solemnity that would have been ludicrous, if it had not
been too provoking. Once, during the sermon, after attentively
regarding Mr. Leighton for a few minutes, he suddenly produced his
gold pencil-case and snatched up a Bible. Perceiving that I
observed the movement, he whispered that he was going to make a
note of the sermon; but instead of that, as I sat next him, I could
not help seeing that he was making a caricature of the preacher,
giving to the respectable, pious, elderly gentleman, the air and
aspect of a most absurd old hypocrite. And yet, upon his return,
he talked to my aunt about the sermon with a degree of modest,
serious discrimination that tempted me to believe he had really
attended to and profited by the discourse.
Just before dinner my uncle called me into the library for the
discussion of a very important matter, which was dismissed in few
'Now, Nell,' said he, 'this young Huntingdon has been asking for
you: what must I say about it? Your aunt would answer "no" - but
what say you?'
'I say yes, uncle,' replied I, without a moment's hesitation; for I
had thoroughly made up my mind on the subject.
'Very good!' cried he. 'Now that's a good honest answer -
wonderful for a girl! - Well, I'll write to your father to-morrow.
He's sure to give his consent; so you may look on the matter as
settled. You'd have done a deal better if you'd taken Wilmot, I
can tell you; but that you won't believe. At your time of life,
it's love that rules the roast: at mine, it's solid, serviceable
gold. I suppose now, you'd never dream of looking into the state
of your husband's finances, or troubling your head about
settlements, or anything of that sort?'
'I don't think I should.'
'Well, be thankful, then, that you've wiser heads to think for you.
I haven't had time, yet, to examine thoroughly into this young
rascal's affairs, but I see that a great part of his father's fine
property has been squandered away; - but still, I think, there's a
pretty fair share of it left, and a little careful nursing may make
a handsome thing of it yet; and then we must persuade your father
to give you a decent fortune, as he has only one besides yourself
to care for; - and, if you behave well, who knows but what I may be
induced to remember you in my will!' continued he, putting his
fingers to his nose, with a knowing wink.
'Thanks, uncle, for that and all your kindness,' replied I.
'Well, and I questioned this young spark on the matter of
settlements,' continued he; 'and he seemed disposed to be generous
enough on that point - '
'I knew he would!' said I. 'But pray don't trouble your head - or
his, or mine about that; for all I have will be his, and all he has
will be mine; and what more could either of us require?' And I was
about to make my exit, but he called me back.
'Stop, stop!' cried he; 'we haven't mentioned the time yet. When
must it be? Your aunt would put it off till the Lord knows when,
but he is anxious to be bound as soon as may be: he won't hear of
waiting beyond next month; and you, I guess, will be of the same
mind, so - '
'Not at all, uncle; on the contrary, I should like to wait till
after Christmas, at least.'
'Oh! pooh, pooh! never tell me that tale - I know better,' cried
he; and he persisted in his incredulity. Nevertheless, it is quite
true. I am in no hurry at all. How can I be, when I think of the
momentous change that awaits me, and of all I have to leave? It is
happiness enough to know that we are to be united; and that he
really loves me, and I may love him as devotedly, and think of him
as often as I please. However, I insisted upon consulting my aunt
about the time of the wedding, for I determined her counsels should
not be utterly disregarded; and no conclusions on that particular
are come to yet.
October 1st. - All is settled now. My father has given his
consent, and the time is fixed for Christmas, by a sort of
compromise between the respective advocates for hurry and delay.
Milicent Hargrave is to be one bridesmaid and Annabella Wilmot the
other - not that I am particularly fond of the latter, but she is
an intimate of the family, and I have not another friend.
When I told Milicent of my engagement, she rather provoked me by
her manner of talking it. After staring a moment in mute surprise,
she said, - 'Well, Helen, I suppose I ought to congratulate you -
and I am glad to see you so happy; but I did not think you would
take him; and I can't help feeling surprised that you should like
him so much.'
'Because you are so superior to him in every way, and there's
something so bold and reckless about him - so, I don't know how -
but I always feel a wish to get out of his way when I see him
'You are timid, Milicent; but that's no fault of his.'
'And then his look,' continued she. 'People say he's handsome, and
of course he is; but I don't like that kind of beauty, and I wonder
that you should.'
'Why so, pray?'
'Well, you know, I think there's nothing noble or lofty in his
'In fact, you wonder that I can like any one so unlike the stilted
heroes of romance. Well, give me my flesh and blood lover, and
I'll leave all the Sir Herberts and Valentines to you - if you can
'I don't want them,' said she. 'I'll be satisfied with flesh and
blood too - only the spirit must shine through and predominate.
But don't you think Mr. Huntingdon's face is too red?'
'No!' cried I, indignantly. 'It is not red at all. There is just
a pleasant glow, a healthy freshness in his complexion - the warm,
pinky tint of the whole harmonising with the deeper colour of the
cheeks, exactly as it ought to do. I hate a man to be red and
white, like a painted doll, or all sickly white, or smoky black, or
'Well, tastes differ - but I like pale or dark,' replied she.
'But, to tell you the truth, Helen, I had been deluding myself with
the hope that you would one day be my sister. I expected Walter
would be introduced to you next season; and I thought you would
like him, and was certain he would like you; and I flattered myself
I should thus have the felicity of seeing the two persons I like
best in the world - except mamma - united in one. He mayn't be
exactly what you would call handsome, but he's far more
distinguished-looking, and nicer and better than Mr. Huntingdon; -
and I'm sure you would say so, if you knew him.'
'Impossible, Milicent! You think so, because you're his sister;
and, on that account, I'll forgive you; but nobody else should so
disparage Arthur Huntingdon to me with impunity.'
Miss Wilmot expressed her feelings on the subject almost as openly.
