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Title: Mabel, Vol. II (of 3) - A Novel
Author: Newby, Emma
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mabel, Vol. II (of 3) - A Novel" ***

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                             A Novel,

                        BY EMMA WARBURTON.

                       _IN THREE VOLUMES._

                             VOL. II.




    Oh, give me comfort, if you can!
    Oh, tell me where to fly!
    Oh, tell me if there can be hope,
    For one so lost as I!


The grey dawn was slowly and faintly breaking, with the calm, dull light
of a winter's morning. The stormy wind had sunk to rest, the fire, no
longer fanned by its heavy gusts, had nearly abated, and what more was
required to extinguish it, was afforded by the arrival of the fire
engine, which had been forwarded with the usual promptitude, though from
the distance it had to travel, it arrived too late to be of any
effectual service.

Mrs. Lesly's house had been the last to take fire, and was not so
completely destroyed, as the smaller cottages in the more thickly
populated parts of the village. Mr. Ware was rejoiced to see that the
church remained uninjured--his own house, too, had escaped, and no fears
were entertained for the Manor. Yet, in many parts, the fire still
smouldered, though its fury was spent, and gave a light to the
landscape, which rivalled that of the wintry dawn.

There was a small and pleasant nook by the road side, where on summer
evenings, children would assemble to play. Here a group had collected,
composed of men and women, surrounding the prostrate form of the unhappy
bailiff. Mr. Ware was supporting his head, with that pity for the
wretched and suffering which his sacred character made as necessary as
his natural feelings rendered it pleasant. Satisfied, as he believed, of
the safety of Mrs. Lesly and her children, he had not been tempted from
the side of the man, whose remorse called for all that attention which
he only could give, and who, if he moved, piteously entreated him not
to leave him. Well indeed might he beg him to remain, for in the various
groups which surrounded him, he could not discover a single friend.
Subject to his tyranny during his day of power, each among them might
have stood forward to convict him of some harsh unkindness, if not of
actual cruelty and oppression. Amongst others was Martin, his shaggy
eyebrows bent in triumph on the man who, unable to display his usual
bearing of conscious authority, lay weak and powerless before him.

The stranger was seen advancing slowly across the green, with his hat
slouched over his face, and his arms crossed upon his chest. All
slightly moved to make room for him, and allowed him to stand without
being too closely pressed--but, whether from a sense of his personal
bravery in their service, or from an unconscious respect to his
commanding manner--few stopped to enquire. On his pale countenance were
marks of agitation--he looked indeed almost faint--and Mr. Ware,
fearing he might have sustained some injury in his many daring exploits,
offered him some of the brandy, which he had been giving to the most
weary. He eagerly accepted the offer, and then, seeing that the group
had become silent since he joined it, he turned to Mr. Ware.

"As a minister of holy peace, sir," he said, "let me suggest to you,
that some means be taken to find out by whom this foul deed has been
committed, for the intention may well meet with as much condemnation as
if it had succeeded."

"A foul deed most assuredly," said Mr. Ware, rising from his stooping
posture--"a foul deed most truly has been attempted this night, and it
ought indeed to humble us," he added, as a tear glistened in his eye,
"to think that there is one among us, brethren, capable of doing so
terrible a thing as to endeavour to put a man to death, even though he
were his worst enemy, much less to conceive so horrible a means, even
while ruin was on our own hearth sides, and the hand of Providence
raised to punish. Oh, I am grieved beyond words to tell, not so much
that ye are poor, but that poverty has brought sin among you, as I know
it has done. Have you not had warning enough to-night?"

A groan escaped from the stranger, and all turned round, but his eyes
were fixed on the ground.

"Now, my children," continued Mr. Ware, "let us cast off from ourselves
this great sin, and tell all we know of it; and if he who has done it be
amongst us, let him stand forward and suffer his punishment, as the only
expiation he can offer."

"Not so," said the bailiff, raising himself with difficulty, and
supporting himself on his arm, while he glanced timidly upon those who
were about him; but carefully avoiding the stranger, whose dark eyes,
from beneath his slouched hat, were bent upon him.

"And why," asked the latter, eagerly, "would you arrest the hand of

"Sir," said the bailiff, solemnly, "let the punishment rest upon him
that deserves it. I am he. If it be wrong to think to take away my
life--if it be sin to compass the death of any man--it is also sin to
tempt a man to do it. Many have been the galling words I have spoken,
and the wicked, taunting things I have done. But, oh, my fellow men,
forgive me now, as you hope to be forgiven. This terrible night has
brought my sins to remembrance, and, if I live I am a changed man--but
if I die--"

Here a tremor seized his whole frame.

"Then you will not tell us?" said the stranger, enquiringly.

"No, sir," said Rogers, meeting his eye for the first time. "You have
saved my life--but even for that I cannot do as you say; and before the
light of the sky above us, I swear that his name shall never pass my

"I did not know there was as much good as that in him," muttered Martin.

"I cannot help approving such sentiments," said the stranger; "for they
shew a forgiving spirit, under hard circumstances, and it may be the
beginning of better things which is strongly called for--since it is
unlikely, that your master would overlook your neglect of the trust he
so implicitly confided in you. (Rogers groaned.) Nothing can defend you,
but a hearty and sincere repentance; but I do say," said the soldier, as
his eye kindled, "that it is a good beginning; and, sir, I, for one, am
willing to withdraw any further investigation of this mysterious affair,
since he who has suffered most, will not come forward with his

"The crime lies heavily on my heart," replied Mr. Ware; "but I am little
inclined to enter on such a business, though I know it is only right
that the criminal should be punished. If, however, he would come forward
and plead guilty to this outrage, it would remove the suspicion which
now rests on us all."

"No, no, sir," cried the bailiff; "let him keep his own counsel, for by
confessing, he makes you all partners in his crime, if you do not
punish him. Let it be between him and me, and let him take my life, if I
ever deserve again to lose it at his hands."

"It may be possible," said the stranger; "that your master will accept
your repentance, the first fruits of which we all witness. Is there any
amongst us," said he, looking round, "who is so unforgiving, as to think
Colonel Hargrave wrong, should he give this poor man, an opportunity of
redeeming his moral character in the situation in which he has lost it.
I, for one, should it be necessary, would say that he was right."

A murmur of approval ran round the group, though many, at the same time
doubted if they would be consulted on the subject.

A light of renewed strength, and hope, shot over the bailiff's dejected
face; but when he tried to speak, the revulsion of feeling was too much
for him, and he burst into tears.

"Take him home," said the stranger, and as several men hastened to
execute his order, he turned away, and walked slowly down the village.
As he did so, he was attracted by the observations of several women who
were standing talking together.

"Poor young thing," said one; "so soon cut off. Well, the rich
oftentimes go before the poor. 'Tis a sad night, indeed," said another;
"I thought she would not bear it."

This was said with that tone of real sympathy in illness or death, which
the poor feel so readily and sincerely.

"What has happened?" he enquired, stopping and addressing the last

"Well may you ask," replied she; "for it is a sweet flower that has been
cut down to-night. I was just coming down from the Manor house, where I
went to see the children, and as I came back through the avenue, what
should I see, but a light in old Molly's cottage. Now I knew she had
been up at the Manor time enough for her fire to have gone out; and,
says I, to myself, I'll just step in and see--so, up to the house I
went, and what should I see sitting on the door steps, but an old man a
crying like any thing. 'What's the matter?' says I; he didn't look up,
but he said, sobbing like:

"'It's all over.'

"'What's over?' says I.

"'She's gone to rest,' says he.

"'Who d'ye mean?' says I.

"'Miss Amy,' says he, and then--but, bless my heart!"

The stranger had sprung from them, and hurried forwards.

"I believe he's a spirit," said the terrified speaker.

"Nau, Nau," said an old woman, "he's flesh and blood, for I touched

They had not much time, however, for further remark, for they were
summoned by their husbands to leave gossipping, and come and assist them
in doing all they could towards their comfort. Already Mrs. Hawkins,
housekeeper at the manor, had been busy in allotting to them the rooms
over the stables, formerly occupied by the grooms and stable boys, and
which were still neat and clean, and well aired, in the constant
expectation of the Colonel's return, for the faithful servant was
resolved, that, whenever her freakish master appeared, he should find
her prepared for him. The accommodation thus afforded, was, however
small, compared to the number of families, and, after dividing the whole
of the servants' offices between them, she was obliged to quarter many
in the better parts of the house; she was, therefore, not a little
relieved, when she found that most of the farm houses in the
neighbourhood had followed the good example set them, and freely opened
their doors to the houseless.

The stranger might shortly afterwards be seen coming from the lodge, and
hastening towards Mr. Ware, who was superintending the removal of Rogers
to the rectory, where he hoped that during the hours of returning
health, he might acquire an influence, which might turn his present
feelings to good account.

"Sir," said he, as he joined him, "may I beg you to go to poor Miss

"What has happened to her?" said Mr. Ware, anxiously.

"The child is dead," replied the stranger.

"Dead!" exclaimed Mr. Ware, in surprise, "I heard she was safe, poor
child. How I wish I had seen her."

He did not speak again till they reached the lodge, and then leaving his
companion without, he entered the chamber of death. There lay his little
favorite on her couch, which had been arranged with studious care. By
her side knelt Mabel, her head buried in her hands, her hair loose and
disordered, and looking almost as lifeless as the child she mourned.

Miss Ware was in the room, and hurried to meet her brother with an
affectionate kiss, for she had not seen him for some hours.

"I am glad you are come, Edmund," said she, "for I can do nothing for
the poor girl--she will not even speak to me."

"Do not even try to comfort her," said her brother, taking her hand,
kindly; "we who are grateful for each other's safety can well enter into
her feelings. Send away these good friends, and keep only one with you,
and then stay with her a little while; but do not rouse her yet--I will
come again and see her."

His sister, always prompt in following his advice, choosing one steady
woman to be with her, dismissed the rest (who had crowded in with the
hope of being of service) with thanks for their attention.

Mr. Ware then joined the stranger, and walked on towards the rectory; he

"I can do nothing for her yet--but my sister is with her. It is too soon
to offer comfort--for it seems like mockery in the first moments of
anguish. You seem to take an interest in our favorite."

"It is impossible to be insensible to such heartrending scenes," he
returned, laconically, as if to check further remark.

"We are much indebted, sir, for your exertions last night," said Mr.
Ware, at length.

"Pray mention nothing of that," he said, evasively.

"But how can I help it--is it in the nature of man to receive favors
with a thankless heart?"

"It is."

"Yes, but not, I trust, so soon after they have been conferred. I own
that benefits are often, much too often forgotten--but you wrong us, if
you believe we could so return a favor bestowed by a stranger. You shall
receive my thanks, at least; and do not think my simple-hearted friends
less accustomed to feel because they often express their feelings with
difficulty. No, let me assure you, that as long as the tale of this
night shall be told by the cottage hearth, so long will your name be
spoken of with praise."

"Sir," he replied, "I have been soured by the world, or I should not
have expressed a doubt, which, believe me, I am very far from feeling. I
know, as you say, that my poor services will be handed down as part of
this night's sad tale; and of yourself, sir," he slightly raised his
hat, "I have seen enough to convince me, that you deserve my respect,
even had I not seen it reflected from those whose hearts are difficult
to win; and let me assure you, that I am more gratified than you would
easily believe, for the good opinion you so kindly express, though I
feel myself utterly unworthy of it. It were hard for me to doubt the
existence of gratitude, when the smallest benefits, and even the kindly
words of--

    'Auld lang syne'

are treasured up in my mind. No; past benefits are like stars which we
leave behind in our onward path, but which may light it still. But,"
added he, relaxing into his desponding tone, "how very few have we to
remember--how scantily are those kindnesses shewn which keep the heart
warm towards its fellow creatures."

"Pardon me," replied Mr. Ware, "carry back your thoughts perhaps to a
mother's tender care, and her love which can find an excuse for every
fault--the more thoughtful pride of a father, and the thousand little
kindnesses and confidences by which sisters and brothers bind themselves
to each other by links which the world finds it difficult to break.

"Remember our school days and school-fellows, friends at college, and
why not friends in after life. Oh, the heart must be bereaved indeed
that has nothing to excite its gratitude--and, excuse me, the heart is
kept warm towards the world more by its power of blessing others, than
of being blessed itself--and that is in the power of all, even if it be
but the gift of a kindly word and a sympathizing look. I am surprised
that one so skilled in giving assistance to others should speak as you
do; but it seems, if I may venture to say so, as if the world had dealt
hardly with you."

"And you," said the stranger, "speak as one who has been so fortunate as
both to have given and received blessings."

"You speak truly, at least so far, that I have been much blessed through
a life which I may call a long one--let me hope that you may be equally

"What I may be," he replied, moodily, "none can say--but what the past
has been, I know too well. Yet why I intrude my confidence upon you, I
can scarcely tell, except that your kindness encourages it. Yet, when I
am far from here, I shall remember your courtesy with pleasure, and
would plead that I may not be altogether forgotten."

"You need not ask me that," said Mr. Ware; "but you are not going
to-day, and must come and dine with me."

"I must deny myself that pleasure," he returned; "for I have sent my
horse to the little inn at Fowly, and ordered my dinner--and besides,
you will have another guest."

"Then I must wish you good day for the present," said Mr. Ware, as they
parted, he to see after the comforts of the sick bailiff, while the
stranger crossed the fields to the Aston woods, and buried himself in
its wild paths for the rest of the day.


    Life is before ye--from the fated road
    Ye cannot turn; then take ye up your load,
    Not yours to tread, or leave the unknown way,
    Ye must go o'er it, meet ye what ye may;
    Gird up your souls within ye to the deed,
    Angels and fellow spirits bid ye speed,
    What tho' the brightness dim, the pleasure fade,
    The glory wane--oh! not of these is made
    The awful life that to your trust is given.

    F. BUTLER.

Towards evening Mr. Ware repaired to the lodge. When he entered the
small room he found his sister sitting near the window, while Mabel was
still upon her knees by the bed-side.

"I cannot rouse her in the least," said Miss Ware, anxiously, as she met
his eye, "this is a wretched place for her to stay in, and it will only
do her harm."

Mr. Ware approached her, and repeating her name gently, waited for an
answer, but receiving none, he laid his hand on her shoulder, and said,
with attempted firmness--

"My child, your mother asks for you."

A heaving of the chest and a deep drawn sigh shewed that he was heard.

"Shall she ask in vain," he continued, "will you refuse to go to her,
dear Mabel--will you not go and weep with her?"

Mabel raised her head, but her first effort caused her eyes to fall upon
the bed, and she burst into a passionate flood of tears.

The brother and sister, both deeply moved, looked at each other in

Again Mabel raised her head, and seemingly relieved, stretched her hand
towards Mr. Ware, who took it, and kindly pressed it in both his own.

"Bear with me a little while," she murmured, with quivering lips, "and I
will go with you--yes, I am ready now," she said, slowly rising, then
stopping to look round upon the desolate chamber, she exclaimed--

"But how can I leave her here?"

"Leave her to my care," said Miss Ware, "and she shall be properly
removed to the Manor."

Mabel seized her hand, but then, as if afraid of trusting herself, she
tore herself away, and hurried out. Once in the open air she accepted
Mr. Ware's proffered arm, and allowed him to guide her where he pleased.
She neither spoke nor looked around her, nor did he seek to excite her
to any further effort, he was contented in the idea that he was taking
her where she would not long remain inert; so he only drew the cloak, he
had thrown round her, closer over her head, to shield her from the cold
air, and led her quietly to the Manor.

It no longer wore the air of solemn silence, which was its wont; the
sound of many confused voices woke the echoes in the court-yard, and
men and women lounged freely about the usually strictly kept premises.

The hall door was opened as they approached, by Mrs. Hawkins, who had
seen them from one of the windows--the good woman looked considerably
hurried from superintending the different parts of the well-filled
mansion, and in doing her utmost to preserve the carpets, hangings, and
statues from the touch of the children, and the over curious.

Mabel paused as she entered the hall, and looked anxiously round her.
This was the only show part of the house, but it amply repaid the visit
of the stranger. Around the walls statues of great beauty and immense
value were placed in niches--above was a gallery in which paintings of
the choicest kind were arranged with much taste. This reached by two
marble staircases at each end. The hall was of the height of the house
itself, and was thoroughly lighted by windows, and a sky light, so that
the pictures were seen to the greatest advantage. Beneath it opened on
passages leading to different sitting-rooms, while the picture-gallery
above led to the bedrooms. All these being fitted up in a style which
included every luxury which the most lavish wealth could purchase, yet
so completely in keeping that the whole appeared a thoroughly
comfortable English home, after all.

For a few moments Mabel remained looking round her in bewildered
silence. Mr. Ware watched her attentively, but her open countenance did
not, as usual, tell him the train of thought which oppressed her. He
took her hand, saying kindly--

"Mrs. Hawkins is waiting to take you to your mother."

"I am ready," said Mabel, drawing a long breath, as she turned and
followed her to the room which had been given to Mrs. Lesly, and where
already every comfort, which the good housekeeper could devise,
surrounded her.

Satisfied now that the mother and daughter were together, Mr. Ware left
the mansion with many sad reflections.

The next day was Sunday, and strangely came that time of rest after the
two last days of confusion and terror. The morning was cold, clear, and
frosty, and as glad a sun as ever cheers a wintry landscape, shone down
upon the smouldering ruins of the village. As the time for morning
service approached, a merry peal from the bells of the village church
welcomed sunshine to the earth, and peace and safety to the hearts of

As Mr. Ware slowly ascended the steep path leading to the church, he was
followed by many groups of old and young, who, at his bidding, hastened
to testify their thankfulness for the sparing of their lives. One young
life had alone been cut down, and none passed Mrs. Lesly's cottage,
without thinking sadly of Amy. When the whole of the little congregation
had assembled, crowding the church, for all were there, the stranger
entered with a sad and serious countenance. Avoiding the seat belonging
to the Manor, which the clerk readily opened for him, he entered the
next pew, and kneeling gently, seemed anxious to avoid the many eyes
which were turned admiringly upon him, who, for their sakes, had braved
every danger with reckless confidence. The sermon was rendered
impressive by its touching simplicity, and found an echo in every heart
subdued by the late calamity. None listened more attentively than did
their stranger benefactor; and when the service was concluded, he seemed
still impressed with what he had heard, as, avoiding all companionship
he walked again to the woods, which, by their peculiar beauty, always
attracted the attention of the tourist. But when the bell again called
to service, he returned, and entered the church, late, as before;
possibly to avoid the many groups which had been loitering round it;
and, when they again left the church, he lingered till he could join Mr.
Ware in the porch, walking quietly out with him through his private
gate; thus, avoiding those who were anxious to offer him their thanks.

"You understand, sir," he said, "how to touch the feelings."

"It is of little consequence, I fear, to excite the feelings," replied
Mr. Ware; "for so many are contented to go no further."

"I believe you; yet our feelings are often the gateways to our reason."

"Yes, indeed; and therefore the power of appealing to them is not to be
slighted. I was myself deeply impressed, to-day, when I saw the many
anxious faces looking up to me as I spoke. Oh, I do believe this might
be the beginning of better things in my parish, if--."

"If what," enquired the stranger; "are you, too, going to throw all the
blame on the poor landlord."

"Willingly, most willingly would I throw not the blame, but all the
praise of their well-being upon him, if he would but return and give us
the blessing of feeling him to be amongst us."

"Yet you cannot help being angry with him."

"Perhaps not, but mine is more the pettishness of jealous affection, and
I cannot bear to see him keeping away from those whose hearts he might
make all his own--and wasting health, and time, and happiness, in the
wayward course he has chosen.

"But, sir," added Mr. Ware, checking himself. "You will come to my
house, to-day."

"I thank you, time presses with me; and here you see my horse is
waiting. A fine fellow, is he not; how gallantly he bore that long ride
the other night, and he looks none the worse for it now. Here, my good
fellow," he said, dismissing the man who led him, and taking the rein
upon his arm. "Will you not walk a little further with me," he continued
to Mr. Ware.

"Certainly, though I confess myself thoroughly disappointed that you
will not stay with me."

"Another time, dear sir, I will not fail to avail myself of the pleasure
of your acquaintance; but I really have engagements I do not like to
break. Do you think there is any hope of the poor bailiff?"

"I trust so."

"I know you will do every thing you can for him, mentally and bodily. If
he would become a changed man, the comfort of your people might be
better secured, than by the appointment of a fresh bailiff."

"Very possibly," replied Mr. Ware.

The deep shadows of the winter's evening were now rapidly closing round
them, and the light streaks on the horizon growing fainter and
fainter--yet, still they lingered as if their short acquaintance
rendered them reluctant to part so soon.

"The night warns me that I must go," said the stranger, at length, as he
mounted his horse, casting as he did so, a glance at the surrounding
country; "though I would willingly stay--but the shadows always come
between me and happiness."

"Not so," said Mr. Ware, earnestly.

"Is it not so," said the stranger, slightly bending towards him, and as
he did so, raising his hat, together with the mass of red hair which
disguised his countenance, now beaming upon him in its characteristic
and noble beauty--to which the deep black of his hair added all that was
wanting. Before, however, Mr. Ware had time to utter a word, a light
stroke of the whip sent the horse forward, and as he dashed onwards, he
cried; "Say nothing till we meet again." In a few seconds he had turned
the corner, and as Mr. Ware stood entirely bewildered with the
revelation which had burst so suddenly upon him--he heard nothing but
the echo of his horse's hoofs--as its utmost speed carried him further
away--till the last sound died upon the night air.


    Oh, there are griefs for nature too intense,
    Whose first rude shock but stupifies the soul;
    Nor hath the fragile, and o'er labour'd sense,
    Strength e'en to _feel_ at once their dread controul.

    But when 'tis past, that still and speechless hour
    Of the sealed bosom, and the tearless eye,
    Then the roused mind awakes with tenfold power,
    To grasp the feelings of its agony.


The heavy sound of the funeral bell may, in crowded cities, lose half
its influence by falling upon ears which use has attuned to its sound;
but in a small and remote village death comes at long intervals, and
reads a more solemn lesson, lest he may be altogether forgotten. How
strange and oppressive is the sound of the minute bell--the pause--the
silence--and then the low booming sound which strikes to the heart of
the most careless, as if it would urge us while the king of terrors is
before us, and weighing oppressively on our hearts--to wake from the
lethargy of sin, and the fascinating dreams of worldly pleasure and
ambition. The air feels heavy, though on the brightest summer day, and,
though we may not waken to the things which death calls to our
remembrance, we cannot sleep as firmly as before.

Such, perhaps, might have been the thoughts of the worthy Rector, as he
remembered many unruly members of his church, and wished that the awful
sound might waken them, to look with him beyond the dark tomb and
funeral pall, when that solemn tolling spoke to them of the fair young
child, who had departed from amongst them. As the simple procession
neared the church, those employed in clearing away the ruins, leant upon
their spades, and for awhile forgot their labour. Amy had been Mabel's
favorite messenger of mercy to the sick and afflicted, and every little
gift had come with more grace from the hands of the beautiful child; to
many a fevered couch had she carried the ripe fruit, which she had
begged from the old gardener; and many watched now with tearful eye as
she passed to her long home. Mabel followed her with feelings of
anguish, she in vain endeavoured to tranquillize, for her natural
passions were as strong as the controul she so steadily placed over
them. Captain Clair had obtained permission to attend, and those who did
not fully understand the poor child's history wondered at the emotion he
betrayed. It was a cheerless, dark day, when they laid her to rest in
her narrow bed, amongst the graves, where, led by a gentle sister's
hand, she had from infancy learned to think of

    "A heaven of joy and love,"

and to know

    "That holy children when they die,
    Go to that land above."