'And so, Helen,' said she, coming up to me with a smile of no
amiable import, 'you are to be Mrs. Huntingdon, I suppose?'
'Yes,' replied I. 'Don't you envy me?'
'Oh, dear, no!' she exclaimed. 'I shall probably be Lady
Lowborough some day, and then you know, dear, I shall be in a
capacity to inquire, "Don't you envy me?"'
'Henceforth I shall envy no one,' returned I.
'Indeed! Are you so happy then?' said she, thoughtfully; and
something very like a cloud of disappointment shadowed her face.
'And does he love you - I mean, does he idolise you as much as you
do him?' she added, fixing her eyes upon me with ill-disguised
anxiety for the reply.
'I don't want to be idolised,' I answered; 'but I am well assured
that he loves me more than anybody else in the world - as I do
'Exactly,' said she, with a nod. 'I wish - ' she paused.
'What do you wish?' asked I, annoyed at the vindictive expression
of her countenance.
'I wish,' returned, she, with a short laugh, 'that all the
attractive points and desirable qualifications of the two gentlemen
were united in one - that Lord Lowborough had Huntingdon's handsome
face and good temper, and all his wit, and mirth and charm, or else
that Huntingdon had Lowborough's pedigree, and title, and
delightful old family seat, and I had him; and you might have the
other and welcome.'
'Thank you, dear Annabella: I am better satisfied with things as
they are, for my own part; and for you, I wish you were as well
content with your intended as I am with mine,' said I; and it was
true enough; for, though vexed at first at her unamiable spirit,
her frankness touched me, and the contrast between our situations
was such, that I could well afford to pity her and wish her well.
Mr. Huntingdon's acquaintances appear to be no better pleased with
our approaching union than mine. This morning's post brought him
letters from several of his friends, during the perusal of which,
at the breakfast-table, he excited the attention of the company by
the singular variety of his grimaces. But he crushed them all into
his pocket, with a private laugh, and said nothing till the meal
was concluded. Then, while the company were hanging over the fire
or loitering through the room, previous to settling to their
various morning avocations, he came and leant over the back of my
chair, with his face in contact with my curls, and commencing with
a quiet little kiss, poured forth the following complaints into my
'Helen, you witch, do you know that you've entailed upon me the
curses of all my friends? I wrote to them the other day, to tell
them of my happy prospects, and now, instead of a bundle of
congratulations, I've got a pocketful of bitter execrations and
reproaches. There's not one kind wish for me, or one good word for
you, among them all. They say there'll be no more fun now, no more
merry days and glorious nights - and all my fault - I am the first
to break up the jovial band, and others, in pure despair, will
follow my example. I was the very life and prop of the community,
they do me the honour to say, and I have shamefully betrayed my
trust - '
'You may join them again, if you like,' said I, somewhat piqued at
the sorrowful tone of his discourse. 'I should be sorry to stand
between any man - or body of men, and so much happiness; and
perhaps I can manage to do without you, as well as your poor
'Bless you, no,' murmured he. 'It's "all for love or the world
well lost," with me. Let them go to - where they belong, to speak
politely. But if you saw how they abuse me, Helen, you would love
me all the more for having ventured so much for your sake.'
He pulled out his crumpled letters. I thought he was going to show
them to me, and told him I did not wish to see them.
'I'm not going to show them to you, love,' said he. 'They're
hardly fit for a lady's eyes - the most part of them. But look
here. This is Grimsby's scrawl - only three lines, the sulky dog!
He doesn't say much, to be sure, but his very silence implies more
than all the others' words, and the less he says, the more he
thinks - and this is Hargrave's missive. He is particularly
grieved at me, because, forsooth he had fallen in love with you
from his sister's reports, and meant to have married you himself,
as soon as he had sown his wild oats.'
'I'm vastly obliged to him,' observed I.
'And so am I,' said he. 'And look at this. This is Hattersley's -
every page stuffed full of railing accusations, bitter curses, and
lamentable complaints, ending up with swearing that he'll get
married himself in revenge: he'll throw himself away on the first
old maid that chooses to set her cap at him, - as if I cared what
he did with himself.'
'Well,' said I, 'if you do give up your intimacy with these men, I
don't think you will have much cause to regret the loss of their
society; for it's my belief they never did you much good.'
'Maybe not; but we'd a merry time of it, too, though mingled with
sorrow and pain, as Lowborough knows to his cost - Ha, ha!' and
while he was laughing at the recollection of Lowborough's troubles,
my uncle came and slapped him on the shoulder.
'Come, my lad!' said he. 'Are you too busy making love to my niece
to make war with the pheasants? - First of October, remember! Sun
shines out - rain ceased - even Boarham's not afraid to venture in
his waterproof boots; and Wilmot and I are going to beat you all.
I declare, we old 'uns are the keenest sportsmen of the lot!'
'I'll show you what I can do to-day, however,' said my companion.
'I'll murder your birds by wholesale, just for keeping me away from
better company than either you or them.'
And so saying he departed; and I saw no more of him till dinner.
It seemed a weary time; I wonder what I shall do without him.
It is very true that the three elder gentlemen have proved
themselves much keener sportsmen than the two younger ones; for
both Lord Lowborough and Arthur Huntingdon have of late almost
daily neglected the shooting excursions to accompany us in our
various rides and rambles. But these merry times are fast drawing
to a close. In less than a fortnight the party break up, much to
my sorrow, for every day I enjoy it more and more - now that
Messrs. Boarham and Wilmot have ceased to tease me, and my aunt has
ceased to lecture me, and I have ceased to be jealous of Annabella
- and even to dislike her - and now that Mr. Huntingdon is become
my Arthur, and I may enjoy his society without restraint. What
shall I do without him, I repeat?
October 5th. - My cup of sweets is not unmingled: it is dashed
with a bitterness that I cannot hide from myself, disguise it as I
will. I may try to persuade myself that the sweetness overpowers
it; I may call it a pleasant aromatic flavour; but say what I will,
it is still there, and I cannot but taste it. I cannot shut my
eyes to Arthur's faults; and the more I love him the more they
trouble me. His very heart, that I trusted so, is, I fear, less
warm and generous than I thought it. At least, he gave me a
specimen of his character to-day that seemed to merit a harder name
than thoughtlessness. He and Lord Lowborough were accompanying
Annabella and me in a long, delightful ride; he was riding by my
side, as usual, and Annabella and Lord Lowborough were a little
before us, the latter bending towards his companion as if in tender
and confidential discourse.
'Those two will get the start of us, Helen, if we don't look
sharp,' observed Huntingdon. 'They'll make a match of it, as sure
as can be. That Lowborough's fairly besotted. But he'll find
himself in a fix when he's got her, I doubt.'
'And she'll find herself in a fix when she's got him,' said I, 'if
what I've heard of him is true.'
'Not a bit of it. She knows what she's about; but he, poor fool,
deludes himself with the notion that she'll make him a good wife,
and because she has amused him with some rodomontade about
despising rank and wealth in matters of love and marriage, he
flatters himself that she's devotedly attached to him; that she
will not refuse him for his poverty, and does not court him for his
rank, but loves him for himself alone.'
'But is not he courting her for her fortune?'
'No, not he. That was the first attraction, certainly; but now he
has quite lost sight of it: it never enters his calculations,
except merely as an essential without which, for the lady's own
sake, he could not think of marrying her. No; he's fairly in love.
He thought he never could be again, but he's in for it once more.
He was to have been married before, some two or three years ago;
but he lost his bride by losing his fortune. He got into a bad way
among us in London: he had an unfortunate taste for gambling; and
surely the fellow was born under an unlucky star, for he always
lost thrice where he gained once. That's a mode of self-torment I
never was much addicted to. When I spend my money I like to enjoy
the full value of it: I see no fun in wasting it on thieves and
blacklegs; and as for gaining money, hitherto I have always had
sufficient; it's time enough to be clutching for more, I think,
when you begin to see the end of what you have. But I have
sometimes frequented the gaming-houses just to watch the on-goings
of those mad votaries of chance - a very interesting study, I
assure you, Helen, and sometimes very diverting: I've had many a
laugh at the boobies and bedlamites. Lowborough was quite
infatuated - not willingly, but of necessity, - he was always
resolving to give it up, and always breaking his resolutions.
Every venture was the 'just once more:' if he gained a little, he
hoped to gain a little more next time, and if he lost, it would not
do to leave off at that juncture; he must go on till he had
retrieved that last misfortune, at least: bad luck could not last
for ever; and every lucky hit was looked upon as the dawn of better
times, till experience proved the contrary. At length he grew
desperate, and we were daily on the look-out for a case of FELO-DE-
SE - no great matter, some of us whispered, as his existence had
ceased to be an acquisition to our club. At last, however, he came
to a check. He made a large stake, which he determined should be
the last, whether he lost or won. He had often so determined
before, to be sure, and as often broken his determination; and so
it was this time. He lost; and while his antagonist smilingly
swept away the stakes, he turned chalky white, drew back in
silence, and wiped his forehead. I was present at the time; and
while he stood with folded arms and eyes fixed on the ground, I
knew well enough what was passing in his mind.
'"Is it to be the last, Lowborough?" said I, stepping up to him.
'"The last but one," he answered, with a grim smile; and then,
rushing back to the table, he struck his hand upon it, and, raising
his voice high above all the confusion of jingling coins and
muttered oaths and curses in the room, he swore a deep and solemn
oath that, come what would, this trial should be the last, and
imprecated unspeakable curses on his head if ever he should shuffle
a card or rattle a dice-box again. He then doubled his former
stake, and challenged any one present to play against him. Grimsby
instantly presented himself. Lowborough glared fiercely at him,
for Grimsby was almost as celebrated for his luck as he was for his
ill-fortune. However, they fell to work. But Grimsby had much
skill and little scruple, and whether he took advantage of the
other's trembling, blinded eagerness to deal unfairly by him, I
cannot undertake to say; but Lowborough lost again, and fell dead
'"You'd better try once more," said Grimsby, leaning across the
table. And then he winked at me.
'"I've nothing to try with," said the poor devil, with a ghastly
'"Oh, Huntingdon will lend you what you want," said the other.
'"No; you heard my oath," answered Lowborough, turning away in
quiet despair. And I took him by the arm and led him out.
'"Is it to be the last, Lowborough?" I asked, when I got him into
'"The last," he answered, somewhat against my expectation. And I
took him home - that is, to our club - for he was as submissive as
a child - and plied him with brandy-and-water till he began to look
rather brighter - rather more alive, at least.
'"Huntingdon, I'm ruined!" said he, taking the third glass from my
hand - he had drunk the others in dead silence.
'"Not you," said I. "You'll find a man can live without his money
as merrily as a tortoise without its head, or a wasp without its
'"But I'm in debt," said he - "deep in debt. And I can never,
never get out of it."
'"Well, what of that? Many a better man than you has lived and
died in debt; and they can't put you in prison, you know, because
you're a peer." And I handed him his fourth tumbler.
'"But I hate to be in debt!" he shouted. "I wasn't born for it,
and I cannot bear it."
'"What can't be cured must be endured," said I, beginning to mix
'"And then, I've lost my Caroline." And he began to snivel then,
for the brandy had softened his heart.
'"No matter," I answered, "there are more Carolines in the world
'"There's only one for me," he replied, with a dolorous sigh. "And
if there were fifty more, who's to get them, I wonder, without
'"Oh, somebody will take you for your title; and then you've your
family estate yet; that's entailed, you know."