The remembrance of those by-gone scenes--of the sunny days of Amy's
childhood, and the earnest face with which she would listen when she
talked, came fresh to Mabel's mind; but, when she remembered that they
had not been passed so thoughtlessly as they might have been, she tried
to chase away selfish thoughts, and to turn with calm submission from
the past, which she had loved so well--to a hard and relentless future.
Yet, when the last rites had been performed, when she had gone from the
grave and again entered Aston Manor, a loneliness fell upon her heart
with cold oppressiveness. It was, perhaps, some relief to her that she
was surrounded by no familiar objects which could have recalled memory
after memory of past days. The marble staircase, and the beautiful
pictures which hung round the gallery, could form no memorial of their
neat but old-fashioned cottage, where her father's retirement, and Amy's
whole life, had been spent. The soft carpets and silk hangings could
only recall, by contrast, those which neatness and economy alone had
rendered respectable. With one glance at her black dress, which her
mother was to see for the first time, she opened the door of the room
which Mrs. Hawkins had chosen for them, and stole noiselessly in Mrs.
Lesly slept, and her faithful maid sat by her, weeping silently. It was
a relief to poor Mabel not to be obliged to speak, and she withdrew to a
window-seat, where she might think without interruption. Her mother
slept in a bed of crimson silk, which fell in graceful folds to the
ground. The whole furniture of the room was costly; pictures, of sacred
subjects, by the first masters, hung round the walls, and every comfort
which luxury could suggest, or wealth purchase, betokened the riches and
taste of the possessor of the mansion. She turned her eyes to the
window, where a view presented itself fully in keeping with the interior
of the building. The wide spreading oaks had been so arranged as to open
on a vista, which admitted the copse covered hills, beyond; while,
immediately below the windows, lay the gardens, which, like the house,
gained what they lost in size, in rich and careful cultivation, and
where now, evergreens, of all varieties, from all countries, gave a
still life to the scene. The wind had again risen, and dark clouds
chased each other over the lowering sky, such, as in our melancholy or
fanciful moods, seem the hieroglyphics by which we may read our destiny.
By how many fanciful links are we united to the invisible world. But it
was beyond the cloudy screen, that hung so darkly over the earth, that
Mabel's clear eye endeavoured to penetrate. With her hands clasped
before her, she remained gazing upon the pure sky, which at intervals
might be discovered as one cloud rolled by, though immediately followed
by another, as if the image it brought to her mind cheered and upheld
her. With childlike trust, she endeavoured to resign that which had
endeared a life, which one sorrow had done much to darken; but the duty
was a hard one. It was not easy to lose the occupation, the thought of
the present, and the preparations and visions of the future; at once, to
be forced, in stillness to think, when, before, active exertion had
found an object, and every motive an end.

But, as she still gazed upon the scene around her, a cloud stole over
her brow, and she looked uneasily at the dark woods, which skirted the
landscape. She took a long review of the past, which, as it were, forced
itself, in this terrible hour, upon her mind; the struggle which she
recalled, had nearly cost her her life, and would have rendered life
valueless, had it not been for the victory of principle over wayward and
exorbitant passion, which, turning her thoughts inward, upon a sinful
heart, and forward, to a future, still richly blessed, taught her that,
even deprived of the blessing she had so fondly prized, she had yet
sufficient to call forth her warmest gratitude. When first she had
brought herself unflinchingly to sacrifice her love to her religion, she
might have deemed that sacrifice of her heart's best affections one
which might atone for much evil, and that, the victim of a broken heart,
she would find a martyr's grave. But there was within her a better
though a humbler seed--the germ of a higher and holier principle. It had
slept in prosperity, and the bitter tears of sorrow were needed to call
it into life. Under its influence, she learnt a truer idea of herself,
and her own duties. She found that life, though spent in weariness and
pain, is a boon of boundless blessing, since it is a working day, on
whose wages our whole happiness depends. Six years had passed since
Mabel and her lover had parted. She seemed, indeed, to those around her
to be the same being--but in herself how changed in those few years. All
that before was impulse or wayward goodness, now rose from the one pure
motive--the hope of blessing instead of being blessed. She had,
therefore, learnt to govern her temper--to give up her own selfish
inclinations--and to counteract any morbid remembrance of the past. The
habit of self control, thus earnestly acquired, she now found of avail
in the hour of need, in a way scarcely to be comprehended by the
habitual victims of weakness, or the slaves of the feelings of the hour.
She rose and left the window, and taking a seat by her mother's side,
partially screened herself from her notice, lest the first sight of her
mourning dress might too evidently recall the day's sad duties. Yet she
could not refrain from watching her as she slept, with that anxious
solicitude which Mr. Ware had foreseen would not long be absent from her
mind; for how soon she too would be removed, he feared to think. But to
Mabel's ever hopeful mind had come a doubt of her danger, which gave a
zeal to every effort to forward her recovery. Mrs. Lesly's removal to
Aston Manor--the seat of her husband's near kinsman--served to soothe
one of the few selfish feelings she possessed. There was something
peculiarly agreeable to a proud and refined mind like her own, in the
luxury with which she was surrounded, and, though she might have had
some reluctance in taking advantage of it, could her health have allowed
her removal, she quickly gave up the point, with her constitutional
indolence, and readily acquiesced in an arrangement, which, in its
general effect, soothed and gratified her. The poor and neglected widow
would spend her last days in the mansion, where she felt honor to be her
due, though she could scarcely tell why. Yet she might be forgiven the
few failings to which she was subject, and which always did more injury
to herself than others, to whom her kindness was ever most lavish. Since
her confidence with Mabel, as to the lost papers, her mind had seemed at
ease, and her daughter had skilfully prevented her recurring to the
subject, or again suffering that uneasiness which had preyed so
seriously on her mind before. Perhaps, with the vague remembrance that
Mabel had suggested something, though in reality but the quick prompting
of an affectionate heart, she had flattered herself that all was
well--and Mabel rejoiced that it was so. To say that the latter was
indifferent when she allowed herself to think, would have been untrue;
but now, with Amy, had gone, all restless doubts of the future. A steady
mind, a firm and trusting heart, and an humble, but courageous,
self-reliance, were sufficient, she felt, for her own provision, though
she would have trembled to have entrusted one so dear, and so helpless,
to such support as the brave man, sometimes, when called on, to protect
those he loves, has been seen to lose nerve through dangers which, had
he met them alone, would scarcely have excited a thought of fear.

At length, Mrs. Lesly slowly opened her eyes, and gazed round her for a
few moments, as if to bring back the reality, and to separate it from
her dreaming fancy. Mabel shrunk slightly back; but her mother, as if
divining her motive, herself drew aside the curtain, and taking her
hand, said, gently--

"My sweet child, why should I fear to look upon these sad signs of your
grief? I have little cause to regret that she has gone a few days
before me. No, dear, I, who have seen so much of this cold world, could
scarcely wish to leave my darling to its stinted kindness--so young--so
helpless--and so unfriended."

"Ah," thought Mabel, as tears rushed to her eyes, "to have begged for
her her daily bread, would have been joy to losing her."

"I see," continued Mrs. Lesly, "that you can, with difficulty, perceive
why I speak so now; but, my Mabel, will remember, with gratitude, should
she ever suffer the unkindness of the world, that her sister shares it
not, and her noble heart will rejoice that she alone will have to bear
the trials, from which a dying mother cannot protect her."

"Ah, Mamma, that word alone is dreadful; you must not--cannot leave me."

"My child knows that there is a _must_, which cannot be resisted--and I
have mistaken my Mabel if she does not bow before this, with as much
courage and submission, as before every other trial. Remember your dear
father's words in his last illness--'Mabel, life is but a short campaign
after all, and you must fight to the end; who would be so cowardly as to
lay down his sword for a wound'?"

"I will remember, dearest mamma," said Mabel, more firmly, for the words
of her father always had influence with her; "and, oh, forgive my

Tears were in her mother's eyes, though her voice had been firm; and
Mabel, fearing to continue the conversation, returned to the window, and
looked out again upon the night, which was fast closing around; but
scarcely did she now heed the flitting clouds, and the coming darkness,
or the wind as it rocked the old trees, or their branches, which, by
their fantastic motion, appeared beckoning her attention; they seemed,
an hour ago, to echo back the light laugh, whose gay music she would
hear no more; but now the hour of fancy was over, and oppressed by the
real presence of grief, she bowed her head, and chastened her heart to


                      There is one
    Must be mine inmate, for I may not choose,
    But love him.


On the Saturday evening of the week which had been so eventful at Aston,
the Villars family were assembled in their showily furnished
drawing-room, in Sydney Place, Bath, each engaged in different
occupations; but all eagerly expecting the promised arrival of their
rich cousin, Colonel Hargrave. The drawing-room had been studiously
arranged, and had not failed to become what it was intended to
be--tempting morning and evening lounge, where every single, and
eligible man, obtained an easy chair, an amusing chat, and a welcome,
which flattered his vanity.

On the present occasion, the ladies of the family were all as finely and
as tastefully dressed in the newest mode, as an evening at home could
allow--and certainly, taken together, they might have been regarded as a
singularly fine family.

Mrs. Villars we have already had occasion to describe; yet, _en
passant_, it is necessary to say that herself at Aston, (swayed by the
conflicting feelings of conscience, and her sister's straightforward
reasoning, exercised with a candour, known to their girlhood before
either had chalked out her path in life,) was a very different
personage, indeed, to Mrs. Villars in Bath. The stately importance, or
smiling dignity, with which she received her levy of morning callers, or
evening guests, showed no wavering conscience, or doubtful heart. A
certain degree of intrigue many might have detected; but in the mother
of so large and fair a family that was easily forgiven; and, while the
gaiety of her conversation rendered her ever a welcome and popular
guest, the size of her rooms, and brilliancy of her parties rendered her
a valuable hostess. She was now moving about the room to adjust
something or other, or taking a peep at the dining-table, to secure
herself against anything which might give a bad impression to the
expected guest.

Next, if not first, in dignity, stood her daughter Caroline. She was
certainly beautiful, though rather fine than engaging, and her
expression was haughty and severe--yet beautiful she certainly was, if
the most perfect outline of feature is beauty. In figure she was above
the middle height; but this was modified by a well rounded person, and a
certain academical grace of movement. Her person did not belie her
character; she did not rate herself below her real value, and might,
indeed, often have erred on the wrong side. In her manners, she was
overbearing, but seldom unlady-like. She was talented, yet wanted
solidity--haughty and ill-tempered, yet seldom mean, unless greatly
tempted. In her own family she rivalled her mother's influence--being a
sort of person over whom it was very difficult to have authority. Her
age was something beyond thirty, and the remembrance that, with all her
beauty, she was still unmarried, gave her mind a sourness which greatly
embittered the comfort of the circle of which she formed so prominent a
part. On the present occasion, however, she was in one of her best
moods, for, slow to take warning from the past, she looked on future
conquest as certain. The expected arrival of Colonel Hargrave, about
whom, for the last few months, she had been incessantly rallied by her
mother and sisters, gave a brilliancy to her color, and a radiancy to
her large black eyes--and as she leant over her harp, rambling over a
few airs, which might form a romantic greeting to him, Mrs. Villars
looked upon her with satisfied triumph. To tell the truth, she was very
much afraid of her on account of the haughty and imperious temper,
which, in childhood, she had forgotten to guide, and looked upon no
scheme for the benefit of her family, with more interest than on the one
which might secure Caroline a settlement, which would satisfy her
temper, bring honor on herself, and, not least, remove her from all
rivalry with her younger sisters. She had, therefore, on the present
occasion, been spared nothing which could coax her wayward humour into
rendering itself as fascinating as possible--for well did Mrs. Villars
know that by a little ill-timed opposition, her anger might be roused,
and thus all hopes of her settling be lost. Her expensive taste had,
therefore, been for the last few weeks fully gratified, though Mrs.
Villars trembled at every request which she feared to refuse. Selina,
her second sister, was lounging about the room, sometimes taking up an
old album, or a piece of knitting, and wondering where the Colonel could
be. She was a very fair-skinned, fair-haired girl, with very light blue
eyes--bearing an expression of indolent, good nature. Her prevailing
taste was dancing, of which she was _passionately fond_. Less talented
than her elder sister, she yet understood better how to render herself
acceptable in society. The pretty lisp with which she often declined
attempting a difficult song, was by many deemed more pleasing than her
sister's perfect execution of it; and the many pretty nothings about
nothing, with which she entertained her partner in the dance, or the
smile which meant anything he liked to interpret from it, was often
preferred to Caroline's more sensible conversation. She was not,
however, so silly as she sometimes chose to appear; a quiet sense of
self-preservation usually befriended her, and rendered her sufficiently
alive to her own interest. But though very generally liked, she was not
often seriously admired.

Our friend Lucy was seated on a stool near the fire, seemingly anxious
to catch the fitful light as it fell upon a picture of Finella, (her
intended character for the fancy ball,) which she held in her hand. It
might have been that she remembered something of the time when Captain
Clair had so earnestly dissuaded her from going to that very ball, for
the color came and went upon her cheeks as if her thoughts were far from
the present scene, and as if they so much occupied her as to prevent her
feeling the tedium of expectation.

Maria, the youngest of the sisters, was standing by her, trying, at
times, to rally her by remarks which dyed her cheek still deeper, though
she remained determinately inattentive to them.

Over Maria her mother had spent many a desponding hour; to her, beauty
was everything, and the beauty so lavishly given to her other daughters,
was in Maria singularly wanting. Maria, however, possessed more energy
than the others, and was not disposed to weep over a deficiency, which
she very justly considered to be no fault of hers. Her mouth indeed was
very misshapen, and her nose anything but Grecian--but the irregularity
of these features was very much redeemed by a pair of handsome eyes,
which, though they sometimes sparkled with satire, as often sparkled
with fun, in which she peculiarly delighted, though, unfortunately, it
occasionally degenerated into vulgarity. She had sufficient common sense
to know that if she remained inactive, comparisons, which in most cases
are odious, would be doubly so between herself and her sisters, and she
seldom allowed her tongue to be sufficiently silent to lead any one to
take the trouble to scan her countenance; and, perhaps, the knowledge of
her own deficiency did much to compensate for its existence.

One of the first exclamations a stranger would feel inclined to make, on
an introduction to this family circle, would be--Why are all these girls
unmarried? but no satisfactory answer could be given. Maria suggested,
when the subject was discussed in private, that luck was against them.
They were sought for, invited out, admired, flirted with by a host of
young men, who professed they would have died to serve them, but somehow
forgot to make those bona fide proposals, which would probably have been
of more service to them than their deaths.

In leaving the description of Mr. Villars to the last, we are only
following a fashion which was too prevalent in his household. There was
little that was striking in his first appearance; he was only very
thoughtful, very gentle, and very gentlemanly. He was the younger son of
a wealthy merchant, and had been placed, much against his inclinations,
in a firm of some consequence in London. His natural tastes led him to
prefer rather classical studies, than the active part in the world of
business for which his father designed him. Respect for parental
authority, however, prevented his choosing his own profession, in
opposition to it; and, being a man of high principle, he resolved that
the dislike he entertained for his employment, should not prevent his
vigorously exerting himself in the state of life in which he found
himself. His prudence was rewarded, and during the thirty years which he
had unrepiningly given to his business, he was fortunate enough to
realize a fortune which enabled him to retire from it, and having amply
provided for his family, by insurances effected on his own life, he was
enabled, during his lifetime, to gratify both himself and them in every
reasonable way. Having ceased to take any active share in the business,
he removed to Bath, where he hoped to find gaiety sufficient to satisfy
their wishes, while he indulged his dearly prized leisure in literary
pursuits. This plan, however, failed to answer his expectations; his
former occupations had given him little time to inspect personally the
rising characters of his children, who had been left entirely to their
mother's guidance, and he now found, when too late, that they were
little calculated to form that domestic circle towards which, through
so many long years, he had looked, as the haven of his rest. His tastes
were not theirs, and the self denying love which can atone for such
deficiencies, had, in their education, been forgotten. They were fond of
him in their own way, but this did not prevent their finding the time
spent in his study, in hunting for a lost passage, in a favorite author,
or listening to some of his own elegant compositions, very dull
indeed--though many efforts did he make to overcome this difficulty, and
to find one, at least, amongst his four daughters, who might make a
pleasant companion; but he had not the heart to command the attentions
which he well knew love alone could supply, and with a sigh, he retired,
not only companionless, but with a lower idea of his own merits than
they deserved. The greater part of his time was now spent alone, in a
way which little suited his gentle and domestic disposition; and,
contented with holding the reins of domestic government, in serious
matters, he let smaller arrangements take their course, without
troubling or interesting himself in them. Such was the family group
assembled to welcome Colonel Hargrave. The hour appointed, had, however,
long passed; Mr. Villars had taken out his watch for the twentieth time,
and now stood with it in his hand. Mrs. Villars wearied of her repeated
messages to the kitchen to put off the dinner, and Caroline looked
lowering for a storm. But nothing availed; quarter followed quarter,
counted by impatient minutes. Yet, still, Mrs. Villars referred to the
Colonel's note, which she carefully carried in her bag, and again and
again read his promise to be with them at the time mentioned, in order
that he might accompany them to the ball on the Monday. She had boasted
of this, in no unsparing language, and, should he fail her now, her
mortification would be complete. Still, concealing her own fears, she
glanced, every now and then, entreatingly, at her daughter.

At length, Mr. Villars declared he would wait no longer. This resolution
being at length carried, they adjourned, in no very agreeable mood, to
the dining-room, to partake of a fine dinner, completely spoilt. Mr.
Villars, feeling annoyed at the disrespect which a neglected appointment
often implies, was not in the best possible humour, and his wife, eager
to support the popularity of her unknown favorite, was obliged to
exercise no small rhetoric to make all smooth. But when she looked at
Caroline, and saw the cloud of ill-humour gathering fast, and, as
quickly shading her beauty, she as fervently wished he would stay away
for that night, at least, as she had before been eager for his arrival.
This last wish was fully gratified, for the evening wore away, and yet
no Hargrave made his appearance.


    At me you smiled, but unbeguiled,
    I saw the snare and I retired.


The Monday appointed for the fancy ball arrived, and still nothing had
been heard of Hargrave. Mrs. Villars fretted, and Caroline assumed a
haughty and sulky indifference. During the day, every knock and ring
brought disappointment, till the lateness of the hour warned them to
prepare for the ball. It was then that Caroline, for the first time,
announced her intention of remaining at home. In vain did Mrs. Villars
remonstrate that her fancy Sultana's dress had cost more than twice as
much as her sisters', and it was of as little use to flatter her vanity
by representing that she would be the most elegantly dressed in the
whole ball-room; Caroline's temper was not to be conquered in a single
night. Tired of persuasion, her mother stormed, and changing entreaties
for threats, commanded her to go; but Caroline was obstinate, and
nothing but bodily force could have moved her from the arm-chair, in
which she had settled herself for the evening, with a candle close to
her elbow, and a new novel in her lap. She would not go, she declared,
with a haughtiness which would have suited a more unworthy proposal. Nor
would she move from her chair, even to give the assistance of her advice
at her sisters' toilet, or, in any other way betray the slightest
interest in an amusement for which they had all been so long and so
busily preparing.

Extremely chagrined, Mrs. Villars was compelled to submit, and, as she
gave a last glance at the beautiful velvet dress which taste and money
had alike been expended to prepare, the bitterness of her disappointment
was not a little increased by remembering that this fruitless purchase
had been made with part of the loan so hardly wrung from her sister; and
it was with an uneasy sensation of annoyance, that she led her fair
daughters that night into the crowded ball-room.

Lucy, with a heart upon the rebound, and flushed with the determination
of piquing Clair, if possible, had never looked more lovely than she did
that night. A white dress of the greatest simplicity distinguished her
character, as Finella, while her long light curls fell in careless
tresses over her neck and shoulders, forming a veil, which enhanced the
beauty they seemed bent upon concealing. How wildly beat the heart in
that illregulated bosom? Her simply going to the ball would, she
imagined, shew herself free from any deference to Arthur Clair's
opinion, and if any thoughts of Amy Lesly came unbidden amongst the
revelry, she banished the remembrance by a lighter laugh or a bolder
sally. She could not fail to attract attention, and many strangers were
anxious to be introduced to the fairy Villars, as she was that night
called; but one only attracted, and soon absorbed her attention, he was
a young man of a prepossessing appearance, with large melting eyes and a
low persuasive voice. Evidently attracted by her appearance, he had
obtained an introduction, under the name of Beauclerc. He waltzed to
perfection, and the implied compliments he every now and then offered,
in a tone and voice of great sweetness, Lucy took for deeper homage than
he perhaps intended, and the ready blush deepened on her cheek, and her
eye sparkled when she suffered herself to be led to a seat apart from
the dancers, where his witty remarks afforded her ample amusement. So
readily, indeed, flowed his language, that the absent Clair sunk into
nothing, a mere every-day flirt, compared with this fascinating new
acquaintance. Besides, he possessed the power of drawing her out, and
made her feel quite clever, by leading her to display herself in a new
light. He listened to her remarks with the most flattering attention,
and resigned her to the gentleman who next claimed her hand for the
dance, with apparent reluctance. She was then surprised to find that she
had as little to say as formerly, and that her new partner's
observations on the fashionable news of the day had become quite
uninteresting. She was not, therefore, sorry to find Mr. Beauclerc again
by her side, when the dance was over, and she had taken a seat by her

"Can you tell me?" she said, turning to him, with a smile, "why, just
now, I had plenty to say, but immediately I began to dance with that
gentleman, I felt so dull I could not say any thing at all. I have been
labouring at conversation, I assure you, with as much industry and
dulness as the noted donkey at Carrisbrooke Castle employs in his task,
but with far less success, for he succeeds in fetching up some water--I
am afraid I cannot say the same, of a single idea. Would you believe
that I twice observed on the band, once on the room, and three times on
the lights. Can you tell me why, since you seem to have the genius of
explaining every thing?"

A well pleased smile passed over his lips as he replied, only, by taking
out a small hunting watch which he quietly opened, and then handing it
to her, he presented her at the same time with the key of his

"Will you," said he "oblige me by winding this watch."

"Oblige you," replied Lucy, laughing, "by breaking the spring, I
suppose--that key belongs to your desk."

"You give me the very answer I desired. You cannot wind my watch,
because I have not given you the right key. This illustrates what I am
going to say.

"There are some minds suited to other minds, as this watch is to its
key. This beautiful piece of mechanism," said he, playing with the
watch in his hand, "would be to me, or to any one else, perfectly
useless without the key, which, however simple in its construction, is
yet so necessary to the watch, that it alone can render it of any
service. It is so with the human mind, we may live for years without
being fortunate enough to meet with one answering mind which can unlock
the treasures of our heart, and the secret springs of feeling, and of
thought, and bring them into exercise. It is the sympathy of those
around us which we need, the power which others possess of understanding
us; to place ourselves in a true light--do you understand me?"

"Partly," replied Lucy, hesitating, and looking down.

"Partly, but not entirely," returned Mr. Beauclerc, repeating her words,
with an emphasis, which argued a slight degree of superiority, to which
Lucy readily bowed. "Yet I would say you were made to enjoy these
things as well as understand them. Nay, you must not think me rude if I
say I read as much when first introduced to you; and that I felt I
should be understood if I ventured to speak in a way which the world too
often ridicules, because it does not comprehend it. It is only the
simple language of truth; yet, because it is not exactly the same as the
hacknied language of the world, it is regarded as nonsense."

Lucy did not quite understand all he said, but she felt that she was
receiving an admiration more flattering, because paid to her
understanding; and she only broke up the conversation after repeated
invitations to the dance, and her pulse fluttered quickly as she heard,
or fancied she heard, a sigh from the accomplished Beauclerc, as she
gracefully resigned herself to a young officer, upon whose arm she was
soon whirled past him in the giddy round.

Mrs. Villars smiled with secret pride, when some of her friends rallied
her on her daughter's conquest, and she took an early opportunity of
asking a friend who he might be.

"Have you not heard?" was the reply, "that he has brought his own
carriage, and two hunters, to the Castle, and Ball--and, besides, his
person speaks for itself, it is so _distingué_."

Mrs. Villars sought for Lucy, to impart these particulars, but was not
sorry to find her waltzing with Mr. Beauclerc.

"What a handsome couple they would make," thought she; "and, oh, if
Caroline and Hargrave were but here, I should be quite happy." But she
little dreamt of the pleasure yet in store for that evening.

Mr. Villars soon beginning to feel impatient, she was compelled to draw
her party together. Beauclerc accompanied them to the door; and as he
handed Lucy into the carriage, she fancied his hand trembled. With this
pleasing impression, she leant back in the fly which conveyed them home,
and gave herself up to pleasant reverie, and castle building. She ran
over every word which had passed in their long conversations, and
thought they were an easy beginning to a more pleasing acquaintance
than they often met with--she began then to feel quite surprised that
she ever had given a tear to Captain Clair.