'"I wish to God I could sell it to pay my debts," he muttered.
'"And then," said Grimsby, who had just come in, "you can try
again, you know. I would have more than one chance, if I were you.
I'd never stop here."
'"I won't, I tell you!" shouted he. And he started up, and left
the room - walking rather unsteadily, for the liquor had got into
his head. He was not so much used to it then, but after that he
took to it kindly to solace his cares.
'He kept his oath about gambling (not a little to the surprise of
us all), though Grimsby did his utmost to tempt him to break it,
but now he had got hold of another habit that bothered him nearly
as much, for he soon discovered that the demon of drink was as
black as the demon of play, and nearly as hard to get rid of -
especially as his kind friends did all they could to second the
promptings of his own insatiable cravings.'
'Then, they were demons themselves,' cried I, unable to contain my
indignation. 'And you, Mr. Huntingdon, it seems, were the first to
'Well, what could we do?' replied he, deprecatingly. - 'We meant it
in kindness - we couldn't bear to see the poor fellow so
miserable:- and besides, he was such a damper upon us, sitting
there silent and glum, when he was under the threefold influence -
of the loss of his sweetheart, the loss of his fortune, and the
reaction of the lost night's debauch; whereas, when he had
something in him, if he was not merry himself, he was an unfailing
source of merriment to us. Even Grimsby could chuckle over his odd
sayings: they delighted him far more than my merry jests, or
Hattersley's riotous mirth. But one evening, when we were sitting
over our wine, after one of our club dinners, and all had been
hearty together, - Lowborough giving us mad toasts, and hearing our
wild songs, and bearing a hand in the applause, if he did not help
us to sing them himself, - he suddenly relapsed into silence,
sinking his head on his hand, and never lifting his glass to his
lips; - but this was nothing new; so we let him alone, and went on
with our jollification, till, suddenly raising his head, he
interrupted us in the middle of a roar of laughter by exclaiming, -
'Gentlemen, where is all this to end? - Will you just tell me that
now? - Where is it all to end?' He rose.
'"A speech, a speech!" shouted we. "Hear, hear! Lowborough's
going to give us a speech!"
'He waited calmly till the thunders of applause and jingling of
glasses had ceased, and then proceeded, - "It's only this,
gentlemen, - that I think we'd better go no further. We'd better
stop while we can."
'"Just so!" cried Hattersley -
"Stop, poor sinner, stop and think
Before you further go,
No longer sport upon the brink
Of everlasting woe."
'"Exactly!" replied his lordship, with the utmost gravity. "And if
you choose to visit the bottomless pit, I won't go with you - we
must part company, for I swear I'll not move another step towards
it! - What's this?' he said, taking up his glass of wine.
'"Taste it," suggested I.
'"This is hell broth!" he exclaimed. "I renounce it for ever!"
And he threw it out into the middle of the table.
'"Fill again!" said I, handing him the bottle - "and let us drink
to your renunciation."
'"It's rank poison," said he, grasping the bottle by the neck, "and
I forswear it! I've given up gambling, and I'll give up this too."
He was on the point of deliberately pouring the whole contents of
the bottle on to the table, but Hargrave wrested it from him. "On
you be the curse, then!" said he. And, backing from the room, he
shouted, "Farewell, ye tempters!" and vanished amid shouts of
laughter and applause.
'We expected him back among us the next day; but, to our surprise,
the place remained vacant: we saw nothing of him for a whole week;
and we really began to think he was going to keep his word. At
last, one evening, when we were most of us assembled together
again, he entered, silent and grim as a ghost, and would have
quietly slipped into his usual seat at my elbow, but we all rose to
welcome him, and several voices were raised to ask what he would
have, and several hands were busy with bottle and glass to serve
him; but I knew a smoking tumbler of brandy-and-water would comfort
him best, and had nearly prepared it, when he peevishly pushed it
away, saying, -
'"Do let me alone, Huntingdon! Do be quiet, all of you! I'm not
come to join you: I'm only come to be with you awhile, because I
can't bear my own thoughts." And he folded his arms, and leant
back in his chair; so we let him be. But I left the glass by him;
and, after awhile, Grimsby directed my attention towards it, by a
significant wink; and, on turning my head, I saw it was drained to
the bottom. He made me a sign to replenish, and quietly pushed up
the bottle. I willingly complied; but Lowborough detected the
pantomime, and, nettled at the intelligent grins that were passing
between us, snatched the glass from my hand, dashed the contents of
it in Grimsby's face, threw the empty tumbler at me, and then
bolted from the room.'
'I hope he broke your head,' said I.
'No, love,' replied he, laughing immoderately at the recollection
of the whole affair; 'he would have done so, - and perhaps, spoilt
my face, too, but, providentially, this forest of curls' (taking
off his hat, and showing his luxuriant chestnut locks) 'saved my
skull, and prevented the glass from breaking, till it reached the
'After that,' he continued, 'Lowborough kept aloof from us a week
or two longer. I used to meet him occasionally in the town; and
then, as I was too good-natured to resent his unmannerly conduct,
and he bore no malice against me, - he was never unwilling to talk
to me; on the contrary, he would cling to me, and follow me
anywhere but to the club, and the gaming-houses, and such-like
dangerous places of resort - he was so weary of his own moping,
melancholy mind. At last, I got him to come in with me to the
club, on condition that I would not tempt him to drink; and, for
some time, he continued to look in upon us pretty regularly of an
evening, - still abstaining, with wonderful perseverance, from the
"rank poison" he had so bravely forsworn. But some of our members
protested against this conduct. They did not like to have him
sitting there like a skeleton at a feast, instead of contributing
his quota to the general amusement, casting a cloud over all, and
watching, with greedy eyes, every drop they carried to their lips -
they vowed it was not fair; and some of them maintained that he
should either be compelled to do as others did, or expelled from
the society; and swore that, next time he showed himself, they
would tell him as much, and, if he did not take the warning,
proceed to active measures. However, I befriended him on this
occasion, and recommended them to let him be for a while,
intimating that, with a little patience on our parts, he would soon
come round again. But, to be sure, it was rather provoking; for,
though he refused to drink like an honest Christian, it was well
known to me that he kept a private bottle of laudanum about him,
which he was continually soaking at - or rather, holding off and on
with, abstaining one day and exceeding the next - just like the
'One night, however, during one of our orgies - one of our high
festivals, I mean - he glided in, like the ghost in "Macbeth," and
seated himself, as usual, a little back from the table, in the
chair we always placed for "the spectre," whether it chose to fill
it or not. I saw by his face that he was suffering from the
effects of an overdose of his insidious comforter; but nobody spoke
to him, and he spoke to nobody. A few sidelong glances, and a
whispered observation, that "the ghost was come," was all the
notice he drew by his appearance, and we went on with our merry
carousals as before, till he startled us all by suddenly drawing in
his chair, and leaning forward with his elbows on the table, and
exclaiming with portentous solemnity, - "Well! it puzzles me what
you can find to be so merry about. What you see in life I don't
know - I see only the blackness of darkness, and a fearful looking
for of judgment and fiery indignation!"
'All the company simultaneously pushed up their glasses to him, and
I set them before him in a semicircle, and, tenderly patting him on
the back, bid him drink, and he would soon see as bright a prospect
as any of us; but he pushed them back, muttering, -
'"Take them away! I won't taste it, I tell you. I won't - I
won't!" So I handed them down again to the owners; but I saw that
he followed them with a glare of hungry regret as they departed.
Then he clasped his hands before his eyes to shut out the sight,
and two minutes after lifted his head again, and said, in a hoarse
but vehement whisper, -
'"And yet I must! Huntingdon, get me a glass!"
'"Take the bottle, man!" said I, thrusting the brandy-bottle into
his hand - but stop, I'm telling too much,' muttered the narrator,
startled at the look I turned upon him. 'But no matter,' he
recklessly added, and thus continued his relation: 'In his
desperate eagerness, he seized the bottle and sucked away, till he
suddenly dropped from his chair, disappearing under the table amid
a tempest of applause. The consequence of this imprudence was
something like an apoplectic fit, followed by a rather severe brain
fever - '
'And what did you think of yourself, sir?' said I, quickly.
'Of course, I was very penitent,' he replied. 'I went to see him
once or twice - nay, twice or thrice - or by'r lady, some four
times - and when he got better, I tenderly brought him back to the
'What do you mean?'
'I mean, I restored him to the bosom of the club, and
compassionating the feebleness of his health and extreme lowness of
his spirits, I recommended him to "take a little wine for his
stomach's sake," and, when he was sufficiently re-established, to
embrace the media-via, ni-jamais-ni-toujours plan - not to kill
himself like a fool, and not to abstain like a ninny - in a word,
to enjoy himself like a rational creature, and do as I did; for,
don't think, Helen, that I'm a tippler; I'm nothing at all of the
kind, and never was, and never shall be. I value my comfort far
too much. I see that a man cannot give himself up to drinking
without being miserable one-half his days and mad the other;
besides, I like to enjoy my life at all sides and ends, which
cannot be done by one that suffers himself to be the slave of a
single propensity - and, moreover, drinking spoils one's good
looks,' he concluded, with a most conceited smile that ought to
have provoked me more than it did.
'And did Lord Lowborough profit by your advice?' I asked.
'Why, yes, in a manner. For a while he managed very well; indeed,
he was a model of moderation and prudence - something too much so
for the tastes of our wild community; but, somehow, Lowborough had
not the gift of moderation: if he stumbled a little to one side,
he must go down before he could right himself: if he overshot the
mark one night, the effects of it rendered him so miserable the
next day that he must repeat the offence to mend it; and so on from
day to day, till his clamorous conscience brought him to a stand.
And then, in his sober moments, he so bothered his friends with his
remorse, and his terrors and woes, that they were obliged, in self-
defence, to get him to drown his sorrows in wine, or any more
potent beverage that came to hand; and when his first scruples of
conscience were overcome, he would need no more persuading, he
would often grow desperate, and be as great a blackguard as any of
them could desire - but only to lament his own unutterable
wickedness and degradation the more when the fit was over.
'At last, one day when he and I were alone together, after
pondering awhile in one of his gloomy, abstracted moods, with his
arms folded and his head sunk on his breast, he suddenly woke up,
and vehemently grasping my arm, said, -
'"Huntingdon, this won't do! I'm resolved to have done with it."
'"What, are you going to shoot yourself?" said I.
'"No; I'm going to reform."
'"Oh, that's nothing new! You've been going to reform these twelve
months and more."
'"Yes, but you wouldn't let me; and I was such a fool I couldn't
live without you. But now I see what it is that keeps me back, and
what's wanted to save me; and I'd compass sea and land to get it -
only I'm afraid there's no chance." And he sighed as if his heart
'"What is it, Lowborough?" said I, thinking he was fairly cracked
'"A wife," he answered; "for I can't live alone, because my own
mind distracts me, and I can't live with you, because you take the
devil's part against me."
'"Who - I?"
'"Yes - all of you do - and you more than any of them, you know.
But if I could get a wife, with fortune enough to pay off my debts
and set me straight in the world - "
'"To be sure," said I.
'"And sweetness and goodness enough," he continued, "to make home
tolerable, and to reconcile me to myself, I think I should do yet.