"Willingly," she said to herself; "will I resign him to Mabel, if she
will have him; yet there was something in him I liked, though I cannot
well remember what it was now. Why, he never talked in six weeks, half
the sense which Mr. Beauclerc has thrown into one conversation. I feel
quite grateful to him for deserting me, since, otherwise, I never should
have met this very superior man, who, as he himself observed, though not
in plain words exactly, possesses the key to my mind--and does not that
seem like affection?"

These pleasing considerations were interrupted by their stopping at
their own door, paying the driver, and running gaily up stairs.

"Hark," said Mrs. Villars, "there are voices in the drawing-room, I am
certain. There are, I do believe."

"Why mamma," said Maria, who, with more courage, had applied her eye to
the key-hole; it is only Caroline talking to somebody. When, upon this
information, they opened the door, Caroline was discovered
_tête-à-tête_, with a strange gentleman, with as much ease and
nonchalance as if at the regular calling hour.

There was a slight tone of triumph in her voice as she said:--

"Colonel Hargrave, papa?"

"Oh, Colonel," said Mrs. Villars, taking the words out of her husband's
mouth; "I can scarcely forgive you for obliging us to go to the ball
without you."

"He has excused himself most ably," said Caroline; "the death of a
friend detained him."

"I assure you," said he, with the greatest courtesy, "that nothing but
so serious a reason would have prevented my keeping my appointment; and
I trust, my dear sir, that you will excuse my keeping your dinner
waiting on Saturday; but, as I said, just now, some very sad
circumstances detained me on my road."

"Pray, say not another word," said Mrs. Villars; "we are very sorry for
you, I am sure."

"I suppose," said Maria, "you did not arrive in time to join us?"

"Do you think," said Caroline, "that he could go to a fancy ball after
attending the death-bed of a friend?"

"No, truly," said he, "I was in no humor for such gaiety, and was more
pleased by the quiet welcome I have already received."

"Caroline has only expressed the feelings we should all entertain," said
Mrs. Villars, smiling benignly, "and, indeed, I am most happy to see my
truant nephew, at last."

Hargrave slightly started at the word nephew, not being able to divine
how his distant connection with the family could be twisted into so
close a relationship.

"I trust," continued Mrs. Villars, "that Caroline has taken every care
of you, and that you have had some refreshment."

"Indeed she has been most kind," replied he politely. "She would not
allow me to persuade her to retire to rest, when I had once announced my
intention of remaining up to introduce myself. I will, however, no
longer tax your patience; but will go to my own room, if you will allow

They accordingly separated, the Colonel lingering to say a few words to
his host, and the ladies retiring to a kind of mutual dressing-room.

"Well, my love," said Mrs. Villars to her eldest daughter, "I will never
blame you again, for I see you know how to manage without my
interference. Nothing could have turned out better."

She felt, indeed, half inclined to idolise her, for the very ill-temper,
which, in the early part of the evening, she had more justly blamed.
Caroline, in her turn, looked upon them all with an air of superiority,
as if the accident had been the result of her prudence.

"Indeed," she said, "he is a most sensible and entertaining man, and, I
dare say, if the truth were known, my evening was the most pleasant
after all."

"Not quite," replied Lucy, "for I also met with a most sensible and
entertaining man."

"Yes," echoed Maria, "such a handsome man too--Hargrave is nothing to
him. Every one was wondering who he was, and remarking on his attentions
to Lucy."

"What, is Lucy taken in again?" said Caroline, with jealous bitterness.
"I thought once in a season was sufficient."

Lucy coloured deeply and angrily, for it was not the first wound she had

"Well," said she to herself, "I will be closer this time--I will have no
one to abuse my confidence by taunting speeches."

"Come, come," interposed Mrs. Villars, "do not let us quarrel with
fortune; for my part, I feel inclined to be on good terms with all the
world. Nothing could have been more propitious than your meeting in such
a romantic manner. What were you doing when he came in?--at your harp,
I hope. Well, how do you like him?"

"Why, Mamma, I think you believe in love at first sight. I am not so
easily won."

"Nor the Colonel either, I dare say," said Maria.

"I will thank you, Miss Maria, to remember what you say, and to whom you
say it."

"That I very seldom forget," retorted Maria, as she laid down her Swiss
hat and ribbons, with a sigh, to think that she might not display them

"Come, come," again urged Mrs. Villars, "surely, Caroline, you can give
us your opinion of him. You are so quick at reading character."

"That may be," replied Caroline, "but I scarcely think the right
advantage to take of discrimination is to retail a private conversation,
for the sake of subjecting a friend to everybody's quizzing

Here she glanced angrily at Maria.

"Well," returned the latter, perfectly undisturbed, "is it come to
friend and private, already, that, at least, sounds like something, and
if you will conquer the good nabob in your own way, I suppose we must
excuse being kept in the dark, as the cat politely observed to the
mouse, when he was introduced to him in the cupboard."

"I think he is very handsome," said Selina.

"Yes," said Maria, "well enough since he possesses good eyes, good
teeth, good forehead, nose and eyes--all tolerably well put together.
Yes, I suppose he might be called handsome. I will ask Miss Foster, she
is such a judge of masculine beauty."

"I beg you will do no such thing," said Caroline; "he must be considered
as one of our own family, and I do not see what right Miss Foster has to
pass her observations on us."

"I am afraid you are not quite so rigid with regard to Miss Lovelace,"
retorted Maria.

Mrs. Villars saw that much bitter remark was rising, and knowing that
nothing could be obtained from Caroline, dismissed the conclave, which
had assembled at so late an hour, only in consequence of the importance
of affairs under deliberation; and she retired to rest satisfied with
the course events had taken, and fully impressed with respect for
Caroline's judgment. She, meanwhile, in the retirement of her own room,
condescended to give Selina an account of the evening's conversation, by
which means Mrs. Villars heard the whole the next day from Selina, whose
more gentle temper rendered her the general recipient of her mother's


              He walked he knew not whither;
    Doubt was on his daily path; and duties shewed not certain.


Colonel Hargrave was a little past the age when hearts are easily
won--and the ready courtesy with which he had performed his part of the
evening _tête-à-tête_, might have shown a less prejudiced judge, that he
was too accustomed to beauty, grace, and all the endless charms so
bewitching to a younger man, to make him very easily fall into the
snare which had been laid for him.

However, he had but very lately landed in England, after some years
spent in the East; and though like most English travellers, he had been,
at first, delighted with the marvels and records of ancient days, which
that quarter of the globe so lavishly affords, as well as with the
customs and habits of a people with whom he had delighted to mingle, he
was not sorry to find himself once again in merry, busy England--one of
a people whose interests are more of the present than of the past, where
the rapid march of improvement and discovery, form a striking contrast
to the splendid dreams of past Eastern glory. Then the comfort of social
society--home with all its thousand associations of comfort and
tranquillity were not indifferent to him, and he was not sorry to find a
gayer welcome than the lonely halls of his own beautiful Aston might
have offered him. His sleeping apartment had been arranged with a care
that made it seem luxurious after the cabin fare to which he had lately
been accustomed, and he paid more attention to the trifles which
surrounded him than he had ever before done, for of such trifles he, for
the first time, perceived the importance, since all combined gave a
feeling of homely comfort which he felt he had scarcely missed till now,
when once more in the enjoyment of it. Opening from this room was
another, arranged with the most studious attention to ease and
appearance. A fire blazed a warm welcome, after his day's journey, and
everything conspired to make his little sitting-room one suited to a
gentleman's fancy--and by affording him a place of retreat, he perceived
that he would be allowed to enjoy the company of his cousins only when
he was inclined. In all this there was such an evident desire to please,
that he could not help feeling a little flattered, though, perhaps, as
representative of the family credit and opulence, he might, at the same
time, have felt it to be his due, and a necessary appendage to the

Tempted by the blazing fire, he threw himself upon the horse-hair sofa,
which was near it, and fixed his eyes upon its flickering and varying
light, but as he did so, his countenance soon lost the air of courteous
pleasantry, which had a short while before possessed it, and he appeared
lost in deep and even bitter thought.

The grave accusations of old Giles, and the lighter description of
Clair, were both true; and yet a few words more of his mental history is
needed fully to unravel his character.

During the life of his mother, he had been the pride of her existence,
and keenly sensible of the quicksands which await the young man on his
entrance into life--she had watched his opening manhood with the most
tender solicitude. Her death, however, left him entirely to the care of
his father--and he, thinking the hot-house system of preservation no
longer befitting a youth of talent and ability, sent him abroad, first
with a tutor, and afterwards alone, in order that he might acquire a
knowledge of the world, and the ease, conversation, and polish, which
foreign travel is calculated to give. In this he was fully successful. A
short residence in the gayest city in Europe, so called forth young
Hargrave's natural refinement of taste, that few could find fault with
the manners of the finished gentleman whom Paris sent back from its
school. But in Paris he had been thrown with those of professed Infidel
principles--and amongst them he found men of superior talent and great
intellect, who, while they extorted his own secret admiration, rendered
him a homage to his youthful talent of the most flattering kind. By them
he was rashly led to argue on the tenets of natural and revealed
religion, and to discuss points, which are rather matter for faith than
comprehension--and he entered on these questions with a spirit of which
older men have not been innocent, rather seeking to display his own
powers in the argument, than to do honor to the truth. The contest was
eagerly courted by those who only kept their hearts at ease by engaging
in the excitement of perpetual warfare. They were subtle reasoners, and
Hargrave found himself coping with them, only with the greatest

But, who can unlock the secret mysteries of the human mind, or give a
clue to its strange inconsistencies? Even while he argued, the dreadful
doubt passed into his own mind, and, wondering and amazed, he found
himself an unbeliever in the faith he had so warmly defended! Too often
have those who have become the most devoted christians at an after
period of their life, had to mourn such infidelity, though, for a time
only; and had Hargrave resorted to the simple means used by his old
tenant, whom his thoughtless words had led astray, he, like old Giles,
might have been restored to comfort--but he only rushed deeper and
deeper into argument, and the more confirmed in error--he, at length,
ended by declaring himself vanquished, and thanking his new friends for
having opened his eyes to his own superstition. Thus eagerly received
by a brilliant _coterie_, adorned by wit, genius, and learning, he
learnt to boast of the sentiments he at first deplored, and to wonder
that he should have been weak enough to recognise any other.

Where then was the reward for a mother's untiring self-devoted love to
her son, through the years of infancy and youth? Despair not, fond
mothers--"cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after
many days"--after _many_ days, remember, and be patient.

One result, was, however, evident in this wild fit of
recklessness--under the pretence of keeping his intellect pure and
unclouded, he preserved the same rigid principles she had recommended,
and in this he was firm, spite of the ribaldry of his companions. "No
one," he said, proudly, "should be able to affirm that he had abandoned
his religion because too weak to obey its laws." His friends, therefore,
left off their jests and boasted that no professor of revealed religion
could be a better moralist, or a more virtuous man. But such virtue
must ever be but an unsteady light, which is founded on no firmer basis
than self-opinion, and Hargrave might have started when in foreign
lands, he had lavished the most profuse charity on those around him, had
he remembered how blind he was to the wants and sufferings of those who
at home called him master.

Too late his father's death summoned him to Aston, to take possession of
the immense wealth which he thus inherited. After but a brief stay,
events induced him to leave his native country, and entering the Indian
army, he sought employment for his restless energies on the banks of the
Indus. There his military career had not been without honor, and why he
had returned to England, scarcely himself could tell.

There he sat, an older, if not a wiser and better man. Dark thoughts,
like heavy clouds, seemed to pass over his mind, as with his hand
supporting his head, he gazed fixedly, but vacantly on the fire.
Perhaps he was thinking of his early days, and of the mother who had
taught him to hallow them. Perhaps he was remembering how unable he had
been to build the fabric even of human and short lived earthly
happiness, on so weak and failing a foundation as his own unassisted
virtue. For, to his heart, common joys had been tainted. The sabbath
chaunt had brought no melody to his ear, reminding him of the rest which
its Maker had hallowed. "The gentle flowers that stooping o'er the
wilderness--speak of joy, and faith, and love," had seemed to him only a
difficult clause in the argument of an adversary. Such might have been
the dark remembrances of the hour, for he swayed himself to and fro, as
if in an agony of spirit, nor did he retire to rest till the grey dawn
warned him of the necessity of seeking repose.


                    Wisdom revenges, said
    The world; is quick and deadly of resentment;
    Thrusts at the very shadow of affront,
    And hastes by death to wipe its honor clean.


The next morning Lucy was down stairs by eight o'clock, appearing
scarcely to feel any fatigue from the gaieties of the last evening. The
servants, taking advantage of their mistress's slumbers, had not been
very careful to rouse themselves early; and as Lucy wandered about the
house, she found nothing but rooms half closed, and maids with sweeping
brushes, dusters, and open windows, forming no tempting welcome on a
cold morning. Yet, chill as was prospect both within and without, she
felt nothing cheerless that morning, and, putting on her bonnet and
cloak, she went out, saying she would be back by breakfast time. She
found the atmosphere thick and humid, and cold drops quickly gathered on
her veil. The streets, under the influence of a slight thaw, were wet
with black mud; but she quickly threaded her way through them, till
reaching Milsom Street, she took her way towards the higher parts of the
town. Few people were stirring, shops were only just open, and the
occupiers engaged in filling their empty windows with a display for the
day. The light-hearted girl scarcely giving a thought to any thing
around her, soon reached the Circus, a fine but gloomy part of the town.
Time and the weather have cast a black shade over its formerly clean
white stone, which gives it an appearance of sadness, which is shared by
the sombre hue of the evergreens, which ornament its garden. To one of
its houses Lucy hurried, and after a short pause, was ushered into it by
an old man, apparently butler in the establishment. The room into which
she was shown, was upon the ground floor, and shared in no very slight
degree, the appearance of the outside of the buildings. Its furniture
was dark green, and the curtains, with their many heavy folds had been
suffered to trespass too much upon the windows. There was an oak
wainscoting round the room, and here and there some old portrait frowned
down from the walls. The room was rather long than wide, and lighted by
windows only on the one side, looking on the street; this often made it
appear dark, but, in contrast to every thing about the place, a bright
fire blazed upon the hearth, and a small table, with a snowy cloth,
supported the hissing urn, and a frugal but snug breakfast. Seated
beside it was rather a young looking lady. There was a certain air of
unmistakeable dignity over her whole appearance; her features, though
irregular, were intellectual and commanding, and the sparkling eye
wandered with restless energy. Her hair was black as an Indian's, and
she might have been called beautiful, but for the melancholy, which, as
a veil, seemed thrown round her, stilling every quicker impulse into
chill composure. She held the _Times_ in her hand, folded at the leading
article, but she laid it down and rose, on Lucy's entrance, with a look
of surprise and pleasure.

"Why love," said she, "I thought you would be sleeping for an hour or
two yet, after the fatigues of last night. I am sure no common event
would bring you out this foggy morning, but sit down and I will give you
some breakfast, for I am sure you have had none; let me take off your
shawl, and then you shall have some of your favorite chocolate, and tell
me your news as you drink it."

"I could not sleep," said Lucy, "and as no one was up I thought I would
come and see why you were not at the ball as you promised last night."

"My poor uncle was so bad with his gout, that I had not the resolution
to leave him, and you know how little will tempt me to stay away from
such things," said Miss Foster, with a sigh.

"Ah," said Lucy, smiling, "clever people like you do not need such
frivolities; but what would my poor vacant brain do without them."

"Why is it vacant? But you have not, like me, given up the phantom
happiness, or you would prefer seeking something more substantial."

Lucy glanced at the leading article, and gave a slight shrug.

"You may come to that at last," replied her friend, with a moonlight
smile, which passed almost immediately away, "really you do not know
what a pleasure the morning papers give me--they make me remember that
I am a denizen of the world, and besides, a daughter of England, and
then I forget how lonely I am as an individual."

"But why lonely," returned Lucy, "the slightest effort on your part
would surround you with friends, and you might have a host of
acquaintances instead of my poor self, whom alone you admit, and I enjoy
that privilege, merely from accident."

"You do not quite know me yet," said Miss Foster, "such society is no
longer tolerable. And I might never have known even you, had not your
horse thrown you at our very door, and forced me to open it. There was,
indeed, something so pleasing in being able to nurse you for a few days,
that I became insensibly attached to you. But such accidents seldom
occur, and I care not to go through the common ordeal of acquiring

"Well," said Lucy, "when I am inclined to turn anchorite, Millie, you
must let me in, and I will come and live with you; but I am rather of
opinion that the world is a mirror which reflects back our smiles and
our frowns."

"Is that sentiment your own?" enquired her companion, quickly.

"No--second hand from a delightful partner that I met last night. Such a
very nice man--quite beyond my poor powers of description; everything he
said was so clever, and so new, it seemed as if he had read more of the
human heart than any one I ever met. He talked to me nearly all the

"Imprudent girl!" exclaimed Miss Foster.

"Oh, if you take everything I say so seriously," said Lucy, poutingly,
"I will not tell you anything."

"What kind of looking man was he?" said Miss Foster, without heeding her

"He must be thirty, at least," said Lucy--"with light brown hair, deep
blue eyes, rather tall, and very nice looking--not quite so handsome as
Captain Clair; but then his talking was the fascinating part."

"And what did he talk about?"

"Oh, nothing in particular," said Lucy, coloring.

"And did you hear his name?" enquired Miss Foster, almost restraining
her breath.

"Beauclerc," said Lucy; "is it not a pretty name?"

"You must have nothing more to say to him, if he talks such in a way
that you blush already. Will you promise me?" said she, most violently.

"You must give me some reason."

"Imprudent girl, you must take my warning."

"If he were making love, I might consider," said Lucy; "but, as a common
acquaintance, and a delightful dancer, you must give me some reason for
cutting him."

"You are rash," repeated Miss Foster; "do not have anything to say to
him, or you will repent it."

"I am not to be led blind-folded," said Lucy; "and you must prove me in
danger before I can think such advice needed. Pray let us talk of
something else--my poor _beaux_ always tease you."

There was a very palpable tinge of vanity in this last remark, which
caused Miss Foster to bite her lips, as if suppressing violent emotion,
and to remain silent, though the uneasy flash of her dark eye betrayed
something of the violence of her temper.

At this inopportune moment, a knock at the hall door announced another
early visitor.

The door of their sitting-room was, after an interval of some minutes,
cautiously opened by the venerable butler, who, with some embarrassment,
presented a card to his mistress on a silver salver.

Lucy almost trembled as she saw that the storm which had been gathering
on her friend's countenance was now ready to burst forth.

Her cheeks, which had a moment before been brightly flushed, turned to a
livid white, as she brushed the card from the salver without touching
it, and then stamped upon it with impotent violence.

Lucy's eyes fell upon the name--it was that of "Beauclerc"--and,
unperceived, she took it up, and concealed it in the folds of her dress
from further indignity.

"I am not at home," said Miss Foster, in a decisive tone to the aged
butler, who regarded the scene with more concern than surprise, and left
the room slowly and sadly. The front door was presently heard to close.
As if ashamed of the passion into which she had been betrayed, Miss
Foster seated herself, at once, and tried to resume her usual coldness
of demeanor.

"See," said she, "the way in which I dare to treat him, and judge for
yourself if he is worthy to be received as an admirer of yours."

"I think," said Lucy, recovering her animation, "you have shewn yourself
very little my friend to treat a man with indignity, when I had
expressed a contrary opinion of him."

Miss Foster regarded her rising spleen with an indifferent coldness,
which made her still more angry.

"I say," she reiterated, "that it is a most unkind and ungrateful way of
returning my confidence."

"Wilful child!" exclaimed Miss Foster, "will you never be guided for
your own advantage?"

"I am no child!" exclaimed Lucy; "and if I do choose a guide, it shall
be one who can rule her own temper."

"You should allow for the emotion you cannot understand," said Miss
Foster, gravely; "but leave me now, Lucy, and do not be angry--we are
both excited--and may say things we do not mean."

"Leave you," exclaimed her offended friend, starting up, and putting on
her shawl with trembling hands--"I will not stay another moment where I
am not wanted."

Miss Foster's head had sunk upon her hand, perhaps she was too deeply
absorbed in her own feelings to notice Lucy's anger, till suddenly
raising her eyes, in which thick tears were gathering--she watched her
movements with a curious interest--but Lucy was already at the
door--and gasping a "good morning," she hurried away, leaving her friend
to the unpleasant thoughts she was indulging.

It was not anger alone which led Lucy to leave the house so hastily, for
she was curious to see her pleasing companion of the night before, if
but for a moment. She was not disappointed, for, as she opened the door,
she perceived him standing on the other side of the way.

Could he have seen her enter the house? and, might not his having done
so, been the reason of his early call on Miss Foster. Vanity is a ready
prompter; and she had not proceeded many steps before she believed the
delusive argument, and attributed her friend's warnings to jealousy. She
had scarcely arrived at this conclusion, before she perceived Mr.
Beauclerc crossing to her side of the way, and she gave a bow and a
smile, which proved a ready inducement for him to join her. He looked so
dejected, that she had not the heart to check his intention of lounging
by her side, and he was far too courtly and ready in his manners to give
such a meeting the least appearance of awkwardness.

"You are acquainted with the lady of that house then?" he enquired,
after a slight pause in the conversation.

"Yes," said Lucy, smiling and looking at him, "and I suspect you know
her also."

"Do you know her well?" he said, slightly colouring.

"Oh, very intimately--she is a great friend of mine."

"You know all her secrets then?"

"Well, I dare say I do," she replied, smiling importantly; for, to
confess that she had a friend, and did not know all her secrets, seemed
a derogation from her own dignity; "but, I fear I shall not know many
more, for we have parted in anger."

"Indeed! can that be true--you in anger."

"Yes, yes," said Lucy, looking archly at him; "and what do you think it
could be about?"

"I have, indeed, no means of guessing," he replied, with an interest
which Lucy attributed rather to herself than her subject.

"About yourself, it was then?" said she, looking slightly aside.

"Impossible!" he exclaimed, delightedly; "have you then been speaking of
me?--and what did she say of me?"

"Nothing you would, perhaps, like to hear," she said, with the same
archness as before.

"And what part did you take?" said he, eagerly.

"Oh," she replied, laughing carelessly, "I never do things by halves--so
I defended you through thick and thin."

"Excellent girl," cried he, enthusiastically, taking her hand, and
pressing it warmly, "how can I ever thank you enough for this kindness?"

"_Prenez garde_," said she, "gossippers are abroad, and there, I
declare, is Miss Lovelace's youngest sister going for her music
lesson--all Bath will say we are flirting."

"You know how to contradict such scandal by a word," said he; "but that
word, for my sake, you will not speak."

Lucy did not quite understand this last speech; but she did not like to
say so, and, therefore, murmured a rapid "Yes."

A slight pause followed; and then he resumed the conversation with such
a sudden flow of spirits, that Lucy very soon forgot everything in the
pleasure of listening to him, and even suffered him to lengthen the walk
by taking a longer route. At the entrance to Sydney Place, he took leave
of her, and she returned home, thinking over everything he had said.
They had only talked on general topics after all; but then he spoke with
a deference to her opinion which was very pleasing. She was in very good
humour with herself, and resolved that, after leaving Miss Foster to
cool for a week or so, she would call and make up the quarrel in the
most generous manner she could. Satisfying her conscience with this, she
entered the house, and hastily taking off her bonnet, seated herself,
with the rest, at the breakfast-table, in good spirits and with a fresh
color, contenting herself with a very laconic description of her morning


    The foe, the foe is on thy track,
      Patient, certain, and avenging;
    Day by day, solemnly, and silently, followeth the fearful past,
      His step is lame, but sure.

It was nearly eleven o'clock before the family assembled to breakfast,
and Mr. Villars had already retired to his study, leaving the
morning-room to its listless occupants. Maria, being the most active of
the family, generally presided at breakfast and tea, and kept alive the
yawning faculties of the party. On this occasion, she was busily, and
relentlessly rallying Caroline on the last night's _tête-à-tête_, when
Hargrave himself entered. He seemed entirely to have lost the gaiety of
the evening before, and to have assumed the gravity of a judge. To Mrs.
Villars' enquiries of whether he had slept well, he answered
courteously, but gravely; and Caroline afterwards observed to Selina,
that the dear creature was quite different when alone with her, and
Selina, in return, lispingly suggested, that he might be shy before
strangers. He did not, however, justify this remark by any of the little
awkwardnesses which so often accompany that feeling. On the contrary, he
seemed rather to seek the indulgence of one who is secure of favor,
however small the pains he may take to acquire it. Nor was he mistaken.
They were prepared to admire him, and his variable humours only gave him
an additional charm in their eyes.

"What time do you receive your letters?" he enquired of Caroline.

"About this time," she replied; "are you expecting any? for, if so, you
will not have very long to wait?"

"Indeed," he replied, not noticing her question.

At this moment the peculiar double knock of the post-man began to be
heard uncertainly, then louder and louder, as, coming round the street,
he stopped at their door.

"Here he is," exclaimed Lucy; "I wonder if there is a letter from

Two were brought; one for Mrs. Villars, and the other for her guest.
They were both written by Mr. Ware; the one addressed to Mrs. Villars,
contained a brief, but touching account of the fire, the illness of her
sister, and her removal to Aston Manor; concluding with poor Amy's

Mrs. Villars slowly read the letter aloud, but when she reached the last
few lines, which spoke of her niece's death, a loud shriek burst from
Lucy, as she rose and flew to her own room. Hargrave followed her to the
door with a deeper interest than he had before displayed, but she had
quickly vanished, and he returned to his seat.

"She has been staying with them," said Mrs. Villars, in explanation;
"and the dear girl has so much feeling--but, colonel, only think of my
sister being at Aston Manor; but, perhaps, I ought not to have told you,
as I suppose the servants make free with the place in your absence."

"Your sister is quite welcome to any hospitality my house can afford
her; and, perhaps, you will be kind enough to assure her on that point,
if she has any doubt. I will, myself, write to my housekeeper, and
request her to see to Mrs. Lesly's comfort."

"You seem to take the news of your lost houses with admirable coolness,"
said Caroline.

"You mistake me, Miss Villars," he replied; a momentary fire lighting up
his eye, which made her shrink; "I am not indifferent to the death of
our poor cousin--the rest can be repaired--but I take it with apparent
coolness, because this is not the first time that these distressing
events have been communicated to me."

"How?" exclaimed every one; "and why did you not tell us?"

"Bad news travels quickly," returned Hargrave, evasively; "and it is
hardly likely that I should long be kept in ignorance of such a serious

So saying, he opened his own letter, and read it with deep attention,
and emotion; a little to the surprise of the ladies, who had already
entered upon a discussion on the prettiest mourning dresses which the
fashion afforded. His better feelings alarmed, he scarcely knew why, by
the frivolity with which the news had been received, he retired to his
own room, and taking up his writing materials, he wrote much as


     "I regret that I cannot at once obey your summons to Aston; partly,
     because I think it would be a more delicate kindness to Mrs. Lesly
     and her daughter, to leave them in possession of my house, under
     their present affliction, rather than intrude myself upon their
     attention, just now; at the same time, if I came to you, they might
     think they were putting me to inconvenience. But we shall soon
     meet, my dear sir, I trust; when, from your accustomed kindness, I
     may obtain forgiveness for the past; now, I do not feel worthy even
     to reply to the praise you so lavishly bestow upon me.

     "In the meanwhile, my poor tenants, of whom you speak so warmly,
     shall not be forgotten. I will write by this post, to a young
     friend of mine, an architect; who, if able, shall go down to Aston
     immediately, with powers to construct a sufficient number of
     commodious tiled cottages--at the same time, I shall instruct him,
     that any wish, or suggestion you may be kind enough to make, about
     any part of the village, shall be strictly attended to.

     "With my best compliments to Miss Ware, and the hope of meeting ere
     long, I am,

     "My dear sir,
     "Your attached pupil,

This letter was written with great rapidity, and having sealed and
directed it, he lounged back to the morning room. The recent events, of
course, formed the topic of conversation; but to all, but Lucy, Amy had
scarcely been known, more than by name; and she had retired to her room
in an agony of remorse, for her feelings, though seldom deep, were
impetuous, and easily moved by circumstances. She remembered Clair's
entreaty, that she would not go to the ball, with tenfold bitterness, as
she now reflected that, at the moment when she had been rejoicing in
unbounded spirits, Mabel had been keeping the sad death-watch by the
corpse of her sister. Again, and again she reproached herself as her
murderess, flung aside the tinselled dress which had rendered her the
ornament of the ball-room, and turned almost indignantly upon Maria,
when she attempted to comfort her.

Her sisters, little understanding the nature of her feelings, and
wearied with her self-reproaches, soon agreed that it would be better
to leave her alone till she should recover herself; but Lucy, who
appeared to have little pleasure in their comfort, no sooner found
herself alone, than she felt unkindly neglected, and compared them
bitterly with Mabel, whose untiring patience had so often borne with her

In the afternoon, when exhausted by grief, and wholly subdued, she sat
crouching over the fire in their little dressing-room, Maria entered
with bustling pleasure.

"Oh, Lucy," said she, "do dry your tears, and look bewitching--for who
do you think is down stairs--no other than your charming partner of last
night, Mr. Beauclerc, who is making himself so agreeable, listening to
mamma's touching account of your grief--so that you need not mind his
seeing that you have been crying."

"Thank you," said Lucy, without raising her head; "but I cannot come
down to-day."

"Oh, nonsense, Lucy--think how disappointed he will be--he may never
come again."

"I cannot help it," said Lucy; "excuse me in any way you like--I cannot
and will not come--and you will only tease me by asking me."

"Well, I am sure I would never stay up-stairs when a beau of mine was

"You do not know what you would do, if you had been as wicked as I have

"Come, come," said Maria, "we all are wicked, I dare say; but I would
never fret myself to death about it; but I suppose I must go," she said,
seeing Lucy resume her crouching attitude; and leaving the room, she
went to tell her mother, who, though much disappointed, was forced to
make Lucy's grief as becoming and touching as possible, in the eyes of
the stranger, though she afterwards expressed herself more candidly,
saying--"She had no patience with such fits of the heroics, and trusted
her sisters would laugh her out of them."

Hargrave listened with great interest to the account of Lucy's share in
the accident by which Amy had first suffered, which he gleaned from
Caroline; and when, late in the evening, she appeared in the
drawing-room, her eyes swollen with weeping, and her cheeks pale and
discolored, he met her with a kind look, which her most sparkling
moments, perhaps, would not have excited. He gave her the most
comfortable seat by the fire, for which she tried to thank him, but her
voice failed her, and seating herself, in silence, she rested her tired
and aching head upon her hand.

"You have been staying with Mrs. Lesly, I find," he said, knowing that
it would be of little purpose to try to turn her thoughts from the
subject that pained her.

"Yes," was the faint reply, followed by a deep sigh.

"Really, Lucy," said Caroline, a little sharply, "you should not give
way so, it will not mend matters now."

Lucy had not temper for the "soft answer," and was too spiritless to
retort an angry one.

"I think," said Hargrave, "you must have met a fellow-voyager of mine, a
Captain Clair--he said he was going to stay with his uncle at Aston."

"Yes," said Lucy, despairingly, "I did meet him; and he said he knew

"How did you like him?" he pursued, anxious to make her speak.

"Oh, pretty well," she said, carelessly; but a burning blush kindled
brighter and deeper on her pale cheek, as his penetrating eye watched
for her reply.

She moved impatiently beneath his glance; but she felt that it was not
withdrawn, and painfully conscious of her increasing color, she rose
abruptly, and turning on him, for a moment, like the wearied stag at
bay, she looked angrily at him, and then hastened from the room.

Still, however, as she once more retreated to her chamber, and shut the
door violently behind her, that glance seemed to follow her, not simply
inquisitive, but compassionately answering her own angry expression, as
if deprecating its violence.

"He must know something about me," she thought. "Could Clair have spoken
of her to him, and in the same terms, which she had overheard him use to
his uncle, accompanied, perhaps, by ridicule. Yes," thought she,
actually throwing herself upon the floor in the vehemence of her
passion, "he sees me with Clair's eyes--if he pities, he despises me, as
the girl who was only used as the cloak to more honorable attentions to
Mabel. I cannot endure this--anything but to be both neglected and
despised. There is one, at least," she added, to herself, proudly, "who
appreciates me--but this time I will keep my own counsel." She rose, and
looked at the glass--but it now only told her that the boasted beauty of
the night before had faded before her tears. "I will weep no more," she
said, angrily, brushing the heavy drops from her cheeks, "I will weep no
more--but, I fear my heart will become hard indeed."

A passionate burst of tears again interrupted her resolutions, and she
turned from the disappointing mirror, which had, only a few hours
before, reflected a form of airy liveliness, which had even astonished

Of one thing, however, she was resolved; to avoid, as much as possible,
the offensive pity with which she imagined Hargrave regarded her; and
this resolution was so well kept that she always, after that night,
avoided him with studious shyness.


    What sadder sight can angels view,
      Than self deceiving tears,
    Pour'd idly over some dark page,
    Of earlier life, though pride or rage,
    The record of to-day engage,
      A woe for future years.


Colonel Hargrave rapidly domesticated himself in Sydney Place, and very
soon placed himself on terms of intimacy with the Villars family. Still
nothing occurred which seemed to bring Caroline nearer her object, and
though for some weeks her temper remained unruffled in his presence,
nothing betrayed any thing like admiration on his part; nothing could
warm into affection the every-day friendship which had been established
between them, or induce him to take advantage of his popularity, by
choosing a mistress for Aston Manor.

Mrs. Villars was too ready to interpose her powers of contrivance, and
took every opportunity of throwing them together; in public, she often
succeeded, but in their private circle he was more than a match for all
her address, for when the manners of the perfect gentleman failed to
secure him from any well-laid scheme to entrap his admiration, he was
ready to assume those of the bear.

One great difficulty consisted in dragging him to the balls and evening
parties, which began to succeed each other in rapid succession; and
sometimes when they had wholly reckoned on his company, he would be
found in his morning coat, busily employed in writing letters, which no
coaxing could induce him to leave. At these times Caroline would often
plead a head-ache, and remain at home, but to very little purpose, as
he seemed to believe the excuse, and, probably supposing quiet the best
restorative, he would gather up his books, and retire to his own room.

A woman's heart, when regulated by no higher principle than that of its
own native impulses, is often piqued into love by the very means which
should have restrained it, and Caroline's had been left to the
government of vanity and coquetry, habits which insensibly corrode the
innate modesty of the female mind. Hargrave's failings, therefore,
excited more affection than his virtues--for the necessity of watching
his humours, and of courting rather than receiving his attentions,
insensibly interested her, and though her feeling was composed of
component parts of vanity, self-love, avarice, and, ambition, it could
scarcely be affirmed that it did not contain a few grains of genuine
affection. She had indeed merely expected some broken down nabob, who
would have formed an easy conquest, and she was therefore agreeably
surprised by Hargrave's manner and appearance, for his manly bearing
and easy air, compensated for any injury an Indian sun might have given
his complexion, and called forth the praise of all Caroline's fair
friends. Thus, stimulated by opposition, she left no art untried to win
him, and watched his movements with secret and constant jealousy; while
her mother, with the foolish fondness, which had grown almost to fear of
her beautiful daughter, encouraged her to hope, by repeating and
magnifying, sometimes even inventing, speeches, which seemed to betray
more than Hargrave openly professed.

Meanwhile, he evaded these manoeuvres, and placed himself on terms of
equal civility with all the sisters, by whom he found even his weakest
foibles caressed. Lucy, alone, resisted his fascinations, and long after
every shadow of her grief had disappeared, continued to avoid him, and
never mentioned, before him, the name of her new admirer, whom she now
frequently met, either at the public balls, or the morning concerts in
the Pump room, the fashionable resort of the sick, who drank its
waters, the musical, or the idle.

Mr. Beauclerc considered himself a judge of music, and might frequently
be seen listening to the performance with a scientific air. He seldom
failed to join the Villars party, and engage Lucy in conversation, to
her unfeigned satisfaction. She could not fail to perceive that there
was one subject which dwelt in his thoughts, though seldom more than
dimly hinted at, which gave an air of sadness to his mind.

What this might be, Lucy knew not, though vanity echoed a ready answer,
and, whenever he spoke of his own loneliness or unhappiness, she evaded
the subject with a coquetry sufficiently skilful to check his
confidence, and, though it sometimes sent him away in an ill humour, he
invariably returned, in a short while, and she flattered herself that
each little exertion of her power only riveted his chains more surely.

Several weeks had thus passed when, one morning, Mrs. Villars received
a letter from Mr. Ware, begging her immediate presence at Aston, as the
symptoms of her sister's illness had assumed a more dangerous character,
and he feared that the utmost haste would be required to enable her to
reach Aston in time to see her alive. Estranged as Mrs. Villars had been
from her sister, she yet loved her, as warmly as her selfish nature
would allow--and she hastened to her husband's study, to make
preparations for her immediate journey; she would not, however, hear of
his offer to accompany her, lest Colonel Hargrave might take the alarm,
and leave them--she, therefore, only begged him to keep less to his
study, at least, in the evenings. Mr. Villars replied, that his own
sense of delicacy might be relied on; which made her fear that he would
give them too much of his company; but she had little time to argue,
for, before her hasty preparations were completed, the post-chaise,
which had been ordered, was at the door.

As she was stepping in, Colonel Hargrave offered to accompany her for a
few stages, saying that he had a friend in the direction she was going,
whom he was anxious to visit.

"I am going to a sad scene," said Mrs. Villars, when they had travelled
for a few miles, "and, besides the loss of my sister, my feelings will
be agonised, I know, for she leaves a daughter to mourn her loss,
homeless and unprotected."

"Yes," said Hargrave; "but your presence will be some comfort to her."

"I quite dread the meeting," continued Mrs. Villars. "Did you read Mr.
Ware's letter? I fear there is no hope."

"None, indeed, I fear," replied Hargrave, looking out to urge the
post-boy to greater speed. "What is to become of Miss Lesly?" he
presently asked, "she has, I suppose, something to depend upon."

Mrs. Villars slightly coloured, and couched hastily, when she perceived
her change of countenance observed.

"I do not think they were very good managers, to tell you the truth,"
she said; "and they had not much to save from."

"What will become of her then?" he repeated, with sudden animation.

"I can scarcely tell what may happen eventually," replied Mrs. Villars;
"but should my poor sister die, I mean to bring my niece back with me,
for the present, at least. She is a good-looking girl, and I may be able
to get her settled."

"Settled!" repeated Hargrave, mechanically, and relapsed into silence.

Soon afterwards, a turn in the road brought in sight some tall,
old-fashioned gates, opening on an avenue of dark trees, through which
nothing could be discerned, but the gable ends of a more distant
mansion. Here Hargrave alighted, and bidding her good-bye, in a tone of
sadness, which seemed the highest compliment to her present affliction,
entered the old gateway, and stood there, till Mrs. Villars was beyond
his sight.

Musingly she continued her journey, and gladly would she have had his
further companionship, to screen her from the thoughts which were now
rapidly gaining entrance into her mind.

It was one of those dark days, when the shadows seem to fall long before
the unseen sun has set; and, as the horses speeded along, she gathered
the folds of her cloak closer around her, and endeavoured to suppress
the shudder, which something beyond the cold biting air of a dull
easterly wind made to pass over her frame. Night had already closed,
dark, dismal, and cold, before she reached Aston. As they entered the
village, she leaned from the window, and expressed her desire to stop at
the inn, she remembered; but a further glance at the ruined village,
faintly shewn by the light of the carriage-lamps, as she rattled through
it, told her of nothing but scattered timbers and blackened walls, and
thus obliged her to change her order, and drive, at once, to Aston

As the chaise rolled lightly up the smooth gravelled avenue to the
Manor, Mrs. Villars endeavoured to calm her trembling agitation, with
the hope that all would yet be well; but the low, hurried whispers, in
the dimly lighted hall, that greeted her arrival, unnerved her, and,
dispensing with the assistance, she usually so rigorously exacted from
her inferiors, she hurried from the chaise, and entered the hall,

"Can it be possible? am I too late?"

"Yes, indeed, ma'am," replied the housekeeper, now advancing; "it is too
true. We closed her eyes but late last night."

Mrs. Villars hid her face in the sables which enveloped her, and sobbed
convulsively; then, flinging down her purse, she begged her to dismiss
the chaise, saying, she was Mrs. Lesly's sister, and must see her

"Let me beg you, ma'am," said Mrs. Hawkins, respectfully, "to compose
yourself--it will be too much for you to-night."

"No, no, no," cried Mrs. Villars, as warm, repentant tears streamed
rapidly down her face; "let me see her now--my poor, poor sister."

Mrs. Hawkins sadly led the way up the marble staircase, and across the
gallery, to a door which she noiselessly opened, as if she feared to
disturb the slumbers of the dead. The room was fully lighted by wax
tapers--but the bed was partially concealed by the many folds of its
crimson curtains.

An old woman was sitting by the fire, who rose on Mrs. Villars's
entrance--and, at the same moment, glanced to the window, where Mabel
was seated, gazing out upon the star-light stillness of the night, as if
communing with her own spirit. She rose on perceiving them, and gliding
from the recess, advanced rapidly and noiselessly to meet her aunt;
placing both her hands on hers, she attempted to speak, but the words
died between her half parted lips, and a quiet burst of tears succeeded
the effort.

Mrs. Villars caught her in her arms, sobbing violently, with the excess
of her emotion. She had seldom been with the dying, and did not remember
having ever been in actual contact with death itself, and it was with an
internal shrinking, that, at length, releasing the poor girl from her
arms, she advanced to gaze on the face of her sister. How calm and
placid seemed the sleep of the dead, in that still chamber--but, though
sweetly tranquil was the countenance once so dear, it bore the
unmistakable, terrible touch of death; and Mrs. Villars wrung her hands,
and turned away; an icy coldness seemed taking possession of her senses,
and terror prevented her stooping to touch the cold lips which never
more would reproach her with their confiding words.

Mrs. Hawkins soon kindly put an end to this trying scene, by leading her
from the room; there was enough in the bereavement itself to touch her
sympathy, without her being aware of the pangs of awakening conscience,
which added bitterness to a grief seemingly so natural.

How miserable those days of mourning seemed to the heartless woman--as
hour slowly dragged after hour in that silent house. There were no
exciting trifles to wear away the time--nothing but the endless black
crape with which she tried to feel interested, though her senses
sickened at the mournful tales it told. There, no company came to banish
thought--thought of solemn things that she was little prepared to
contemplate--she was alone with Mabel, and the dead.

Again, and again, she condemned herself for the deceptions she had
practised, and endeavoured to appease her self-accusations with ideas of
the most lavish generosity to Mabel--but justice--alas, that she felt
she had placed it almost beyond her power to render her. She now owed
her six hundred pounds, and well she knew, that, however frivolously she
had spent, however small a part of her extravagances it had proved--this
sum was almost the entire support her sister had saved for her orphan
daughter; which, though little calculated to afford her maintenance as
a gentle-woman, might, in talented hands, be the commencement of a
respectable independence; or, at all events, save her, if dependent,
from many minor, but bitter personal necessities which wound the
delicate mind so sorely. Well she knew this--but she knew, also, that
she never would have the courage, either to limit her own personal
expenses, or to ask her husband for the money. Mabel must be repaid by
the most lavish kindness, and by all the comforts of a home. She could
not know of the debt, therefore would not feel her loss, and if, by a
timely display of her beauty, and her painful bereavements, she could
marry her well--she might then deem the debt repaid. All this she
endeavoured to persuade herself; but, as she wandered from room to room
in the twilight, which their closed windows afforded, something uneasy
oppressed her, which forced her to repeat, again and again, the same
line of consolation. It was then, with a sense of relief, that she saw
the day for her sister's funeral draw near, and she watched the dark
procession from the house, winding its way to the little church, with
grief, indeed, but with grief lightened of its heaviest sense of
oppression. With the greatest attention she watched over Mabel, whose
strength had entirely given way, when the last sad scene, the last
parting was over--and, for hours, seemed to have forgotten all that was
selfish in her nature to minister to her comfort.

On the following morning, perceiving that she was sufficiently calm to
listen to her, she begged her to enter on an explanation of her affairs;
expressing herself anxious to know if she had thought of any plans for
the future.

"No, dear aunt," was Mabel's reply; "but I must soon think of them."

"What money have you left?" enquired Mrs. Villars.

"In the funds only one hundred pounds, I believe," replied Mabel, "for
the physicians I procured from London were so expensive in their
fees--but the rest you know--"

"Yes, yes," interrupted Mrs. Villars, too troubled, and too uncertain as
to her future conduct to commit herself, by answering what she
apprehended to be an allusion to her debt, "but I was going to ask, did
you save anything from the fire?"

"Yes, some plate, a little more than a hundred pounds worth, I
think--Captain Clair kindly secured it."

"Ah," said Mrs. Villars, self awaking, "I remember it is just the same
pattern as mine; if you like I will have it properly valued, and pay you
for it--people may think if they like, that your poor mother left it to

"Thank you," returned Mabel, who had perceived her aunt's hesitation
with regard to the money, and therefore was little willing to increase
the debt; "but I do not think I shall dispose of it yet, if at all."

"But then I cannot make people believe it was left me?"

"There will be no necessity; for what I am not ashamed of doing I can
bear to have known; and it is only for my sake that you can have any

"Oh, dear, no, of course not," returned her aunt, not the better pleased
to find Mabel so unlike her mother in worldly matters. "Well, then, if
you do not like the plate turned into money, the hundred pounds will
keep you in dress for two years, and by that time I trust you will be,
better provided for, by a respectable marriage."

Mrs. Villars had been too accustomed to speak of marriage, in this kind
of jobbing style, to her daughters, to be fully alive to the blush of
exquisite pain, which, for an instant, brightened the pale cheek of her
companion. Something, however, in that blush, recalled a resemblance she
only rarely shewed to her mother, and Mrs. Villars felt again all the
pangs of concealed shame. Hastening then to relieve herself, she entered
more eagerly on the real subject of her conversation, and at once
pressed her, with affectionate warmth, to accept the protection of her
home, to find in her a second mother, to be one with her daughters,
sharer in all their privileges, and pleasures, and sisterly love.

Mabel started, and, as she listened to the generous proposal her aunt so
warmly advocated, she could not help reproaching herself, for ever
having regarded her as worldly minded. In vain she gently urged the
inconvenience this arrangement might possibly bring; Mrs. Villars would
hear nothing of it, and when Mabel still hesitated, she folded her in
her arms and asked her piteously and entreatingly, while tears choked
her utterance, if she would deny her the privilege of atoning to her
lost sister for all the neglect, for which she now so bitterly
reproached herself.

Mabel could say nothing, nor did she wish to urge anything more, for
sweetly did those words sound to her ears, "home and sisters," kind
sisters who would wile away her sorrow, and re-awaken her interest in
life--home where her tried spirit might find refreshment and repose.
She suffered her head to sink upon the bosom to which she was so warmly
prest, and murmured forth an answer of affection and gratitude.

Shortly afterwards Mr. Ware was announced, and to him her new plans were
immediately confided by Mabel. He had believed Mrs. Villars a
worldly-minded woman, and was, therefore, much pleased when he
perceived, by the tone of both, that the arrangement had been so
cordially proposed.

"One alteration I must," said he, "beg in my favour: Mabel is so justly
dear to us all, that to part with her before even attempting to console
her grief, is more than I could well bear. You must indeed, madam, spare
her to us at the rectory for a little while."

"Willingly, my dear sir," replied Mrs. Villars, with that tone of manner
which often rendered her popular, "and we can manage it in this way--I
have a friend at Cheltenham, who has been long pressing me to visit her,
I will go and see her now, it will do me good after this sad
trial--and, provided Mabel promises to obey my summons, I will leave her
to join me on the road. She is now my ward, by her own consent," she
added, smiling kindly at her.

This proposal was eagerly accepted by Mr. Ware, who dreaded losing
Mabel, and clung to any pretext for keeping her.

"I must go and tell my sister that this dear child will soon be with
us," said he, rising to take his leave, "and you, madam, suffer me to
offer an old man's blessing for your kindness to this poor orphan," he
said, laying his hand on Mabel's head, "I would have gladly taken her to
my heart and home, to be the blessing there she has long been, but this
selfish wish would deprive her of the healthy companionship of those who
will be her sisters, and kindly cheer her young life, which has been
bowed with many sorrows. I need not ask you to deal kindly with her for
you have done that already. I only say, may an old man's blessing be
upon you and yours, as you have dealt kindly by this poor lamb."