I shall never be in love again, that's certain; but perhaps that
would be no great matter, it would enable me to choose with my eyes
open - and I should make a good husband in spite of it; but could
any one be in love with me? - that's the question. With your good
looks and powers of fascination" (he was pleased to say), "I might
hope; but as it is, Huntingdon, do you think anybody would take me
- ruined and wretched as I am?"
'"Why, any neglected old maid, fast sinking in despair, would be
delighted to - "
'"No, no," said he - "it must be somebody that I can love."
'"Why, you just said you never could be in love again!'
'"Well, love is not the word - but somebody that I can like. I'll
search all England through, at all events!" he cried, with a sudden
burst of hope, or desperation. "Succeed or fail, it will be better
than rushing headlong to destruction at that d-d club: so farewell
to it and you. Whenever I meet you on honest ground or under a
Christian roof, I shall be glad to see you; but never more shall
you entice me to that devil's den!"
'This was shameful language, but I shook hands with him, and we
parted. He kept his word; and from that time forward he has been a
pattern of propriety, as far as I can tell; but till lately I have
not had very much to do with him. He occasionally sought my
company, but as frequently shrunk from it, fearing lest I should
wile him back to destruction, and I found his not very
entertaining, especially as he sometimes attempted to awaken my
conscience and draw me from the perdition he considered himself to
have escaped; but when I did happen to meet him, I seldom failed to
ask after the progress of his matrimonial efforts and researches,
and, in general, he could give me but a poor account. The mothers
were repelled by his empty coffers and his reputation for gambling,
and the daughters by his cloudy brow and melancholy temper -
besides, he didn't understand them; he wanted the spirit and
assurance to carry his point.
'I left him at it when I went to the continent; and on my return,
at the year's end, I found him still a disconsolate bachelor -
though, certainly, looking somewhat less like an unblest exile from
the tomb than before. The young ladies had ceased to be afraid of
him, and were beginning to think him quite interesting; but the
mammas were still unrelenting. It was about this time, Helen, that
my good angel brought me into conjunction with you; and then I had
eyes and ears for nobody else. But, meantime, Lowborough became
acquainted with our charming friend, Miss Wilmot - through the
intervention of his good angel, no doubt he would tell you, though
he did not dare to fix his hopes on one so courted and admired,
till after they were brought into closer contact here at
Staningley, and she, in the absence of her other admirers,
indubitably courted his notice and held out every encouragement to
his timid advances. Then, indeed, he began to hope for a dawn of
brighter days; and if, for a while, I darkened his prospects by
standing between him and his sun - and so nearly plunged him again
into the abyss of despair - it only intensified his ardour and
strengthened his hopes when I chose to abandon the field in the
pursuit of a brighter treasure. In a word, as I told you, he is
fairly besotted. At first, he could dimly perceive her faults, and
they gave him considerable uneasiness; but now his passion and her
art together have blinded him to everything but her perfections and
his amazing good fortune. Last night he came to me brimful of his
'"Huntingdon, I am not a castaway!" said he, seizing my hand and
squeezing it like a vice. "There is happiness in store for me yet
- even in this life - she loves me!"
'"Indeed!" said I. "Has she told you so?"
'"No, but I can no longer doubt it. Do you not see how pointedly
kind and affectionate she is? And she knows the utmost extent of
my poverty, and cares nothing about it! She knows all the folly
and all the wickedness of my former life, and is not afraid to
trust me - and my rank and title are no allurements to her; for
them she utterly disregards. She is the most generous, high-minded
being that can be conceived of. She will save me, body and soul,
from destruction. Already, she has ennobled me in my own
estimation, and made me three times better, wiser, greater than I
was. Oh! if I had but known her before, how much degradation and
misery I should have been spared! But what have I done to deserve
so magnificent a creature?"
'And the cream of the jest,' continued Mr. Huntingdon, laughing,
'is, that the artful minx loves nothing about him but his title and
pedigree, and "that delightful old family seat."'
'How do you know?' said I.
'She told me so herself; she said, "As for the man himself, I
thoroughly despise him; but then, I suppose, it is time to be
making my choice, and if I waited for some one capable of eliciting
my esteem and affection, I should have to pass my life in single
blessedness, for I detest you all!" Ha, ha! I suspect she was
wrong there; but, however, it is evident she has no love for him,
'Then you ought to tell him so.'
'What! and spoil all her plans and prospects, poor girl? No, no:
that would be a breach of confidence, wouldn't it, Helen? Ha, ha!
Besides, it would break his heart.' And he laughed again.
'Well, Mr. Huntingdon, I don't know what you see so amazingly
diverting in the matter; I see nothing to laugh at.'
'I'm laughing at you, just now, love,' said he, redoubling his
And leaving him to enjoy his merriment alone, I touched Ruby with
the whip, and cantered on to rejoin our companions; for we had been
walking our horses all this time, and were consequently a long way
behind. Arthur was soon at my side again; but not disposed to talk
to him, I broke into a gallop. He did the same; and we did not
slacken our pace till we came up with Miss Wilmot and Lord
Lowborough, which was within half a mile of the park-gates. I
avoided all further conversation with him till we came to the end
of our ride, when I meant to jump off my horse and vanish into the
house, before he could offer his assistance; but while I was
disengaging my habit from the crutch, he lifted me off, and held me
by both hands, asserting that he would not let me go till I had
'I have nothing to forgive,' said I. 'You have not injured me.'
'No, darling - God forbid that I should! but you are angry because
it was to me that Annabella confessed her lack of esteem for her
'No, Arthur, it is not that that displeases me: it is the whole
system of your conduct towards your friend, and if you wish me to
forget it, go now, and tell him what sort of a woman it is that he
adores so madly, and on whom he has hung his hopes of future
'I tell you, Helen, it would break his heart - it would be the
death of him - besides being a scandalous trick to poor Annabella.