Mrs. Villars turned aside her head to conceal her rising emotion, and
Mabel's face was bathed in tears, as Mr. Ware, with glistening eyes and
trembling steps, hurried from the room to repress the feelings which had
become too strong for utterance.


    All have their tasks and trials; thine are hard,
    But short the time, and glorious the reward,
    Thy patient spirit to thy duties give,
    Regard the dead, but to the living live.


It was with pleasure--melancholy, indeed, but still most sincere--that
Mabel was welcomed at the rectory. Mr. Ware and his sister emulated each
other, in endeavours to cheer her, before her introduction to a gayer
scene, which they knew awaited her in Bath. Their party had been
increased by the arrival of Mr. Clifford, the young architect, mentioned
by Colonel Hargrave, who had easily been induced to accept a room in
the pleasant rectory; so that, together with Rogers, the bailiff, whose
sick room required every attention, Mr. Ware was busy enough. Mr.
Clifford brought with him different plans for the improvement of the
estate, and the re-building of the village, on a different scale; and
the greater part of the evening was generally occupied in talking these
over, or drawing fresh ones. In this occupation Mr. Ware would gladly
have interested Mabel; but she was scarcely equal to the exertion, and
he well knew he could expect nothing, reasonably, beyond the unmurmuring
resignation, which characterised her grief, and the transient, tearful
interest she sometimes displayed in what they were doing. The comfort
and happiness of her favorite village never could be unheeded by her;
but it required some relaxation of her over taxed nervous system before
she could again become the self-forgetful, cheerful companion she had
been. This indulgence was freely granted her--and her affectionate heart
soon warmed to the watchful love which surrounded her, as the drooping
flowers turn to the warm beams of the returning sun.

"How often have I had reason to be grateful to you, dear sir?" she said,
one morning, as she passed her hand through Mr. Ware's arm, to accompany
him in his walk round the garden. It was one of those days, which, in
England, so often surprise us in the midst of winter, with their balmy
air and spring-like feeling. "And now more than ever," she continued,
"for supporting me at this sad season. You can little know how very,
very grateful I am for this thoughtful kindness."

"My dear child," returned Mr. Ware, soothingly, "it must be very easy to
accept the kindness which you have never forgotten to afford to others."

"Always kind," said Mabel, with a sigh, "how shall I bear to part from

"Or I from you, dear Mabel; often have you secured me from the regrets,
which, in a life of such seclusion as we have past here, might have
invaded my quiet. You have afforded me that society which I could not
otherwise have secured, and willingly would I have kept you still; but I
feel that Aston would, at least for the present, be full of too many
regrets for you to make me urge it. Besides, our natural relations have
a claim upon us, and, with yours, you will probably find a safe and
happy home. My Mabel will not forget that these have a claim upon her,
and that she may be called to new duties amongst them."

"And new trials," said Mabel, sadly, "I shall meet _him_."

"Yes, for a while--only a little while; I need not say anything on that
subject, your heart will best dictate your conduct--only be firm, and
remember always, if annoyances prevail elsewhere, here is your home."

"Not so--I trust he will soon be here--he ought to be here--and, oh, how
gladly would I see that. Do you not think his strange appearance on that
awful night--the delicacy he has since shewn--Mr. Clifford's coming--do
you not think all this looks well?"

Mr. Ware looked earnestly and painfully at her; she seemed immediately
to understand that look, for turning from him, she wrung her hands
together bitterly.

"Oh, why," she exclaimed, "can I never indulge my best hopes, without
the appearance of selfishness--must they always be so inseparable; but
you, at least, understand me," she added, turning her beautiful face
full upon him with a look of supplication.

"Yes, indeed, I do," he replied, "only I began to fear--I do understand
you, my noble-hearted girl--trust me, I do."

But Mabel only turned aside her head to weep, and though he tried to
renew the subject, she skilfully evaded it, and when that pained him,
she turned and soothed him with the eager caress of childlike affection.

At this moment, Clair was seen walking pensively up and down the walk,
at some little distance, and, as Mr. Ware was called away, Mabel
suffered him to go in alone, and advanced timidly towards his nephew;
she gained upon him before he was fully aware of her presence, and
joining him, she walked by his side, for a few minutes, in silence. He
was moodily musing, and she seemed, for a time, watchful how best to
interrupt him. She had never yet alluded to his letter, and spite of the
afflicting scenes which had so lately engaged her attention, he felt
slightly annoyed as well as disappointed--so little, however, did he
acknowledge such a feeling, even to himself, that he was a little
startled when she said, softly and timidly--

"You are offended with me."

"Offended, Miss Lesly?"

"Yes, and justly so--but if you could but know how many times I have
tried to speak to you without having the courage to do so, you would
forgive me."

Clair's eye kindled with sudden pleasure, but she saw the look, and
hastened to temper it.

"You told me that you knew something of my early history."

"Yes, Miss Lesly," he said, puzzled at her manner, and one moment
appearing ready to sink back into his dejection, the next, to seize her
hand--and give way to something more than joy.

"You must know, then," she continued, fixing her eyes on the ground;
"that the heart which has been once given away, is no longer capable of
appreciating you."

"Unless," said Clair, eagerly.

"Ah, but with me, there is no unless," said Mabel; "do not ask me to
unveil the painful recesses of a mind inured, but not insensible to
sorrow; and do not, oh, do not, like me, prepare for yourself that
loneliness of heart which I must carry with me always. I dare not trifle
with a feeling whose intensity I know too well; but, yet, I hope, so
earnestly do I hope, that you have mistaken yourself, and, that pity for
my sorrows, and the unhappy share you had in them, have led you to
think of me as you have done, and that these feelings may be easily
overcome. I feel privileged to speak to you," she said, raising her eyes
timidly, "because we are both unhappy."

"Ah, Miss Lesly, you little know me; I would give all my affection,
even, for the pleasure of your society--even if you would but tolerate
me for a while--my devotion might--."

"Oh, no," said Mabel, earnestly, and unhesitatingly; "do not speak like
that again. I would not enter on such holy duties with such feelings
only; and, even if I did, cruelly should I be taking advantage of your
confidence. I came only to ask you to think of me no more--to forgive
me, if possible, and--."

"And," returned Clair; "can you forgive me for my former trifling."

"Not quite, for had you not trifled, I might have spared you some pain
now. But you do forgive me," she said, extending her hand, and their
eyes met for the first time.

"I do, I do; if I have anything to forgive," said Clair, turning his
pale face aside, as he pressed her hand.

Mabel bowed gently over it, then withdrawing it from his grasp, glided
from him, and re-entered the house.

There was one other duty to be performed before she left Aston, which
tried her courage as much as any other; this was taking leave of her
mother's two old and faithful servants--but she knew that such a
parting, though so trying was one expected of her, and she would not
deny them the pleasure of seeing her, perhaps, for the last time. When,
however, the hour which she had appointed for their coming arrived, her
heart sank within her, and her spirits entirely failed, when she met
their familiar faces almost as sad as her own.

"It is like losing the very light of my eyes to see you go away, Miss
Mabel," said old John.

"You have served us long and well--and that thought will be very
cheering when I am gone," said Mabel, "but I want to know what you mean
to do--I want to think you are comfortable when I am away. Will you go
to service again?"

"I do not think I could serve another master or mistress," said old
John, decidedly. "If so be you wanted a servant--"

"Then," said Mabel, "you would be mine, of course; but that cannot be;
and I have been thinking, that if you had a garden of your own--a
nursery garden, I mean, you would be independent."

"I was thinking of that myself, ma'am," said old John, with a pleased
expression at finding his wants divined--"and if--but I don't like to
say it--there, I can't," he said, walking to the window.

"John was going to say, ma'am," interrupted Betsy, seeing that Mabel
looked puzzled, "that if it would not hurt your feelings, he should like
to keep on the old garden still--if he could have a cottage built where
our house stood--if, that is, you do not object."

Mabel checked her rising emotion, and said, cheerfully.

"How could I object to your keeping the dear old garden--how glad should
I be to think that it was an old friend, not a stranger, who lived

"Would you now, ma'am," said John, his face brightening; "I could keep
the old walks and the hot beds as they used to be--and 'twouldn't be
quite such a breaking up of old times--for I have lived there so long,
it seems like a home to me."

"I should be very glad," said Mabel, "to think you were happy there, and
that something of what I loved so well remained still. I will speak to
Mr. Clifford, perhaps he may do what we ask--for he seems willing to
please everybody."

"Thank ye, ma'am," said John, rubbing his head with an air of
consideration, as if he had something more to say.

"And you, Betsy, what will you do?"

"Why, that's the very thing," said John, as Betsy hesitated, in her
turn; "'praps you don't know, ma'am, that Jonathan Williams has courted
her for many years--but she didn't like to leave poor missis. Now, I was
thinking, if you approve, that, as I am getting old, I shall want some
one to help me, and as he's a clever man at a garden, I might as well
take him into employ or partnership, and so we might live
altogether--for," he added, with great emphasis; "I don't like to be put
out by strangers--and Betsy knows my ways."

"That will be perfect," cried Mabel, with something of the gladness of
her old tone of voice, rising as she spoke; "and you must write to me
often, and tell me how this plan goes on;" she said, more hurriedly. "In
the mean while, to secure its success, I shall place twenty pounds, a
piece, for you, in Mr. Ware's hands; which you can draw upon, as you
want money, for furnishing your new house--and I hope you have laid up
something for yourselves, and so will be able to start with advantage.
You must let me get you your wedding gown, Betsy."

So difficult is it for the uneducated to separate wealth from gentle
manners, and ladylike qualities, that the two faithful domestics
accepted her parting gift with gratitude and pleasure; but without the
reluctance which they would have felt, had they guessed the real nature
of her circumstances. They could not fancy that the mistress, whose
noble qualities had ever received their genuine respect, was really
almost moneyless, and dependent for the blessing of a home. Mabel was
not sorry to keep up the illusion, and tore herself from them before
they had time to enquire anything of her future plans.

When she placed the money in Mr. Ware's hands, he remonstrated with her
on giving away a sum so large in proportion to with what she actually
possessed; but she replied cheerfully--

"So much of our comfort is in the hands of our servants, that if they
have served us well, we can scarcely reward them enough. The thought
that I have shewn them something of my gratitude for the past, will be
better to me than the money itself. The selfish reason that I have no
one to care for but myself, should at least have its advantages."

Mr. Clifford was easily persuaded to grant Mabel's request, that, upon
the site of her once happy home--one might be built for the old
servants; and he readily took the opportunity of interesting her by
making her choose and alter the plans for the new cottage, which they
agreed should be in the same style as the other, though, of course, a
real cottage.

Mabel might soon, perhaps, have recovered the harmony of her spirits,
amongst those dear friends who were so studiously attentive in every
imaginable kindness, but she was not suffered to enjoy their society
very long--for her aunt was impatient to return to Bath, and wrote to
tell her at what stage upon the road they were to meet.

She dared not delay--neither did she much wish to do so, when she
perceived Clair's unhappiness rather increased by time; and she,
therefore, felt it right to depart as soon as possible. But, in leaving
Aston, she began more and more to realise the true nature of her recent
loss; and when Mr. Ware drove her to the little town where she was to
meet the coach, he tried in vain to rouse her from the despondency into
which she had fallen.

"My child," he said, as he took leave of his weeping charge; "you will
remember, though not yet, that your past life calls upon you for future

Mabel endeavoured to smile her thanks, and her promises, but the light
appeared in her eyes only to vanish again, put out by tears--yet, as the
coach rolled off, she leant forward, and kissed her hand with an air of
cheerfulness. Mr. Ware turned musingly away. As he drove home by
himself, the road seemed unusually long, and the large flakes of snow,
as they lazily fell through the freezing air, seemed even more cold and
comfortless than they usually do: he could not conceal from himself that
a gap had been made in his little circle, which he had no opportunity of
supplying; and that, with the loss of the Lesly family, he must part
with much that had tended to render his life happy.


    I grew up selfish, full of hopes and cares,
    For my own welfare, unconcerned for theirs--

With many different feelings, Mrs. Villars' return, with her niece, was
expected in Bath, by her family--jealousy is, indeed, "strong as death,"
and uncertain and wayward in its effects--Caroline had, with unfeminine
obstinacy, determined on becoming mistress of Aston Manor and its owner;
and every object that came in her way, was regarded with dislike. She
had heard from Lucy, of Mabel's beauty and winning manners; and such
beauty, in distress, she fancied more dangerous still. What her mother
could be thinking of to bring her to Bath she could not imagine! but it
was in vain for her to write an angry appeal: the answer was decisive.
"Mabel must come," the letter said, "and," added Mrs. Villars, "my Cary
must make preparation for her proper accommodation; but should you
object to our giving up the spare room to her, which certainly would be
a sacrifice, you must fit her up a room somewhere, as well as you
can--she must not be particular; still, as she is dependent on us, I
should not like to stint my favors exactly, though, perhaps, she ought
to take rather a more humble footing than my own dear girls." Caroline
well understood this letter, and acted accordingly. She knew that her
mother's generous fit was passing, and that she was preparing to be more
worldly wise.

On the evening of Mrs. Villars' expected return, Hargrave was sitting in
his study, lost in something very like a reverie, when he was roused by
a low tap at his door. Hastily taking up his pen, to assume the
appearance of occupation, he gave the customary answer of "Come in,"
and Caroline entered.

"Henry," said she, with a persuasive smile, "you must come and join our
party in the drawing-room. We have a beautiful fire, and everything
comfortable--so do come."

"Why to-night particularly?"

"Because we are all waiting to see mamma, and our wonderful cousin, and
we want you to amuse the time away."

"Very well," said Hargrave, rising, and slowly closing his desk--putting
aside a private paper or two from the table, which was covered with
maps, architectural plans, ground measurements, and books.

"Really," pursued Caroline, glancing round the room, "you study too
much. How very pale you look--lock up this dry room, and give me the
key, you shall have it again in a day or two."

"Dry," repeated Hargrave, with a smile, taking up one paper after
another, as if with peculiar affection, "dry--ah, that reminds me I
have a question to ask your papa on this subject."

"Now, you tease, you shall not go to that tiresome study to-night; we
want you, and you must come with me."

So saying, she passed her hand playfully through his arm, and compelled
him to accompany her to the drawing-room.

The girls were all seated round a cheerful fire; but, there were two
chairs left vacant, side by side. Hargrave, however, evaded this
manoeuvre by flinging himself, with all the coolness of accustomed
indulgence, at full length upon the sofa, with his head supported by his
two hands, and his eyes shut, as if in full preparation for a nap.

"Provoking creature," cried Caroline, "I did not bring you here to go to

"Pray do not let me disturb you," he replied, yawning; "I am listening."

"Now, Harry, you know that it is only because we all spoil you that you
give yourself such airs; but do not think going to sleep a good way to
preserve your popularity."

"I am not conscious of any diminution in it," returned the imperturbable
Hargrave; "but here I am at your service," he added, slowly rising to a
sitting posture.

One great source of amusement consisted in watching his caprices, and
reporting his humour, as it varied.

"Are they not late?" he enquired, at length, when a carriage rolled down
the street, causing a momentary expectation, but stopped not till its
murmuring sound died in the distance, or was hushed by the wind, as it
rushed round the corners of the streets.

"It is a long cross road, I think," said Caroline, "but I hope they will
be here soon, for I am tired of waiting."

"How freezingly cold," said Hargrave.

"Yes, indeed;" said Maria, "the water is frozen in the rooms up-stairs,
and there are long, horrid icicles hanging down the windows, and it is
snowing out of doors. I really cannot bear to cross the passages, and I
cannot think how people can be out to-night, when they may stay at

"I think," said Selina, "it is a great pity for any one to die in the
winter--just in the midst of the gay season. Only think, but for this
crape, we might be at Mrs. Trelawny's party this evening. It makes one's
heart ache to hear the carriages go by--ah, there is another, I declare.
Black is so unbecoming, too," said she, glancing at the tiny foot which
peeped out from the black folds of her dress.

"Now I am sure," said Maria, "you are only asking for a compliment, when
you know nothing suits a fair complexion so well as black. Now I, with
my tawny skin, might complain, had I not long ago given up the attempt
to look fascinating, and depended more on my tongue than my face; but
still I do wish that this piece of perfection had retained possession of
her Cotswold air, and left us to ourselves. Mamma is a clever woman--as
if she had not girls enough to drag after her, and provide husbands

An angry cry of "shame" ran round the circle; but Maria, catching a half
smile from Hargrave, laughed merrily in reply.

"Only think," she went on, "we must put on long faces for a fortnight,
at least, in sympathy for the death of an old lady, we did not care a
straw about; but, at least, I am no hypocrite, and that she will find--I
shall not pretend to admire perfections who look down on every one

"That I am sure she does not," said Lucy. "Ah, that's the thing, she is
better than ordinary perfections even--but here's papa."

Mr. Villars here entered the room.

"Oh, papa," cried Caroline, pettishly, "I wish you would not leave the
door open."

Mr. Villars quietly shut it--but the request jarred upon his
feelings--there was something, too, in the arrangement of the chairs,
which did not offer any considerable inducement to him to remain. He
was sure to put a check upon conversation, usually of the most frivolous
kind, and, therefore, his presence was not often desired by his
daughters, though his mild, indulgent eye seemed often almost to entreat
the affection which was so coldly and grudgingly bestowed, while too
sensitive to command the attention which was his due.

Solitude had become irksome to him, and he had now come to seek for some
one to share in a new idea, which had for some hours occupied his pen.

He paused, for a moment, before the little circle--but no one rose to
offer him a seat.

Hargrave's eyes were fixed upon the fire, seemingly forgetful of all
around him. Caroline was regarding him. She was never susceptible to any
interest in her father's proceedings, so that he did not attempt to gain
her attention; but, addressing Selina, who seemed the least amused of
the party--he said, smiling kindly, but timidly--

"I want a little advice--I have been trying all day to write a letter
to the _Times_, giving my views on the present system of education at
the Universities, showing how much time is wasted on the dead languages,
which might be given to philosophy and science."

"Oh, really, papa," said Selina, with a half yawn to the subject, "I am
so ignorant--I am sure I cannot help you."

"Oh, yes," he replied, gently; "you think less of yourself than you
need--I shall be glad of your opinion. Come--"

"Oh, no, papa, I would much rather not."

"My little Lucy will come then."

"I would," she replied, "very gladly, only I am so anxious to see

"Come, Maria, then, I really cannot get on without a little
admiration--and I do not expect them for an hour or two."

"I would if I understood anything about it," said Maria, "I dare say the
letter will do beautifully."

"I will come, sir, if I may," cried Hargrave, starting up, on seeing
Mr. Villars leaving the room with a dejected air.

But the hall bell stopped both of them. Lucy sprang to the door, but
suddenly stopped, and turned pale, and shrunk instinctively, remembering
the impossibility of her being a welcome object to Mabel.

Mrs. Villars was now heard coming up-stairs, giving orders to the
servants, as she did so. Her voice became more distinct, as she
approached the room, and entered, followed by the dark, black figure of
her orphan niece. She presented her to her daughters in turn, who each
gave her a hand rather in curiosity than kindness. Lucy, unable to
remain longer inactive, advanced with the impulse of throwing her arms
round her neck, but feeling checked by the presence of her sisters, she
only kissed her with a shy timidity, which very little expressed the
real warmth of her welcome.

"Welcome, my poor child," said the kind and fatherly voice of Mr.
Villars, to the silent girl, "you will find here, I hope, kind
companions, and a comfortable home."

Mabel gently raised the heavy veil, which had completely shrouded her
face, and seemed almost to bow down her head, and, as she did so,
displayed a countenance, which the beautiful and haughty Caroline
regarded with triumph and satisfaction. Tears stained her colorless
cheeks, and grief and watching were deeply marked in her sunken eyes.
There was no affectation of suffering there; but, as she looked up in
reply to Mr. Villars, a light ray passed over her countenance, and at
once spoke the loveliness which no sorrow could darken. She tried to
speak, but her parted lips refused to utter expressions of feeling,
which her eloquent eyes had already conveyed.

"You will now," said her aunt, pompously, "have an opportunity of
thanking Colonel Hargrave for the hospitality he has afforded you."

But Colonel Hargrave was gone. No one had seen him leave the room; but
when his absence was perceived, Caroline felt a sensation of pleasure
she could not account for, and, in great, good humour, turned to assist
Mabel in relieving herself of the heavy cloak which encumbered her; she
then perceived that she was trembling with cold and agitation--and when
she begged leave to retire for the night, every one saw that there was
necessity for repose to soothe her spirits.

Maria, whose good nature was, at times, greater than she would
acknowledge, almost forced her to swallow the wine she had declined.

Mrs. Villars, taking a light, requested Mabel to follow her, with
stately kindness.

The drawing-room they left was on the second floor, and yet she led her
up two flights of stairs, and then across a narrow passage, before she
stopped at the door of the room destined for her.

"My house is so very crowded," Mrs. Villars said, apologetically, "that
I am obliged to put you up here; but it will be a little home to you,
and you must make yourself snug and comfortable. Oh, those naughty girls
have forgotten to put you a chest of drawers; but you must contrive for
a day or two, and I will see to it."

Possibly she forgot; for she did not see to it.

"It will do quite well for me, aunt, thank you," answered the low,
sweet-toned voice, which so often touched her better self; but when we
are deliberately acting with unkindness, it is not pleasant to have that
better self awakened, after the pains we have taken to lull it to sleep.

Mrs. Villars hastily bade her good night, telling her to go to sleep,
and be well on the morrow, and returned to the drawing-room. There she
found her daughters busy in criticising the face and form of the new

Caroline, vexed that Hargrave did not return, and seized with a sudden
desire to follow him, quietly left the room, and glided down stairs.

With stealthy steps, she again sought the room, where she thought the
truant had taken refuge. The light that streamed from it into the
passage, shewed her that the door was open, and as she reached it, she
paused, for a moment, to take a view of its occupant before invading his

A large fire blazed up the chimney, and cast a flickering light round
the apartment, at times, bringing every object to view, and then leaving
it in fanciful shadow. Piles of books, as before, lay upon the table, on
which stood an unlighted lamp. Heedless of the many sources of
employment which were scattered around him, Hargrave was sitting,
leaning over the table. Caroline thought he slept, and meditated some
fanciful mode of waking him; but the moment her dress moved, he raised
his head, and the firelight which, while it left her own corner in
darkness, fell full upon him, shewed upon his countenance, the
unmistakable traces of grief and weakness. Her naturally quick
perception at once told her, that no time could be less favorable for
intrusion upon one so haughty, and, to all appearance, so impenetrable,
and drawing herself back into the shade, she lingered, but a moment, to
assure herself that he was again lost in his solitary musing, and then
noiselessly gained her own room, and sat down to think over what she had

Did he always indulge in such thoughts? and if so, over what past event
was he grieving? what loss which could not be repaired?

The flattering answer, returned by her mirror, gave her hope that such
grief, if more than transitory, would still be of no long duration.

What the heart wishes, it finds a thousand witnesses to substantiate.


    Oft in life's stillest shade reclining,
    In desolation, unrepining,
    Without a hope on earth to find,
    A mirror in an answering mind.
    Meek souls there are who little dream,
    Their daily task an Angel's theme;
    Or that the rod they take so calm,
    Shall prove in Heaven a martyr's palm.


The night was piercingly cold.

Mabel sat down upon her travelling trunk, which had preceded her to her
room, and which, carelessly, had been left corded. There was no bell by
which she could summon assistance, and therefore, with trembling
fingers, she undid the tightly-knotted cord, and with some difficulty,
for the box was heavy, she managed to open it; but, having done so, it
seemed as if she almost forgot the purpose for which she wished it--for
clasping her hands together she wept long and convulsively. How many
bitter thoughts crowded upon her in that hour of weakness. Her mind
seemed to lose all its strength, as she hurried from the past to the
future. Where was the elastic promise of bold reliance on that future,
made by her mother's side? Where was that mother? Sleeping in the cold
grave, and as Mabel wept on, there might have come the thought that in
that grave there was peace and refuge, though the night winds even now
howled above it. How had she flattered herself that she had gained the
control of her own fervent imagination, and yet how it trembled at the
thought of the morrow.

Hargrave, her infidel lover, so warmly loved and yet so steadily
rejected, how should she meet him on that morrow--did he still love
her, and if so, would he press his suit, and force her to fly from
temptation, or would he prove the truth of his threat, that with him
there was no medium between truthful love and contemptuous
forgetfulness. If so, how could she bear it, how would they meet day
after day, keeping up the formal semblance of politeness, and if it were
true, that he was making his suit to Caroline, how could she find
strength for the daily trials which would necessarily be hers.

The quick, fiery blood of jealousy kindled in her cheek, as this last
thought arose, and she mechanically raised her hand and loosened the
twisted tresses of her hair, as if her heated brain needed relief.

If there be, as some affirm, a good and evil angel to guard our way, and
track our steps through life, it was the evil angel that had power then.

She felt it--she rose, and almost instantly sunk upon her knees. Her
clasped hands were now raised above her head--now clasped convulsively
over her face--as hour followed hour through that dark and cheerless
night, till her head gradually sank upon the bed by which she kneeled,
and she remained for a long time in perfect stillness. Her long,
disordered hair hiding every feature from sight.

The Abbey clock announced the approach of the chill winter morning,
before Mabel again raised her head, but then her countenance was firm,
and there was a soft radiance about her eyes that told that those dark
and weary hours had not been spent in vain.

Wearied with the long conflict, she laid herself down to rest, and was
soon asleep.

Strong minds, when they are sick, require strong remedies; had any one
watched her calm repose, and quiet breathing, they might have told, that
with her the crisis was past.

As she slept--flitting dreams crossed her fancy--once she thought she
stood upon a high hill, where a noble castle of fairy and transparent
beauty, was built immediately above a rocky precipice. Suddenly, as she
lost her footing, and fell, she tried to prepare for death, when
invisible hands supported her, and softly placed her on the bank above.

Then her dream became more distinct--she was again at Aston, and the
setting sun was going down behind the hills--while its golden rays gave
beauty to earth and sky. She was seated on her father's tomb, in the
well-known church-yard, and close beside her was the delicate form of
the little Amy, which her arm encircled with the covetous clasp of
affection. They both gazed upon the setting sun, and the child listened,
as she spoke of the ages it had shone in beauty, and the ages it might
still shine; of the time it marked, and the eternity it presaged, till
her eyes grew brighter, and her color deepened. Then it seemed as if a
strain of holy music softly stole upon the evening air, and Amy raised
her hand to attract her attention to it--her face grew of more than
earthly loveliness, and, as the music died away, Mabel woke and found
herself alone. The moonlight streamed into her little room, rendering
every object distinctly visible. It is beautiful to see the mingling
light of the waning moon and rising sun changing the scenes of the early
morning with the rapidity of a diorama; Mabel watched the light for some
time with unthinking pleasure, till gradually upon her waking senses
arose the remembrance of the night, but with the early morning came the
strength for which she had so earnestly pleaded through those hours of

She had bent before the repeated strokes of Providence with something of
the feeling that her earthly duties were finished. But now came purer
and holier thoughts. "What right," she asked herself, "had she to say
that she had suffered enough?" Had she not already some call to
exertion, some friends whom she might perhaps love and serve, and more,
the fresh suffering that seemed in preparation, told her that it was
right to suffer. "Thy will be done," she repeated, in trembling
accents, as she knelt in meek and quiet devotion, and the words came
from a heart not untried by many sorrows.

Mabel's mind was anything but morbid, for the dangerous tendency so
strongly developed in her mother, had been checked and controlled by
that very mother herself, who gladly saw in her more active child, the
same delicate perception of the beautiful, the good and the painful,
sobered by her care for others, and her love of exertion.

It was then with a feeling of gratitude that she looked round the little
room, which, to many would have excited the most painful feelings of
neglect and desolation. The small bed had been evidently used, formerly,
in the nursery, and was diminutive in size; yet, as Kirk White,
humorously observes of his study fireplace:--

    "So big, it covered o'er,
    Full half the spacious room, and more."

One side, from the ceiling, shelved down to the floor, leaving dark
corners, where the light from the small window never penetrated, giving
an uncomfortable suspicion of dust and cobwebs. The wide window ledge,
which served for the purpose of dressing table, with one shabby chair,
completed the fittings of the room--for, as Mrs. Villars had observed in
her casual glance--a chest of drawers had been omitted.

It was impossible that any one so careful of the comforts of others--so
used to luxury as she had lately been, at Aston, should not read, at a
glance, the nature of the apartment which one of her mother's servants
would, perhaps, have hesitated to occupy--yet she busied herself in
arranging it to advantage. She could scarcely satisfy herself when she
had finished, for the room was not quite clean, and nothing she could do
could remedy that deficiency--so she turned to the window, and looked
out upon the back view it displayed of chimney-pots--dark back windows,
as cheerless as her own, and walls blackened by falling smoke. Still,
above the low dark, damp, courts, there was a glimpse of the pure blue
sky; and as Mabel's eye rested upon it, even the passing shade of
discontent vanished from her mind, as she remembered by whom her
comforts and trials were meted; and then she turned her eyes again upon
the room, and all that was uncomfortable before, seemed to have a light
about it that made it look different now. It was all better than she
might have had--more than she had any right to claim. Was she not under
her aunt's protection, when she might have been left with strangers;
left for the first time, in that kind of independence, most trying to a
delicate woman? "Was not every thing," she again repeated, "better than
she deserved? What could have made her think the room dark, and
uncomfortable? What could have changed it so? Nothing but the reflected
light of a humble and thankful heart. After remaining some little time
longer in consideration, she went down stairs. She soon found the room
where she remembered having been introduced the evening before; but, on
opening the door, she perceived that it was still darkened, the
window-curtains drawn, and the chairs arranged as they had been left on
the preceding night. Looking again at her watch to persuade herself that
it was really nine o'clock, she found her way to the drawing-room, which
was in such dusty confusion, that she was going to return to her own
room again, when a side door opened, and Mr. Villars appeared.

"Come in, come in," he said, stopping her; "you will not find a good
fire any where else, for at least half an hour. My family are not fond
of early rising, as you see; so I generally take my breakfast alone."

"Then, perhaps, I shall intrude upon you, sir;" said she, seeing the
preparations for his simple meal already made.

"Not if you will have some breakfast with me; you look tired already,
and will be better for it. Only say so, and I will ring for a cup and

He laid his hand on the bell as he spoke, but hesitatingly, as if
accustomed to have his attempts at sociability negatived; but, when
Mabel readily assented, he cheerfully busied himself in preparing for
her. While he was doing so, she had an opportunity of scanning the
apartment, which her host designated his den. It was lined on two sides,
from the floor to the ceiling, with bookshelves, containing books of all
languages, arranged according to their different subjects. Part of
another side contained a selection from the best light literature of the
day--and, beneath, were drawers, that seemed to have a habit of being
always open, in which was a large store of written papers. The fourth
side of the room was ornamented by a collection of stuffed birds,
reptiles, and insects; curious specimens of botany, conchology, and
mineralogy--shewing the various studies in which Mr. Villars had, from
time to time, taken an interest.

Upon a table, near the window, were placed some open books, marked at
different passages--together with scraps of paper, old envelopes, and
backs of notes, all neatly written upon.

But the breakfast table was prepared with great neatness, and nothing
but an unopened paper of the day before gave any temptation to reading.

Mr. Villars, having made the tea, and toasted his muffin, drew a chair
to the table, and begged her to partake of both.

There is a kind of freemasonry by which some have the power of unlocking
the hearts of others, and making them unreserved; perhaps it is the
power of being genuinely natural oneself, which sets others so much at

Mabel soon found herself conversing quietly, and without the least
effort; and Mr. Villars, without anything of his nervous hesitation, had
offered to assist her reading, by his advice, and instruction, as often
as she pleased to spend an hour or two with him.

"May I then, feel free to come and go when I like;" enquired Mabel,
rising when they had finished breakfast.

"Yes, at any time; at least, excepting when I have any particular desire
to be alone."

"And then you must lock the door," she said, smiling; "because you might
not like to turn me out--so that shall be a sign that you wish to be

"A very effectual sign indeed," said Mr. Villars, returning her smile,
though he suspected that he should not be often obliged to resort to
this defence, as it did not seem likely that she would be more attached
to his study than his daughters were.

Mabel felt reluctant to leave the quiet repose of his society, but
unwilling longer to absent herself, she went to the breakfast room,
where, by this time, the whole party, excepting Hargrave, had assembled.
She stopped to give her aunt a kiss, with a warmth, which might have
told an intelligent observer, that the gratitude she felt for her
protection had closed her eyes to distrust.

Caroline, who had been left mistress of the house in her mother's
absence, had intended the situation and furniture of her bed-room, at
once, to announce the fact, that if admitted to their circle, it must be
in the rank of a dependent. But this attempt to humiliate her, had
seemingly failed. Mabel appeared pale, subdued, and sorrow-stricken, but
evidently possessing a mind superior to trifles; and though, when she
took her seat apart from the table, her lip slightly trembled, and her
color came and went, not a sigh escaped from the sad heart within.

Caroline, as she rose from breakfast, said that Hargrave had promised to
practise some duets with her, and she must go and find him--Maria and
Selina followed her--and Mrs. Villars went to her house-keeping, leaving
Lucy behind.

There was a momentary and awkward silence--and then Lucy walked up to
her, and sunk down upon the floor at her feet, crying--

"How can you ever look upon me again? Think of my laughing and amusing
myself, when--"

A shudder finished the sentence.

And Mabel stooped to raise her head, whispering--

"It is too easy to forgive you--you were more unkind to yourself than to

"How?" said Lucy.

"Because such things make the heart grow hard."

Lucy was silent, for a moment, and then exclaimed--

"How I wish I were married, and had a home to offer you of my own. Then
you should not have such an old, poky bed-room as Caroline has looked
out for you--I had such a quarrel with her about it. She is jealous,
because I said you were beautiful, I know she is."

"Ah, Lucy," said Mabel, "how unkind to try and expose the weaknesses of
a sister--remember the fable of the bundle of sticks. For myself,
knowing that I do not deserve her unkindness, I shall not feel it. I own
it is a trial--but as I am dependent on your mamma's kindness, by my own
choice, and by my wish to please her, and not of necessity, and I can
and will assert my independence when I please--it is quite a different

"Are you going to be married then?"

"No, no," said Mabel, smiling; "I will tell you what I mean another
day--perhaps I do not quite know how myself--I only know I will if I see
it best--but do not let us talk of that now."

So saying, she took up a skein of silk which Caroline had been
attempting to wind.

"Never mind that," said Lucy, "that is Caroline's, and she will never
thank you for the trouble you take."

"Lucy!" said Mabel.

"Ah, I know you are the best of human beings; but I do not know what you
would have been, had you been brought up in such a school as I have."

"Scarcely four months have passed," returned Mabel, "since you spoke
that thought before. You have not used events rightly, if you can say it
sincerely now. Oh, why have you been so sorely tried," said she, placing
her hand fondly on her head--"Why have you been wounded so severely, if
not to purify you from the errors of the past? Might not those sad
events be made fit answers to the excuse you then made for yourself?"

Lucy was going to reply, when a double knock at the hall door made her
start and blush, and then she jumped up, her face all radiance, and
hastily kissing Mabel's cheek, ran off to the drawing-room.

Once more alone, Mabel tried to occupy herself with the silk she held in
her hand, but her heart was full, and tears silently stole down her
cheeks, and fell upon her busy fingers.

Just then, Caroline returned, something had gone wrong in the singing
lesson, and her face wore its natural frown, and her cheek its angry
flush--she glanced impatiently at Mabel, and then stopping to warm
herself by the fire, looked angrily from it to her.

"What! are you crying again?" she said, peevishly, for her temper had
become almost insane from indulgence.

Mabel made no reply.

"I hope," continued her cousin, "you are not going to be always
miserable; for poor mamma's sake, you should command your feelings."

Mabel raised her eyes and looked firmly at her, as she said, slowly--

"I was alone."

"And is that what you call resignation?" said Caroline, in a tone of
reproof. "I hope you will not give way to your poor mother's

"We mistake each other," said Mabel, rising, while her pale cheek
kindled, her head was proudly and firmly erect, and her eyes almost
flashed fire.

Caroline quailed; an uneasy sensation of something like fear stole upon

"Perhaps," said she, her voice trembling with suppressed passion, "we
mistake our respective positions."

"We do," said Mabel.

Caroline would have been glad to relieve herself by some bitter speech,
but she felt powerless, and, endeavouring to hide her own discomfiture,
she swept indignantly from the room, saying that she had never believed
in perfect tempers, and she would have nothing to do with people who
tried to appear better than they were.

Mabel continued standing, her bosom heaving with emotion.

"I could have borne any thing but that--any reflection on myself," she
exclaimed, half aloud, "but to speak so of my poor mother, I cannot
bear. Ha--" she added, slightly startling on perceiving Hargrave, who
had entered by another door, and who was standing by her.

Their eyes met for an instant and then hers sought the ground.

"Miss Lesly," said he, coldly and peculiarly, "we have never met

She looked up to read his meaning. His countenance was impenetrable,
except that he seemed impatient for reply. There had been a time when
her lightest word could move him, and when, to her, his smile was
happiness, and his frown brought misery. Yet neither testified now the
least emotion. After a pause she replied.

"You need not fear me, but I cannot, if I would, utter a falsehood. What
does it signify that we have met."

"The past is forgotten, then?" he enquired.

"It shall be as if it had never been," replied Mabel; "but as you were
candid then, be candid now."


"Because you cannot be happy without perfect confidence."

A fleeting smile passed over his lips, but she saw it not.

"You need not fear--no one shall take me under false pretences--I am
fallen indeed in your estimation, since you believe that possible."

"No," replied Mabel, "I reverence and admire the beauty of the
structure, but I do distrust the foundation on which it is built."

"Ah, some people do not think so deeply," he returned, gaily.

"I fear not," said she, sadly.

"Well, you have had trials sufficient," he added, "without adding mine
to them--do not fear for me, I hope some day to hear you congratulate me
on my happiness."

Without waiting for a reply he took up a book, which he had made the
nominal reason for his visit to the morning room, and disappeared.

She hurried quickly to her own little chamber, to think over this
strange conversation, which she believed conclusive of his attachment
to Caroline. But was she worthy of him, would she influence him
rightly--she tried to believe that the character drawn by her own quick
judgment was only wrought by jealousy. Not a little did she feel pained
at their quarrel, for she thought how easily might she prejudice her in
his opinion.

"I can bear to lose his love," she thought, "but not his esteem--and yet
I must, if necessary, do both, perhaps, if she speaks ill of me, and he
will surely believe her."

Those who have experienced many trials will remember, that sometimes, by
their quick succession, the mind becomes braced to endurance. It was so
with Mabel; besides, she had certain fixed principles, and though she
often erred from them, her mind almost invariably recovered its
strength; and she now endeavoured to school it to the endurance of those
small trials, which in her happy home at Aston, she had almost entirely


    The hope of fame may in his heart have place,
    But he has dread and horror of disgrace,
    Nor has he that confiding easy way,
    That might his learning and himself display;
    But to his work, he from the world retreats,
    And frets and glories o'er the favorite sheets.


When Caroline quitted Mabel she hurried to her mother, with all the
petulance of a wayward child, and, with her, vented on Mabel the spleen
which she had not had the courage fully to express. Great was her
surprise when she found, that, instead of joining in her opinion, Mrs.
Villars only endeavoured to extenuate and defend Mabel's conduct,
though with that weakness which Caroline always had the hope of
overcoming; but, for once she was mistaken, and, more than ever
chagrined, the bitterness with which she regarded her cousin, only
increased. This Mabel had soon an opportunity of learning, and her
situation in the house became more and more uncomfortable, influenced as
it was, by those secret prejudices and envious feelings, which there is
no possibility of openly opposing.

Lucy, too, though still an object of solicitude to her, seemed shy of
her company, and, indeed, held herself much aloof from every one but
Beauclerc, whose attentions were now very generally remarked.

Still there was one room in the house where her presence was welcomed as
a real blessing, and this consciousness atoned to her for much that was
elsewhere almost unbearable.

At first, with the shyness which often attends the student, Mr. Villars
frequently locked his door, but gradually the habit ceased altogether.

One afternoon, he was sitting alone, his manner was restless, and his
eye absent in its expression.

The atmosphere without was unusually humid; small rain, which, in the
distance, looked almost like fog, hid the prospect, and made the room
dark, giving nothing of the inspiriting feeling produced by a hearty
shower. Within, the room seemed heavy and sombre. But within Mr.
Villars' own thoughts there was something darker still, something cold
and numbing--something that said the world was a dark and gloomy
world--something that said he lived alone and uncared-for in it. He rose
and walked up and down the room--that dark feeling haunted him still. He
turned to the window--on its ledge lay his pen-knife--he looked at it
uneasily--then walked away--then returned--and again regarded it as if
it had the power to injure him. He returned to the table, on it lay a
bundle of closely written papers--he turned from them, and again found
himself at the window.

That knife again.

His thoughts grew darker--that something again stole over him, till the
sweat stood in drops upon his brow, and his eyes glared feverishly.

Hark! He listens. The sound of a light footfall is in the passage--a
quick hand is on the lock, the door is opened, and Mabel is by his side,
looking uneasily and affectionately at him, with that expression of
light and beauty so peculiar to her.

"You are ill--I am sure you are," she said; "let me call my aunt."

"No, no," he replied, hurriedly, "I am better--if you will stay with me.
You must not go--you will not let them drive you from me."

Mabel looked puzzled--but eagerly promised anything he desired.

"Ah," said she, rallying her spirits, "I see it now. You have those
papers out again. Why are you always unhappy when you take them out?"

"Because they remind me of disappointment," he replied, bitterly.

"I have a great curiosity about them," said Mabel, "and have some fancy
that it is the manuscript of a book you have written."

"You do not deny it--then do read it to me."

"It would not give you any amusement."

"Now, uncle, how can you tell that? I am sure it will not make you so
miserable, if you do."

"Well, my little sage--but I must first tell you the circumstances under
which I wrote it, and the reasons I have for being disappointed."

"Stay one moment then," said she, drawing his arm-chair to the fire,
which she stirred, till it sent a good flame up the chimney, then
seating herself opposite, she begged him to go on. Beginning to feel
happier, he scarce knew why he sat down, and, after a moment's
hesitation, he said--

"I was always very fond of writing, when a young man--I dare say,
thought myself something of a genius--but though I wished to devote
myself entirely to study, this was so much opposed by my more prudent
father, that I gave up my own inclinations, and entered into a lucrative
mercantile establishment in London. Not long after this, I married, and
then it appeared to me, to be my duty to devote myself entirely to
business, in order that I might acquire wealth for my wife, and
increasing family--but I gave myself too rigidly to the task--I gave
myself no ease--always fearing that I longed for it, only from the
desire for selfish indulgence. The consequence has been that my family
has been educated in a manner of which I strongly disapprove--and, alas!
I feel the evil is so great as to require something stronger even than a
father's displeasure to remedy it."

Mr. Villars sighed, and then continued--

"In the short intervals of business, I noted down, from time to time,
scenes which were drawn either from real life, or my own fancy--together
with numerous remarks on the manners of my own times, which I thought
might be amusing--pining always to indulge what I falsely believed to be
a talent.

"How often desired blessings bring a curse. A few years since my
speculations were successful beyond my expectations, and I found myself
enabled to retire from business with a good conscience. This place was
the scene of my happy boyhood, and of my school days, and here I
resolved to settle, since it offered pleasures suited to us all.

"With the eagerness of a schoolboy I fitted up this study; it was the
very perfection of my taste, it contains every book I take any pleasure
in, and yet," he said, looking gloomily round him, "it has been to me
the scene of greater misery than even you, seemingly deprived of almost
every blessing, can calculate upon.

"Secure as I believed of the interest of my family, for year after year
of, to me, heavy toil had, I believe, purchased it beyond a doubt. I
thought I would prepare them a treat, and so set about collecting my
scattered writings, and forming them into a whole, promising them a
reading every Saturday of what I had done in the week.

"I never shall forget the first Saturday evening. You have, I dare say,
often heard that an author's vanity is capable of blinding him to the
opinions of others. I cannot understand the feeling myself, and I was
not slow in perceiving that my book soon failed to interest--but I tire

"You pain, but interest me," replied Mabel.

"Well, it is hard to believe that one's composition is too bad to
interest those whose affection ought to make them indulgent to the
dullest of our pursuits; but so it was; they eagerly courted any other
Saturday engagement, and when they did come, they yawned or whispered
over their work, and seemed so completely wearied with my reading that
one day I threw down the book, and refused to continue. I forget what
followed, but I know I was never asked to resume my readings. From that
time I have been more and more alone, and I am sorry to confess that,
after years of well rewarded toil, I find life losing interest with me."

Mabel started at the last words; there was an ominous meaning in them,
that terrified her--while she watched him now pacing the room again,
with a disturbed air, muttering exclamations of despair. She hastened to
interrupt him.

"How very much I should like to hear your manuscript. Would you have
patience to read it to me?"

Mr. Villars turned and looked full upon her; but she repeated her
request eagerly. She saw the coming of that mental cloud, which has
obscured many a noble intellect, and her eyes sparkled as she saw him
yielding to her request, and that the dawn of hope was again upon the
face of the disappointed student.

"Evening is the time for a work of fiction," she observed, "but let us
have the first chapter now. If it will not tire you to read."

"If you really wish it," he said, handling the papers with trembling

"Oh, yes, I do wish it, but let me first get my work, for that is to us
what chipping is to the Americans, it only assists our attention. While
you find the first part I will go and fetch it."

Her errand took her longer than she had anticipated, for in the morning
room she found her aunt, with Hargrave, Caroline, and Selina discussing
a print with some eagerness.

"I would give anything to have such a head-dress," exclaimed Caroline.

"Well, my dear," said her mother, "I should be glad for you to have it
too, but I fear you must give it up. I am sure, Henry, you ought to be
complimented, for Caroline has been trying this hour to please you."

"Well, it is a pity," said Hargrave; "she would look well in it, but I
am sorry I spoke of it, if it has given her so much trouble."

Mabel stopped at the table, and taking up the print, exclaimed--

"I remember seeing something like this at Gibraltar. Perhaps I could
make it--may I try," she said, glancing at the crape which Caroline had
been cutting and wasting.

"If you think you can do it," returned Caroline, "do take it and
try--but I want to wear it to-night, at the ball."

"Then give me everything," said she, her manner excited from the scene
in the library; and gathering up the crape, ribbon, and wire into her
apron, she took the print and hurried to the library. When she entered,
Mr. Villars was seated by the fire, with some papers on his knees, but
the look of gloom had again settled on his usually patient face. "Oh, I
am so sorry to have kept you waiting," she said, anxiously, "but look
how much work I had to bring--now I am quite ready."

Mr. Villars said nothing, but appeased by the affectionate warmth of her
manner began reading.

She listened attentively, and gladly found herself interested, without
an effort, as she heard with surprise sentences, in a style of boldness,
and purity of devotion, which she had scarcely expected.

Mutually pleased, the hours slipped away, Mr. Villars charmed by the
attention of his listener, while she busily continued her work.

The small greasy rain dimmed the window, and darkened the room, till the
shades of evening closed upon them, but its influence had ceased. A
cheerful smile shewed the pleasure of the author, and the renewed hope
with which he began to feel inspired.

"I scarcely know if I like the name--'The Merchant's Recollections;' it
is scarcely striking enough," said Mabel, when he stopped to rest.

"I do not think I could call it anything else, after knowing it so long
by that name."

"Well then, I suppose you must keep its name, but do make an effort to
have it published, or do so yourself. I am certain it would be popular.
Pray let me have what is in your hand, and I will give you the novelty
of listening to your own composition; but first, let me light your
little candle."

With thrilling voice, and the purest accent, she read, and Mr. Villars
felt that he had never appreciated his own composition before. As he
listened, old recollections revived--an elasticity seemed given to his
thoughts. So carefully had the influence been obtained, which was now so
so cleverly exercised, that the sensitive author, with his keen
perception and acute sense of the finest tone of feeling, was impressed
with respect for his younger companion, who united sympathy in these to
a healthy strength of mind.