There is no help for him now; he is past praying for. Besides, she
may keep up the deception to the end of the chapter; and then he
will be just as happy in the illusion as if it were reality; or
perhaps he will only discover his mistake when he has ceased to
love her; and if not, it is much better that the truth should dawn
gradually upon him. So now, my angel, I hope I have made out a
clear case, and fully convinced you that I cannot make the
atonement you require. What other requisition have you to make?
Speak, and I will gladly obey.'
'I have none but this,' said I, as gravely as before: 'that, in
future, you will never make a jest of the sufferings of others, and
always use your influence with your friends for their own advantage
against their evil propensities, instead of seconding their evil
propensities against themselves.'
'I will do my utmost,' said he, 'to remember and perform the
injunctions of my angel monitress;' and after kissing both my
gloved hands, he let me go.
When I entered my room, I was surprised to see Annabella Wilmot
standing before my toilet-table, composedly surveying her features
in the glass, with one hand flirting her gold-mounted whip, and the
other holding up her long habit.
'She certainly is a magnificent creature!' thought I, as I beheld
that tall, finely developed figure, and the reflection of the
handsome face in the mirror before me, with the glossy dark hair,
slightly and not ungracefully disordered by the breezy ride, the
rich brown complexion glowing with exercise, and the black eyes
sparkling with unwonted brilliance. On perceiving me, she turned
round, exclaiming, with a laugh that savoured more of malice than
of mirth, - 'Why, Helen! what have you been doing so long? I came
to tell you my good fortune,' she continued, regardless of Rachel's
presence. 'Lord Lowborough has proposed, and I have been
graciously pleased to accept him. Don't you envy me, dear?'
'No, love,' said I - 'or him either,' I mentally added. 'And do
you like him, Annabella?'
'Like him! yes, to be sure - over head and ears in love!'
'Well, I hope you'll make him a good wife.'
'Thank you, my dear! And what besides do you hope?'
'I hope you will both love each other, and both be happy.'
'Thanks; and I hope you will make a very good wife to Mr.
Huntingdon!' said she, with a queenly bow, and retired.
'Oh, Miss! how could you say so to her!' cried Rachel.
'Say what?' replied I.
'Why, that you hoped she would make him a good wife. I never heard
such a thing!'
'Because I do hope it, or rather, I wish it; she's almost past
'Well,' said she, 'I'm sure I hope he'll make her a good husband.
They tell queer things about him downstairs. They were saying - '
'I know, Rachel. I've heard all about him; but he's reformed now.
And they have no business to tell tales about their masters.'
'No, mum - or else, they have said some things about Mr. Huntingdon
'I won't hear them, Rachel; they tell lies.'
'Yes, mum,' said she, quietly, as she went on arranging my hair.
'Do you believe them, Rachel?' I asked, after a short pause.
'No, Miss, not all. You know when a lot of servants gets together
they like to talk about their betters; and some, for a bit of
swagger, likes to make it appear as though they knew more than they
do, and to throw out hints and things just to astonish the others.
But I think, if I was you, Miss Helen, I'd look very well before I
leaped. I do believe a young lady can't be too careful who she
'Of course not,' said I; 'but be quick, will you, Rachel? I want
to be dressed.'
And, indeed, I was anxious to be rid of the good woman, for I was
in such a melancholy frame I could hardly keep the tears out of my
eyes while she dressed me. It was not for Lord Lowborough - it was
not for Annabella - it was not for myself - it was for Arthur
Huntingdon that they rose.
* * * * *
13th. - They are gone, and he is gone. We are to be parted for
more than two months, above ten weeks! a long, long time to live
and not to see him. But he has promised to write often, and made
me promise to write still oftener, because he will be busy settling
his affairs, and I shall have nothing better to do. Well, I think
I shall always have plenty to say. But oh! for the time when we
shall be always together, and can exchange our thoughts without the
intervention of these cold go-betweens, pen, ink, and paper!
22nd. - I have had several letters from Arthur already. They are
not long, but passing sweet, and just like himself, full of ardent
affection, and playful lively humour; but there is always a 'but'
in this imperfect world, and I do wish he would sometimes be
serious. I cannot get him to write or speak in real, solid
earnest. I don't much mind it now, but if it be always so, what
shall I do with the serious part of myself?
Feb. 18, 1822. - Early this morning Arthur mounted his hunter and
set off in high glee to meet the - hounds. He will be away all
day, and so I will amuse myself with my neglected diary, if I can
give that name to such an irregular composition. It is exactly
four months since I opened it last.
I am married now, and settled down as Mrs. Huntingdon of Grassdale
Manor. I have had eight weeks' experience of matrimony. And do I
regret the step I have taken? No, though I must confess, in my
secret heart, that Arthur is not what I thought him at first, and
if I had known him in the beginning as thoroughly as I do now, I
probably never should have loved him, and if I loved him first, and
then made the discovery, I fear I should have thought it my duty
not to have married him. To be sure I might have known him, for
every one was willing enough to tell me about him, and he himself
was no accomplished hypocrite, but I was wilfully blind; and now,
instead of regretting that I did not discern his full character
before I was indissolubly bound to him, I am glad, for it has saved
me a great deal of battling with my conscience, and a great deal of
consequent trouble and pain; and, whatever I ought to have done, my
duty now is plainly to love him and to cleave to him, and this just
tallies with my inclination.
He is very fond of me, almost too fond. I could do with less
caressing and more rationality. I should like to be less of a pet
and more of a friend, if I might choose; but I won't complain of
that: I am only afraid his affection loses in depth where it gains
in ardour. I sometimes liken it to a fire of dry twigs and
branches compared with one of solid coal, very bright and hot; but
if it should burn itself out and leave nothing but ashes behind,
what shall I do? But it won't, it sha'n't, I am determined; and
surely I have power to keep it alive. So let me dismiss that
thought at once. But Arthur is selfish; I am constrained to
acknowledge that; and, indeed, the admission gives me less pain
than might be expected, for, since I love him so much, I can easily
forgive him for loving himself: he likes to be pleased, and it is
my delight to please him; and when I regret this tendency of his,
it is for his own sake, not for mine.