Now as he looked, and listened to her, who had so timely rendered
succour to intellect sinking, from discouragement, into despair, he
gladly welcomed the new current of ideas which were crowding upon his
attention. The thought of giving to the world the work which had so long
occupied him, the chance of popularity, even the bitterness of failure,
would be far preferable to the state of apathy into which he had been
gradually falling. There was something stirring and exciting in the
idea; there was life and employment in it, and he embraced it with

The dressing bell put an end to their reading, and Mabel then called
upon him to admire her workmanship, displayed in the pretty ornament she
had prepared, in imitation of that worn by the Spanish girl, in the
print, whose face was not unlike Caroline's.

"Are you going to the ball, to-night?" she enquired.

"I seldom go to those places."

"But I think you would enjoy it to-night, for they are all going, and I
am sure would be glad of your company."

"Well, I may perhaps; I might enjoy it."

"I think you will, and then you will enter better into this to-morrow,
for you have a great deal to do, and I am bent on seeing it completed."

"My good girl," said Mr. Villars, taking her hand with considerable
emotion; "you little know the obligations you have conferred upon me
to-day. I would give you all I possess for the power of conferring
happiness as skilfully as you can. Heaven bless you for it."

"Providence often chooses the weakest instruments," said Mabel, "to
fulfil its missions; and I endeavour to keep myself ready for service,
lest I may lose the chance of being employed;" then blushing at her own
speech, she withdrew her hand, and hurried from the room.

When they met at dinner, she begged Caroline to allow her to dress her
hair for the evening, to suit the head-dress she had been preparing.
The offer was readily accepted, and they retired together to the
dressing-room already mentioned. The comfort, and almost finical luxury
with which it was furnished, occurred to Caroline, as no very agreeable
contrast to that which she had prepared for the houseless orphan, so
lately deprived of all the comforts of home--but her attention was soon
occupied by her toilette, in which she took so great an interest.
Perhaps she would have been glad if their maid could have performed the
same services for her, with as much taste as Mabel; but as she could
not, she forced herself to accept her kindness with the best grace she
could command. The beautiful head-dress, contrasted well with her raven
hair; and when Mabel held the mirror before her, she scarcely believed
her eyes as she gazed upon her reflected self.

"Come, I do believe you are a good girl," exclaimed Maria; "one of the
right sort, after all. I wish you would concoct something for
me--singularity is what I affect--but, I fear me, nothing will do," she
added, going off singing.

    There's nobody coming to marry me,
    Nobody coming to woo;
    O dear what can the matter be,
    Oh dear what shall I do.

The gay party were soon assembled in the drawing-room. Hargrave looked
pleased when he saw the head-dress, and made many observations on its
beauty, which delighted Mrs. Villars, and made Caroline's cheek flush
with pleasure.

"Who knows," whispered Mrs. Villars, playfully pinching Mabel's arm,
"but that your pretty cap may hasten the denouement; look how pleased he

Mabel felt sick, but no one saw the sudden pallor of her cheek, for the
carriages which were ordered to take them to the rooms were announced.

Caroline, drawing her ermine tippet closer round her shoulders, took
Hargrave's un-offered arm, saving:--

"You must be my first partner to-night, remember," and then walked down
stairs with him, talking playfully, and gaily. Mabel thought she had
never seen her look more beautiful. When they had all gone, she sunk
upon a chair, suffering from the revulsion of over exerted feelings. She
laid her hand upon her heart to still its beating; that heart, which
spite of all its chastenings, beat true to nature still. Had she only
decked Caroline to win a heart which was dearer to her than
life--dearest when she had rejected it, in the name of heaven.

Oh, if Caroline were but one likely to lead back his truant heart to the
duties he had more than neglected. Yet she felt little hope when she
remembered her lifeless and listless Sundays--her wandering eyes in
church, and the witty remarks which told how her thoughts had there been

But she also felt that she had done right, and with this consciousness,
she could afford to abide by the consequences of her actions. Her
delicacy, also, soon reminded her of the necessity of putting a strict
guard over her imagination, lest even the pity and sorrow she felt for
him, might shew themselves, and be misunderstood. Grieve over him she
must, but she resolved that even he should not know it. It was a
difficult part for one so candid to play, but her delicacy stood upon
the defensive, and warned her to be firm.


    Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
    Some meeker pupil you must find,
    For were you queen of all that is,
    I could not stoop to such a mind.


Mrs. Villars returned from the ball full of triumphant feelings. Never,
since her first appearance at the rooms, had Caroline appeared to such
advantage. Hargrave, who seldom did more than walk through a quadrille,
had twice asked her to waltz. Mrs. Villars had received, with gracious
smiles, many premature congratulations--and her husband, who had
despaired of Caroline's marriage, looked on with satisfaction, and
began to think everything was taking a brighter turn.

The next morning, Mrs. Villars overwhelmed Mabel with thanks for her
ingenuity--and even, in the excess of her gratitude, confided to her a
long and exaggerated account of the ball, mixed with many speculations
on the probable causes which led Hargrave to delay his proposals. She
ended by announcing her intention, (if she did not consider it hurtful
to her feelings,) of giving a grand rout the following week.

Mabel begged her not to think of her, as she could easily, if she
preferred doing so, spend the evening alone. Her aunt was, however, bent
on displaying herself as her benefactress, though she thought it better
to be contented, at first, with getting no opposition to her plan.

Invitations were soon issued. Colonel Hargrave was persuaded to give up
a hunting party he had intended joining, and even to discuss the
numerous arrangements, of which none but good entertainers can
appreciate the difficulty. The music, the dances, the company, the
decorations of the rooms, were all thoroughly talked over, and
everything promised to make it the most popular party of the Bath

The girls were in high spirits, and congratulated themselves on
Hargrave's continued good humour.

Selina declared he must have made up his mind, at last, and anticipated
looking pretty on a Shetland pony, at Aston, while Maria declared that
she had nearly "hooked" a Gloucestershire squire, and hoped Caroline
would give her an opportunity of landing him.

On the morning of the party, Mabel was sitting in the library alone,
finishing some ornaments for the wax tapers, which her aunt had
requested her to make. Mr. Villars was gone to put a letter to a London
publisher in the post--and finding herself alone, she had given herself
up to thoughts of her mother and Amy--that dear sister, whose life she
had hoped to see so much happier than her own--then came to her memory,
which was well stored with every antidote to discontent, those beautiful
lines of Milman--

    "We thank thee for our lost, our beauteous child,
    The tears less bitter she has made us shed."

And these told her how Amy's artless love had beguiled her first
disappointment of its bitterness, and called her to exert her energies
in a life of activity.

As she continued this more cheerful train of thought, she heard a step
in the passage, whose echo thrilled to her very heart. How often had she
sprung at that signal in all the buoyancy of unchecked love; cold and
dark had been the change--the elastic step was now firm and majestic,
and she listened to it with attempted indifference, for they had learnt
to meet as strangers.

Colonel Hargrave entered, and instead of leaving the room, as he now
always did, when he found her alone, he walked up to the fire, and stood
looking at her, for a moment, as her varying color made her face look
something more than beautiful.

"I have a request to make," he said, at length.

"One that I can grant, I hope," said Mabel; for the silence broken, her
courage was at once restored.

"I would ask you to do violence to your own feelings, and appear at the
dance to-night?"

"Why need I appear in a circle, where, being unknown, I cannot be
missed, when I feel naturally disinclined for gaiety?"

"Because your influence is needed there. Do not think I am frivolous
enough to believe, that the admiration you may possibly excite, would
give you any compensation for the pain of appearing in that mourning
dress, amongst the light and gay; but there is one over whom you seemed
once to have some influence, who must be there, and you will have an
opportunity of seeing her in society."

"Do you mean Lucy?"

"Yes--I have watched her narrowly, for some time, and think she may be
made something better under proper guidance. Where is she to find that
but in you? She is now attracted by a man, whose attentions are, I fear,
too general to mean anything."

"Are you certain Mr. Beauclerc means nothing?" said Mabel,
incredulously; "it is so difficult to decide--and almost impossible to

"Except by advice. Could you not persuade her to remain passive, and not
to pay him so much open admiration?"

"Impossible;" said Mabel, "it must be that he is more reserved in the
display of his attentions than she is. Are you not severe?"

"Depend upon it," returned Hargrave, "the truth is often more charitable
than falsehood, and I am not speaking now in the common spirit of
criticism. Lucy is rendering herself an object of general observation,
and even ridicule, to the gentlemen of her acquaintance, and though I
may be able to prevent such remarks being made in my presence, my
influence cannot extend further. She offends all her former ball-room
admirers by having eyes for no one but Beauclerc--she will dance with no
one else, and pays him an open tribute of admiration, which cannot but
be flattering from a pretty girl."

"But I do not see why you suppose he is indifferent to her?"

"If my observation has not deceived me, he shares, in common with many
men of talent--a belief in a feeling warmer than friendship, but colder
and more spiritual than love. I once knew a man, in fact, who carried on
such a flirtation, for I can give it no other name, with a very
superior, enthusiastic girl, but when every one expected him to propose
to her in form, she heard of his marriage with a woman of the most
ordinary understanding, but who, I dare say, made him a very good wife.
As I was attached to him, I ventured to remonstrate with him on his
conduct. In excuse, he brought so many really flimsy and poetical
apologies, and proofs of the pure minded nature of his attachment, that
though they appeared to me in their right light, they yet convinced me
that he had not intended wrong, but that his vanity had led him astray,
into the belief that he could be the object of an admiration superior to
love; altogether foolish, but he was sincere, I believe. When I last
heard of the poor girl she was sinking in a decline. Now I suspect
Beauclerc to be such another as I have described, and I want you to see
if you can make Lucy aware of it." "But you must first judge for
yourself, and no such opportunity is likely to occur again, as you might
not like to go out."

"You set me a difficult task; the more difficult, because Lucy has
seemed so estranged from me lately."

"Ah, that reminds me of something else, I had to say. Do you happen to
have met Miss Foster, a beautiful girl, one of the most striking women
in Bath?"

"No, but I have heard Lucy speak of her."

"Yes, so she used to do, most enthusiastically; and her beauty, if
nothing more, deserved admiration. I remember meeting her in the
park--she was sitting down, and, as I afterwards learnt, had sprained
her ankle. She looked so near fainting, that I did not hesitate to
dismount--(for I was riding)--and offer her my assistance. After a
little persuasion she gave me her direction and suffered me to place her
on my horse, which I carefully led to her house, in the Circus. The
grace with which she accepted my services, and the reserve with which
she withdrew from my attentions, when they were no longer required,
excited some curiosity in me; but, though I was repeatedly congratulated
for such a singular opportunity of meeting the mysterious beauty, I am
afraid I must confess that I was never able to improve the acquaintance.
Now, lately, she has withdrawn entirely from society, and, indeed,
up-stairs there is a polite note from her, declining Mrs. Villars'
invitation for to-night. I have heard it frequently remarked that she is
never seen out of doors, though some of her professed admirers have been
anxiously watching for her. Lucy seems entirely to have forgotten her,
and colored violently when I asked for her, the other day."

"A long string of evidence," said Mabel, with a half smile, "now tell me
how you connect Miss Foster, with Lucy and Mr. Beauclerc."

"Why, she was at an evening party the day before he arrived in Bath, and
has not been seen since; but this would be nothing perhaps had not my
groom--who, one morning, took my horses to air, through the Circus--seen
him call at her house, early, and thought, that when he was denied, he
turned away with disappointment. I immediately ordered him to air the
horses every morning in the Circus, though certainly not the best place
for them, which I might have chosen. However, the result of his
information is, that almost every day, before the fashionable world is
stirring, Beauclerc calls on Miss Foster, and is as strictly denied. To
me, this looks suspicious, and Beauclerc seems carrying on a double

"Perhaps she is only some relation, and he calls to leave the morning
paper," said Mabel.

"Well, only judge for yourself, if he is sincere with Lucy; if you think
he is, we will leave them to themselves, but if not, the poor girl
should be warned before her affections are too deeply implicated."

"Yes, I will appear to-night," said Mabel.

What more she might have added was stopped by the entrance of Caroline,
whose jealous surveillance had discovered the _tête-à-tête_. Casting a
fiery glance of suspicion on both, which was received with admirable
coolness, she turned to Hargrave, and rather peremptorily informed him,
that the case of fruit and flowers which he had ordered from his
gardens, at Aston, was arrived, and they waited his permission to open

"Oh, I will come," said he, looking rather amused, than either sorry or
angry at her displeasure. "Miss Lesly, you will like to see some flowers
from Aston."

Accepting the half implied invitation to accompany them, Mabel followed
to the morning room, where an immense basket was surrounded by Mrs.
Villars and her daughters, in anxious expectation, while china and glass
dishes were waiting to receive the fruit.

The basket fully answered the demand upon it--and satisfied Hargrave as
to the state of his green-houses and hot-house, by producing some
excellent specimens of forced early fruit, which Mrs. Villars had been
anticipating, not only as an additional charm to her supper-table, but
as a public proof of his anxiety to please her.

Besides flowers for vases, Hargrave drew from the basket, bouquets,
arranged with a gardener's nicety, which he presented to Mrs. Villars
and her daughters. They were composed of the most beautiful hot-house
flowers, and were all in exquisite taste--but by some chance, it
happened that the one presented to Caroline, far excelled the others in
beauty. The sisters exchanged glances, and Caroline's haughty eye beamed
with triumph.

"Stay, what is this?" said the unconscious Hargrave, dipping his hand
again into the basket, and drawing forth from the moss, with which it
was carefully packed, a bouquet, much smaller in size, and singularly
pretty, because composed entirely of white flowers of the rarest kind.
"Is it not beautiful?" he exclaimed, holding it up to view; "it really
does my gardener credit."

"Beautiful indeed!" exclaimed every one.

"What is that paper round it?" said Maria.

Hargrave turned to the small strip of rather untidy paper, which was
fastened to it, and read--

     "Miss Lesly will accept this, with my respects."

"From my gardener, Dibden, I declare," said he--a look of childlike
pleasure taking possession of his features, as he regarded the flowers
which smelt sweeter than all the rest--and then handing them to Mabel,
he begged her to accept them.

Mabel held out her hand, and looked much gratified as she took them; but
no sooner had she done so, than the color rushed to Caroline's cheek,
and a scowl darkened her beautiful features, as she regarded her with
ill-concealed malignity. Her own bouquet no longer appeared the finest,
and flinging it on the table with such violence, that the head of a
camelia was broken from it, she said, angrily--

"I will have no second bests."

"My dear," said her mother, trembling, "yours is, I am sure, the

"Do you think I have no eyes," returned Caroline, "or that I am going to
be eclipsed in my own house?"

Hargrave stood amazed, for hitherto her temper had been greatly
concealed from him, and he was surprised to see features, lately beaming
with smiles, now darkened and disfigured by rage, while he felt
something very like disgust at the jealousy which so openly betokened a
preference for himself. Mabel stood, with her eyes fixed on the flowers
she held in her hand, too pained to look up; then suddenly remembering
herself, she offered them to Caroline, saying--

"I am glad I have anything to offer you, that you really like--pray take

Caroline, however, was too provoked to be easily pacified by this
display, as she believed it, of superior sweetness of temper, and
roughly pushing aside Mabel's extended hand, the flowers fell to the

Hargrave looked from one to the other in mute surprise; and Mrs.
Villars, terrified at her daughter's ungovernable temper, and mistaking
his look for vexation, hurriedly interposed.

"Oh, my dear, now do take what Mabel offers you--do, my dear, if you
have a fancy for it--I am sure Henry intended to give you the best--who
could think you would prefer a few white flowers to that lovely
collection of geraniums. Come, my dear, now do have it."

"I am sure," said Hargrave, indifferently, "I knew no difference in the
bouquets--I have nothing to do with poor Dibden's unfortunate present."

"There now," said Mrs. Villars, "now do take them, if it is a fancy of

"Don't be angry, love," said Selina; "only think what is to become of
the party if you and Henry quarrel. No one will have spirits for
anything. Don't, dear, be angry."

"For my part," said Maria, "I see nothing to be angry about."

"Nor I," said Hargrave, as he left the room.

"Now see," said Mrs. Villars, "how you have vexed him."

"Something more than that, I fear," said Maria.

"Well, I really have no patience," observed her mother; "with lovers'
quarrels--there, smile and make it all right again. We all know what
your feelings are; but do, there is a dear girl, cheer up, for all our
sakes. Is she not a silly girl, Mabel."

The latter was too candid to venture on a reply, as she stood busied in
restoring the bouquet to order.

Caroline received these offerings to her wrath, with haughty
indifference; but, at length, she suffered herself to be appeased by
their repeated entreaties, and Mrs. Villars whispered to her niece, that
if she now offered the flowers, she thought the dear girl would receive

Mabel could scarcely allow herself to minister to so much selfishness,
and it was with some appearance of reserve, that she placed the bouquet
on the table, by her side, not choosing to subject it to a second

But Caroline's good humour was now happily restored, for she had gained
all she could by her violence. Not only obtaining possession of the
desired object, but being entreated to accept it. She, therefore,
rewarded the patience of her mother and sisters, by entering into the
arrangements of the evening with renewed animation.

"Mabel," said Lucy, as passing her arm through hers, they walked up
stairs together; "where did you get such an angelic temper?"

"Whatever good I do possess," said Mabel, gravely; "is not mine; but is
borrowed from a treasure house, which is as free to you as to me."

"But, tell me," urged Lucy, stopping on the landing place; "do you not
despise the weakness to which you minister."

"What right have I to do so," answered Mabel; "who knows how proud and
self-willed I might have become, if I had not early suffered
deprivation, sorrow, and humiliation, as I have done. And who can say, I
shall be as strong to-morrow as I am to-day; when a thousand temptations
surround us on every side; and we cannot tell under which we may fall,
if we once lose sight of the true humility which alone brings strength
and power. How, then, can I dare to despise the frailty of others. But,
dearest, what is the matter, how can I have pained you."

"You have not pained me," replied Lucy, a momentary color banishing the
pallor of her cheek; "but sometimes I feel as if there were something
wanting in me, which I find in you--yet, if it has been purchased by
suffering, I must not wish for it, for I have not courage for such an

"But, only consider," replied Mabel; "how much more noble, how much more
worthy--if any could be worthy--would be the offering, to heaven, of a
young heart, in the midst of joy and prosperity--than the tearful
tribute of the worn spirit, which can find no other refuge. It is only
our own rebellion which makes sorrow needed."

"Beautiful words," said Lucy, mournfully, "and something within tells me
that they are true;" she stopped for a moment, and looked down upon her
own share of the beautiful flowers, which she held in her hand, and a
tear hung upon the lash, which shrouded her bright blue eye; then
turning again to her cousin, she said:--

"To-morrow, dearest, I will think: to-night, must be all mirth and

Mabel would have remonstrated, but she saw that the serious fit had
passed away, by the beaming smile that lighted her face, and dimpled
round her mouth; and she knew her temper too well, to hope to recall it.
So the two girls separated. Lucy to think over the pleasures of the
evening; while Mabel, meditated how she might serve her, by screening
her from the consequences of her indiscretion. She could not, however,
refrain from reverting to the disagreeable scene in which she had taken
a part. She could not help feeling almost humiliated for Caroline, while
she regarded Hargrave's situation with commiseration; for she fancied
that, however he might have implicated the honor on which he so strictly
prided himself, with regard to Caroline, he displayed very little love;
and she sincerely pitied him, as she knew that, if he had once committed
himself, he would probably be too proud to retract.


    He spake of virtue: not the gods
    More purely, when they wish to charm--
    Pallas and Juno sitting by.


The united taste of the whole family had not been exerted without
effect--and their guests might well be delighted with the preparations
which had been made for them.

On entering the house, tea and coffee waited them in the dining-room on
the right hand, and, after an opportunity of taking this refreshment,
they next ascended the staircase, which was brilliantly lighted, and
ornamented with evergreens. This led to the ante-room, from which
several doors opened on apartments all dedicated to the service of the
evening; something, indeed, to the detriment of the family comfort.
There might be seen, evergreens of the richest varieties, which were
intermingled with flowering and beautiful geraniums.

On the left, a door opened into the apartment chosen for the reception
room, where was arranged everything that could minister to comfort. The
softest couches, the most lounging easy chairs, worked ottomans, and
foot-stools, which had occupied much of the sisters' time. This was
intended for those chaperones, who, through the folding doors which led
to the ball-room, preferred watching the dances, to joining in the whist
parties; for wherever they were seated, the ever revolving waltz would
be almost certain to bring to their view, those in whom they were most

A more distant room, the one furthest removed from the sound of the
music, was selected for a card-room.

But the ball-room had occupied most attention, and a brilliant effect it
certainly presented, that evening. Colonel Hargrave had had so many
expensive whims which no one hindered him from gratifying, and evidences
of his expenditure or his taste might be seen in every part of the house
that night. Round the room, seats were arranged for the dancers, which
being here and there interrupted by evergreens, and hot-house plants,
formed, as the sisters well knew agreeable opportunities for those
_tête-à-têtes_ which they were so clever in sustaining.

Mrs. Villars looked forward to this evening with elation, but yet with
some share of anxiety also. Nothing, she felt, but the complete success
of her schemes could justify to her husband, the expenditure in which
she had lately been so lavish, and, though she was indifferent to his
censure in trifles, she feared to excite his serious displeasure by any
great offence.

She was thinking of this as she stood with him and Hargrave, in the
lounging room, where they waited to receive their guests, watching to
observe the effect caused by Caroline's entrance.

"The girls are late," said, Mr. Villars, nervously consulting his watch,
"it will be awkward if any one comes."

"I think I hear them, sir," said Hargrave.

At the same time the door opened, and the four sisters entered; even
Maria looked well in the studied _negligé_ of her appearance, but
Caroline looked brilliant as she entered, with her majestic steady step,
and well-pleased countenance; while the pure white flowers for which she
had so bitterly contended, rested in all their simplicity upon her
haughty breast.

"Yon have not forgotten your promise, I hope," she said, playfully
resting her fan upon Hargrave's arm, "of inviting a great many of your
gentlemen friends."

"Oh, no, I have selected a few of my acquaintances, but with care; for
when entrusted with the privilege of affording introductions to ladies,
one cannot be too careful."

"Fudge," exclaimed Maria; "as if it signified who one waltzed with for
an evening."

"What," exclaimed Hargrave, "does it not signify whose arm encircles
your waist?"

"Oh, come, do not squabble, do you know we are to have the pleasure of
Perfection's company, to-night; I should not be surprised to see her
come down with a dress up to the throat, and down to the wrist, a
walking sermon on the degeneracy of the age."

"Really, mamma," said Caroline, smiling at the latter remark, "you ought
to have ascertained if she had a dress fit to appear in."

"Mabel is always dressed well," said Lucy, "though she seems to take so
little pains about it."

"Oh, perfect, most perfect," said Maria, holding up her hands and
raising her eyes in affected admiration, "Henry, do you not appear very
small in her company."

"Perfectly infantine," he returned, with a good-natured smile; "but
hush, here she comes."

Maria took up the hush, and repeated it so loudly that it deadened every
other sound, and caused a blush to mantle on Mabel's cheek, as she
entered. She looked a little timid as she advanced into the little

To tell the truth, her garret toilet had had only the assistance of the
good-natured cook, who, alone, in the general bustle, had found time to
think of her; yet there was not a single fault to be found with it, and
Caroline bit her lip with vexation, when, instead of the ill-dressed
bashfulness she had expected, she felt the influence of a something
wholly indescribable, yet all fascinating, in her appearance, as she
quietly stood by her uncle's side.

As if seized by sudden impulse, Hargrave stepped forward, and requested
the favour of her hand for the first dance. Mabel replied that she did
not intend dancing at all that evening, and, though, apparently
dissatisfied, he was compelled to submit.

Mrs. Villars drew him a little aside, for Caroline's glowing eyes
preluded a storm.

"You know," she said, laying her hand confidentially on his arm, "that
Caroline has been hoping for the pleasure of opening the evening with
you--you will not disappoint her?"

"Pray tell her I shall be very happy," he replied, a little peevishly.

"Caroline, my love," she said, immediately turning to her daughter,
"Henry feared you were engaged, but as I do not think you are, I have
ventured to promise him your hand for the first."