The first instance he gave was on the occasion of our bridal tour.
He wanted to hurry it over, for all the continental scenes were
already familiar to him: many had lost their interest in his eyes,
and others had never had anything to lose. The consequence was,
that after a flying transit through part of France and part of
Italy, I came back nearly as ignorant as I went, having made no
acquaintance with persons and manners, and very little with things,
my head swarming with a motley confusion of objects and scenes;
some, it is true, leaving a deeper and more pleasing impression
than others, but these embittered by the recollection that my
emotions had not been shared by my companion, but that, on the
contrary, when I had expressed a particular interest in anything
that I saw or desired to see, it had been displeasing to him,
inasmuch as it proved that I could take delight in anything
disconnected with himself.
As for Paris, we only just touched at that, and he would not give
me time to see one-tenth of the beauties and interesting objects of
Rome. He wanted to get me home, he said, to have me all to
himself, and to see me safely installed as the mistress of
Grassdale Manor, just as single-minded, as naive, and piquante as I
was; and as if I had been some frail butterfly, he expressed
himself fearful of rubbing the silver off my wings by bringing me
into contact with society, especially that of Paris and Rome; and,
more-over, he did not scruple to tell me that there were ladies in
both places that would tear his eyes out if they happened to meet
him with me.
Of course I was vexed at all this; but still it was less the
disappointment to myself that annoyed me, than the disappointment
in him, and the trouble I was at to frame excuses to my friends for
having seen and observed so little, without imputing one particle
of blame to my companion. But when we got home - to my new,
delightful home - I was so happy and he was so kind that I freely
forgave him all; and I was beginning to think my lot too happy, and
my husband actually too good for me, if not too good for this
world, when, on the second Sunday after our arrival, he shocked and
horrified me by another instance of his unreasonable exaction. We
were walking home from the morning service, for it was a fine
frosty day, and as we are so near the church, I had requested the
carriage should not be used.
'Helen,' said he, with unusual gravity, 'I am not quite satisfied
I desired to know what was wrong.
'But will you promise to reform if I tell you?'
'Yes, if I can, and without offending a higher authority.'
'Ah! there it is, you see: you don't love me with all your heart.'
'I don't understand you, Arthur (at least I hope I don't): pray
tell me what I have done or said amiss.'
'It is nothing you have done or said; it is something that you are
- you are too religious. Now I like a woman to be religious, and I
think your piety one of your greatest charms; but then, like all
other good things, it may be carried too far. To my thinking, a
woman's religion ought not to lessen her devotion to her earthly
lord. She should have enough to purify and etherealise her soul,
but not enough to refine away her heart, and raise her above all
'And am I above all human sympathies?' said I.
'No, darling; but you are making more progress towards that saintly
condition than I like; for all these two hours I have been thinking
of you and wanting to catch your eye, and you were so absorbed in
your devotions that you had not even a glance to spare for me - I
declare it is enough to make one jealous of one's Maker - which is
very wrong, you know; so don't excite such wicked passions again,
for my soul's sake.'
'I will give my whole heart and soul to my Maker if I can,' I
answered, 'and not one atom more of it to you than He allows. What
are you, sir, that you should set yourself up as a god, and presume
to dispute possession of my heart with Him to whom I owe all I have
and all I am, every blessing I ever did or ever can enjoy - and
yourself among the rest - if you are a blessing, which I am half
inclined to doubt.'
'Don't be so hard upon me, Helen; and don't pinch my arm so: you
are squeezing your fingers into the bone.'
'Arthur,' continued I, relaxing my hold of his arm, 'you don't love
me half as much as I do you; and yet, if you loved me far less than
you do, I would not complain, provided you loved your Maker more.
I should rejoice to see you at any time so deeply absorbed in your
devotions that you had not a single thought to spare for me. But,
indeed, I should lose nothing by the change, for the more you loved
your God the more deep and pure and true would be your love to me.'
At this he only laughed and kissed my hand, calling me a sweet
enthusiast. Then taking off his hat, he added: 'But look here,
Helen - what can a man do with such a head as this?'
The head looked right enough, but when he placed my hand on the top
of it, it sunk in a bed of curls, rather alarmingly low, especially
in the middle.
'You see I was not made to be a saint,' said he, laughing, 'If God
meant me to be religious, why didn't He give me a proper organ of
'You are like the servant,' I replied, 'who, instead of employing
his one talent in his master's service, restored it to him
unimproved, alleging, as an excuse, that he knew him "to be a hard
man, reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not
strawed." Of him to whom less is given, less will be required, but
our utmost exertions are required of us all. You are not without
the capacity of veneration, and faith and hope, and conscience and
reason, and every other requisite to a Christian's character, if
you choose to employ them; but all our talents increase in the
using, and every faculty, both good and bad, strengthens by
exercise: therefore, if you choose to use the bad, or those which
tend to evil, till they become your masters, and neglect the good
till they dwindle away, you have only yourself to blame. But you
have talents, Arthur - natural endowments both of heart and mind
and temper, such as many a better Christian would be glad to
possess, if you would only employ them in God's service. I should
never expect to see you a devotee, but it is quite possible to be a
good Christian without ceasing to be a happy, merry-hearted man.'
'You speak like an oracle, Helen, and all you say is indisputably
true; but listen here: I am hungry, and I see before me a good
substantial dinner; I am told that if I abstain from this to-day I
shall have a sumptuous feast to-morrow, consisting of all manner of