Hargrave could scarcely repress a smile at this adroit falsehood, and as
he seconded her request, Caroline graciously consented.

Mabel felt slightly annoyed, she scarce knew why--perhaps because she
had been too pleased a moment before--at seeing how quick the cloud
passed from Hargrave's brow: it never occurred to her to doubt the truth
of what Mrs. Villars said.

They were, however, no longer left to their own entertainment, for
guests began to crowd in, till the rooms were filled to overflowing;
young and old, pleased, to-night, with the entertainment they would
criticise on the morrow, prepared to enjoy themselves.

Upon the principal sofa in the reception-room, two old ladies were
seated, the Lady Scratchal and the dowager Mrs. Pierce, who, from some
reason or other, claimed a double share of respect in the houses where
they visited, partly, perhaps, because they both possessed unlimited
power over the large fortunes they enjoyed, and appeared to have not
altogether determined how to dispose of them. There is an instinctive
power in wealth, which the world often feels without stopping to
analyse, and this these two ladies exercised with ready tact over their

"No one gets up a party like Mrs. Villars," observed Mrs. Pierce to her

"But I think there is a great deal more of display than there ought to
be," returned Lady Scratchal, whose hollow cheeks and sunken eyes,
formed a melancholy contrast to the sparkling diamonds which encircled
her wrinkled brow, and the youthful hair which surmounted it.

"Ah!" said Mrs. Pierce, "I am afraid, she is silly enough to reckon on
the rich colonel for her Caroline--but I am greatly mistaken if there is
any love there."

"Men did not make love in that way, in my time, certainly," observed
Lady Scratchal, the ominous shake of her head covering the shades of
many departed admirers.

"Well, and you know," observed Mrs. Pierce, "that I have my doubts about
that other gentleman--we need not mention names--for you know who I
mean, I am sure."

"With Lucy?" enquired her friend.

"Yes," replied Mrs. Pierce; "I am sadly afraid--"

She did not finish her sentence, but followed it up with many dreadful
shakes of the head, and other symbolical actions, which Lady Scratchal
seemed perfectly to understand.

Their attention was, however, diverted, by seeing Hargrave hurrying to
the door to receive, with a hearty shake of the hand, a young man, who
was entering with rather an abstracted air, till roused by the
heartiness of his welcome, to which he immediately responded. Hargrave
then hurried him to his hostess, who started, when she heard his name
given as Captain Clair, yet concealed every sensation of annoyance, for
fear of offending her wealthy relation. Mabel met him with unfeigned
pleasure, and eagerly enquired for news of Aston, and her kind friends
at the rectory; but Lucy having given him a trembling, feverish hand,
for an instant, turned away, impatiently, and fixed her eyes upon the

It was so tantalising to see one after another enter, well-dressed,
good-looking, and welcome to all but her. Her head was giddy with
watching, and her ear had become so acute from listening, that she could
distinguish footsteps on the stairs, from the hum of many voices, and
the merry music which made her poor head ache.

How gladly, too, in the presence of Arthur Clair, would she have
appeared the admired and loved of the far more talented Beauclerc.
Regardless of the eyes of the watchful dowagers, she thought and teased
herself till her very beauty seemed to fade before the workings of her
restless and ill-governed imagination. And Clair seemed to watch her
with a pitiful expression--perhaps, he believed her as broken-hearted
for him, as he was for Mabel. Enraged at this idea, she would accept the
first partner, who presented himself, and suffer him to lead her to the
giddy round, where, with excited, restless spirits, she would seem the
merriest of them all; but tired, in a few minutes, she would take the
first opportunity of returning to the lounging-room, and there, sinking
into a chair, she would indulge in a fit of thought, more soothing from
its very painfulness, than the merriment in which she had so lately

She was sitting thus, late in the evening, under the severe, but
unheeded scrutiny, of Lady Scratchal and her friend, when the well-known
and long watched-for step was heard, and Beauclerc, looking more
handsome and more pensive than ever, entered. Entirely forgetful of
everything but the long hours of dreary monotony, which had preceded his
coming, she started up, and her face was, in an instant, radiant with
smiles, as she walked quickly across the room to meet him, extending her
pretty hand with a mingling of playfulness and pleasure in her manner.

"Where have you been, truant?" she cried, suffering him to retain the
hand which she had so warmly extended; "did you not know how dull
everything would be without you?"

"Had I really guessed as much, I might have delayed the business which
detained me, though at some inconvenience," he said, kindly, but
gravely, leading her to one of the recesses, where he took a seat beside

"Ah," he added, thoughtfully, "you little know of how great a value your
kindness has been to me--now, while my spirits seem to sink within me.
How should I ever have borne my heavy trial without such a sweet
comforter, as you have proved yourself to be to me."

"Ah," said Lucy, her eyes falling beneath his anxious glance, "how proud
I ought to be, to have been able to administer comfort to such a mind as

"All the mental energy we possess," returned Beauclerc, in the same sad
tone, "does not equal the magic of one kind word from a feeling woman."

"I am too glad to have the power of serving you," said Lucy, as her eyes
sparkled with pleasure.

"And is it really a pleasure to you to serve me," repeated Beauclerc,
looking at her with liquid eyes--"then yes--I think--yes, I will be bold
enough to ask you to serve me still further; but first you shall know my
history--a painful story indeed--but it is fair that you should know it,
before you bestow any further kindness upon me. But when could I find
such an opportunity?"

Lucy thought, for a moment, and then replied--

"I often walk before breakfast--and if you happen to meet me any morning
in the park, you can tell it me there undisturbed."

"Will you walk to-morrow?" he enquired.

"Very likely I may; but stay, I will go to-morrow, because they will not
be down till eleven, I know, so there will be plenty of time for you to
say anything you like."

"Ingenuous, kind-hearted girl," he exclaimed; "I know some who hide
their coldness, for the feelings of others, behind a prudish reserve,
which would not allow them to do such a vastly improper thing, as meet a
gentleman in their morning walk--but you are not of the number of those
worldly beings--I will be waiting for you at that corner, where there
is, if I remember rightly, an old Jupiter's head."

"Very well," said Lucy; "but you must take the chance of my coming, as
it is very late now. Is it not nearly three o'clock? I never spent so
long an evening."

"You are tired, I see; but we will join this last waltz--for such it
ought to be, I am sure."

So saying, he passed his arm lightly round her waist, and was soon
amongst the dancers.

Mabel had been no inattentive observer of Mr. Beauclerc's entrance, and
she perceived that Lucy seemed to excuse to herself the open admiration
she paid him, by considering him as a kind of demi-god, while he
appeared contented rather to suffer than to encourage that admiration
which he too plainly perceived.

"Hargrave had, for some time, stood by her in silence, bent on the same

"Well," he said, speaking at length--as if he would challenge her

"I hope--but fear," she replied; "how lovely she looks to-night."

Hargrave gave vent to an impatient "hum."

"What influence can I possess against such an infatuation?" enquired

"The influence of common sense," he replied; "I never witnessed such
absurdity in my life."

Mabel sighed, for she knew how impossible it was to govern Lucy, when
bent on having her own way.

She perceived, also, for the first time, that Hargrave was either out of
spirits, or in one of his obstinate humours; and, when Caroline joined
them, which she did almost immediately, he broke from them, and
retreated to a group of gentlemen near the door-way, with whom he had
spent the greater part of the evening, much to his fair cousin's
chagrin. Perhaps, an incautious remark of Mrs. Villars, on his intimacy
with her daughter, which, possibly, he had overheard, might have led to
this inconsistent conduct; for he had ably resisted all her little plans
to bring them together.

Mrs. Villars was sensibly annoyed; and Caroline, who, in the course of
the evening, had overheard many remarks in praise of Mabel's beauty, and
had been repeatedly called upon to join in praising her--felt enraged
with her, as, what she termed, the under-ground cause of her failure.

In vain Selina looked all that was fascinating, and smiled all that was
good-natured--in vain Maria jested--the spirits of the hostess were
infectious, and soon communicated their influence to her guests, who,
one by one, took their leave, and hurried away, sooner, perhaps, than
they might have done.

The family party were once more alone--and when the last guest had been
civilly disposed of, stood regarding each other in bewildered silence,
surrounded by failing wax-lights, and the ruins of gay bouquets; with
the echoes of the now silent music still sounding, in fancy, in their

Hargrave, without waiting to discuss the evening, during which he knew
he had taken so unpopular a part, bade them, hastily, good night, and
hurried down stairs, where he encountered Clair, who, as if spell-bound,
had lingered till the last, and now busied himself in a forlorn search
for his hat.

Hargrave offered to lend him one, and took him into his room. They found
the fire burning so brightly, and all looking so snug, that they were
tempted to remain talking over it, till the lost hat was forgotten.

Mabel, anxious to offer a word of counsel, proposed to accompany Lucy to
her room, to assist her in untwisting her hair; but this Lucy declined
coolly and evasively, and she too, departed, feeling a depression
arising from the lateness of the hour, and an evening spent in heated
and noisy rooms, with which she was hitherto unacquainted; and it was
some time before she could shut out the moving panorama, which
perpetually presented itself, and close her eyes in sleep.

In order to make arrangements for the display shewn that evening, the
whole house had been overturned; but, in the amusement of the
preparations, none had felt the many little inconveniences to which they
had all laughingly subjected themselves; but now the scene was changed.
Nothing appeared more wretched to the sisters than all being obliged to
occupy the same sleeping apartment, and submit to all the little acts of
self-denial, which good-nature would only have discovered to be amused
with. Wearied, fatigued, and disappointed, few felt so chagrined as Mrs.
Villars, when, after seeing to some necessary household duties, and
waiting till her kitchen was cleared of half intoxicated waiters, she
retired to her room, anxious to shut out the unpleasant thoughts of the
evening in sleep. She was not therefore very agreeably surprised to find
her eldest daughter waiting for her.

It was with difficulty that Caroline had suppressed her temper till that
minute; and, though it was already morning, she felt it impossible to
retire to rest without first venting it upon her indulgent parent, whom
she regarded, (as most spoilt children do their parents), as the
malignant cause of all her sufferings, real or imaginary. Mrs. Villars
would willingly have escaped, feeling herself too distressed, and too
tired to frame those excuses and cunning falsehoods which had been so
often applied, to heal the wounds of an acrimonious temper; but it was
in vain; for Caroline indignantly flinging herself down into a chair;

"I knew how it would be--it is all your doing--and I do think if you had
felt like any other mother, you would have spared me such a

"I!" replied her mother, almost equally irritated by fatigue and
disappointment, "I spare you mortification! how can I make the man love
you! It is your own vile temper which is in fault."

"Whatever I may be," replied Caroline, bitterly, "I am what you have
made me; but I can tell you, that if that girl is to be suffered to
queen it over us all, I am not the one to stand it, I would rather go
out as a governess."

"Mabel! what has she to do with it?" enquired Mrs. Villars, not sorry to
have the blame thrown off her own shoulders.

"Did you not see Henry speaking to her, and to no one else; and did he
not ask her to dance before me; and did not Lady Scratchal say that, if
she were you, she would not suffer such an artful girl--who knew how to
make such use of her good looks--to be with her daughters, if she had

"But, Cary dear, remember the poor child has no home, and I promised
her mother she should find one here."

"Very well," said Caroline, tossing her head angrily, "I see how it is;
she has already supplanted us with papa, and she is going to do the same
with you."

"My love," said Mrs. Villars, quite overcome by this appeal to her
parental affection, "you know better than that; you know how much I
would sacrifice for you--any thing--everything."

"Then send her away," said Caroline, bursting into tears.

"I will see about it, I will think to-morrow," replied her mother.

"No; say you will, to-night," urged Caroline, kissing her, "just say you

"Go my love, now--there is your papa, on the stairs--and he will not
like to find you here."

Caroline was, reluctantly, forced to hurry away, and her mother, once
more alone, endeavoured, in vain, to reconcile her desire with her
policy. Almost equally with her daughter, she wished to get rid of
Mabel, for she was not blind to the fact, that her gentle dignity of
manner, joined to her self-denying temper, contrasted ill with the
characters of her daughters; yet, there was one obstacle which she had
no power to remove; for, possibly, Mabel was aware of the loan granted
by her mother, and might be regarding her stay in the house, as the
condition upon which it would be cancelled; otherwise, how could she
have so cheerfully evaded every attempt to humiliate her.

Finding it impossible to meet this view of the subject in any
satisfactory manner, she thought that the most comfortable plan would be
to postpone the consideration of it till Caroline should again renew the
topic; trusting to her ingenuity for some plan for getting out of the
difficulty, should Caroline's obstinacy force her to do any thing which
would oblige Mabel to seek some other refuge. And, having come to this
decision, she sunk into a dreamy sleep, from which she was only awakened
by the noon-day sun.


    But oh, to know that our heart has been,
    Like the toy of an Indian queen,
    Torn, trampled, without thought or care,
    Where is despair like this despair.

    L. E. L.

The next morning was the beginning of one of those early and fleeting
days of spring, which are so gladly welcomed at the close of a long
winter. The rising sun smiled mildly and pleasantly, and all nature
welcomed its beams by dewy freshness from herb and flower. Here and
there, some few buds, the graceful blossom of the nut, and the silken
tuft of the palm, gave promise of coming leaves and flowers, while the
yellow crocus and the primrose, soon to become so plentifully luxurious
in meadow and hedgerow--here and there looked forth from their dewy
bed--rich treasures for those who sought them.

It was not, however, to welcome these early harbingers of spring, that
Lucy Villars hurried past the streets, and entered the Victoria Park,
which, though at a late hour of the day, the fashionable lounge of the
inhabitants of the gay city, was now scarcely the resort of a single

As she went on with rapid step, her cheeks flushed, and her bright eyes
beamed with expected triumph.

"Why," she hastily reasoned, as she entered the silent walks, "why
should Beauclerc have sought such an interview, if not to make her
acquainted, rather with the history of his present feelings, than with
his past life; and what could those feelings be, if they referred not to
her. Or, perhaps, some obstacle lay in his way, which one light word of
hers might be able to remove."

But she had reached the appointed spot, and now stood there alone. A
mass of rock-work, surmounted by the cumbrous head of some heathen God,
was the place appointed. Was it like a lover, to be so unpunctual!
rather should he come an hour too soon, than one minute too late--for
the first time, she began to feel an uneasy conviction of the
impropriety of her situation; but sophistry seldom, till too late,
deserts those who trust in it. The grim head frowned down upon her; as
she walked up and down before it, reasoning with herself, that there
could be no possible harm in taking a morning walk, to dissipate the
weariness of a ball. She had a quarter of an hour for reflection, but,
as it was spent in such reasoning it was of little service to her. At
the end of it, Beauclerc was seen advancing in the distance. He must
perceive her, and now retreat would be foolish and unavailing, had she
even desired it, which she did not; for the thought of being able to
announce her proposed marriage to her mamma and sisters, not as a matter
of speculation, but of certainty, made her heart beat vehemently; and
she did not stop to analyse the feeling of infatuation or vanity, which,
in its effect, seemed so akin to love.

"Have you waited for me, Miss Villars?" he enquired, when he reached
her, with his usual earnest manner, but with less of ardour than she had
expected--so she replied hastily and carelessly--

"Oh, no, only a few minutes; but I see I am a better riser than you

"Perhaps an earlier sleeper; I have scarcely closed my eyes since we
parted; but you will take my arm and then--." He stopped and sighed.

"And then," replied Lucy, "and then."

"I will, if you still desire it," he replied, in a tone which checked
her playfulness, "repeat some part of my own sad history, in order that
you may give me that assistance which I am told you have the power to
afford me. If, indeed, I am not mistaken in hoping that you feel some
kindly sentiments towards me. Some part you know already."

Lucy raised her eyes archly, but said nothing. Her companion seemed
satisfied, for he continued, still more gravely--

"Where, or how shall I begin?"

"Who are you--what are you--and why are you sad?" said Lucy.

"Who am I? Yes, that will do very well," said he, suddenly assuming the
quick flow of language most natural to him.

"Like your father, mine was a wealthy merchant; I was his only son, and
he earnestly prided himself on bestowing upon me all the learning and
accomplishments which money could procure. The advantages of a
first-rate education, joined, perhaps, to some natural ability, enabled
me to shine at the University; and I left Oxford to pursue the study of
the bar in Lincoln's Inn, trusting to be able to use my money skilfully
in the pursuit of fame; but how fallacious are all the expectations of
human life! My father made some enormous speculations, and, after years
of successful ventures, failed this once and for ever. He did not many
days survive his loss, and dying broken-hearted, left me heir to his
poverty; but how unfit for it--accustomed, from infancy, to the
gratification of every whim--lavish in my expenditure, and boundless in
my ambition, with nothing but a profession, yet untried, and a feeble
dependence on a sick uncle. What a fall for one accustomed to all the
elegances of life. But this was not all; I had at this time become
acquainted with the daughter of a banker, reported to possess enormous

"What can be coming," thought Lucy, beginning to feel uncomfortable.

"I had not hesitated to seek her," continued Beauclerc; "she returned my
affection, and we fondly looked forward to our union. But, when my poor
father died, I felt that we must meet on different terms, and that I had
no right to claim a promise given under such different circumstances. I
felt, indeed, the curse of poverty, too bitterly, to wish to make her a
sharer in it; and so I went to her at once, and offered to resign all
pretensions to her hand."

"You may imagine how a generous warm-hearted girl would receive such an
offer. She saw at once, that nothing but my love for her induced me to
make it; and declared that she was ready to share my poverty, and would
become my wife, as soon as I was able to marry. She only stipulated that
I should enter on my professional duties, with some chance of success,
in which case she promised to obtain her father's consent."

Lucy began to listen with that constrained attention which a person
possessed by nightmare, might give to some horrid vision, from which
they would willingly break, though obliged to wait its conclusion in
silence. Beauclerc, however, seemed too much occupied by his own
thoughts to regard hers, and presently, continued:--

"I was then almost without money or resources; but, being of a confident
disposition, I felt there were few things which love could not
surmount. I knew, besides, that my wife must be the heiress to her
father's wealth, for she was an only child--but, as I was unable to
settle any thing of my own upon her, I was timid of approaching the
subject; particularly, as, whenever I did so, her father seemed so
pained, that I instantly dropped it again. I could not but feel
gratitude for this delicacy towards my feelings, and this trust in my
honour, where so dear a child was concerned, and I resolved to deserve
it. I was far too proud to be dependent on him; and, therefore,
privately borrowed money on bond--took chambers, furnished a small
house, and obtained a few briefs through the interest of some of my
father's friends; and probably, had I been careful, I might have done

"This industrious commencement induced my intended father-in-law to give
his consent to our marriage; and, in a few months, I had the
satisfaction of seeing my wife at the head of a small, but elegant
establishment. Poor thing, she had been so accustomed to the luxuries
of her old home, that she never doubted me when I told her that mine
was arranged with the greatest economy.

"But the consciousness of deceiving her, and the perpetual dread of that
wretched debt always hovering round me, insensibly soured my temper, and
wore upon my spirits. But this only called forth the depth of her
affection. She was never weary of pleasing me, and my very fretfulness
rendered her more sweet and patient. It was beautiful to see," he
continued with emotion, "how she schooled her naturally fiery and
uncurbed temper, to bear my sour complaint, or peevish rebuke. Beautiful
to see how little it humbled her when she was most patient; and what a
sweet, and gentle, and loving wife, the spoilt child of wealth had
become, at my bidding. But, let me spare myself the agony of
remembrance. A greater trial was yet in store for her; for we had
scarcely been married six months, when her father died. I had by that
time become so deeply in debt, that, though I hated myself for it, I
felt relieved by the news which fell so heavily on my wife.

"If the clouds we so much dread, are often big with blessing--how often
is the sunshine only the fore-runner of the storm?

"In a few days I had cause to know this; for I found, when affairs were
inspected, that, instead of being, as I expected, possessed of
thousands, I was again the heir of a ruined man. And, even worse, ruined
myself; for it was only upon this tacit expectation that I had obtained
credit, and creditors would soon press upon me. I knew, now, that all
hope was gone. Ah, wretch that I had become, simply, perhaps, because, I
had despised the common-place business of money matters.

"Almost mad with the intelligence I had just learned, I rushed home to
insult my innocent wife, with the knowledge of her parent's disgrace.
Heaven forgive me, I must have been mad, or I could not have done it.

"I well remember it was morning, and I found my way, I scarce knew how,
to her dressing-room--she was weeping--but when I entered, she tried to
dry her tears. I was, however, past control, and bitterly did I reproach
her for the deception, I alleged she had practised upon me--taunting her
with angry violence. At first, she seemed stunned, by what she learnt
from my wretched complaints--but then, as if suddenly stung to the
quick, she retorted on me, accusing me, with bitter calmness, of having
loved her for her expected fortune. I hardly know what I replied--but
bad enough it was, I know--I, passionate and abusive; she, cold and
contemptuous--and then, with a bitter curse, I left the house.

"I hurried out of town; any where to forget myself--some where to the
country; it did not signify where. The cool air refreshed me, and nature
called me to better feelings, for, happily, passion is of short
duration--it told me, as I lingered amongst its beauties, of our happy
honeymoon--it told me how, from that time, I had declined in my kindness
to the wife whom I believed I loved better than self, and how, through
all the trying months which had followed, she had preserved an unvarying
meekness of temper, till that one day, when, galled beyond endurance,
she had ventured to oppose passion to passion. Such sweetness might well
atone for this single act of opposition--and spent with rage, and half
repentant, I resolved to return and forgive her, though in a dignified
manner; and to offer her my continued love and protection, if she
desired to accompany my flight abroad, which I felt certain she would be
too willing to do.

"There was a stillness about my house when I returned, which I was not
surprised to find, for it was a house of sorrow--yet I had not noticed
it so much before--I was late, as I intended, hoping to find my wife
frightened and penitent--yet she did not come to meet me--no one did but
my man, who asked me, with the tone of one accustomed to a sharp answer,
'if I intended waiting dinner for his mistress?' I hastily replied in
the affirmative--and concealing my alarm, I hurried to the room where I
had left her. A note lay upon her dressing-table, and, in the haste with
which I opened it, something fell jingling to the ground. The note
itself contained a few lines, written in a decisive tone, expressive of
farewell, and telling her determination of renouncing, at once, my
protection and my name. I stooped to pick up what had fallen--it was her
wedding ring--that ring which, in happier days, we had so delighted to
look upon, because the pledge of a faith which, it seemed, she could so
easily cast aside.

"Let me pass over that dreadful day of stupefaction, and bitter
repentance, at the end of which I found myself in prison, for all care
for liberty had passed from me when she went--and I had not even tried
to fly. You see," he continued, perceiving that Lucy listened with
breathless attention, "that I was, thus, prevented from instituting any
enquiry; and, indeed, I felt glad to hide myself from her eyes, for how
could I wish her to acknowledge me in a prison--I believe I was
completely humbled, and when I say that, I say a good deal--and that I
was truly so, must be seen by the candour with which I have unveiled my
meanness. Tell me, do you not pity me?"

Lucy made no reply.

He continued, in a more agitated voice--

"Do not turn from me--you can, you will serve me, I know. Stay, I forgot
to finish my story. Only two months since, my old uncle died, and
bequeathed me his whole fortune. He did not know I was in prison, or he
might have cancelled this will. It found me there, wretched and
desponding, and relieved me from its chilling influence. Once more free,
I discharged every debt of honesty or honor, and then sought for my
wife. I found that she had again taken her maiden name, which enabled me
to trace her to this city. The rest you know."

"I don't," screamed Lucy.

"Good Heavens," cried Beauclerc, seizing her hand, "the bosom friend of
Millie Foster, and not know--"

A hysterical scream, and another, and another, burst from the poor
girl--she sunk fainting in his arms.

What was to be done--Lucy could not be left--yet Beauclerc felt the
increasing awkwardness of the scene. In his interest in his own
narrative, he had not had time to mark her rising agitation till too
late to check its effects.

As he was bending over her, endeavouring, with trembling hands, to untie
the strings of her bonnet, a hasty step struck upon his ear, and turning
quickly, he confronted Captain Clair.

"Beauclerc," said the latter, sternly, "what does this mean?"

And, as he said this, he turned full upon him, with anger flashing in
his eyes.

Beauclerc turned pale, and then red, as he answered his angry glance,
saying, hurriedly--

"There has been some fearful mistake here: indeed, indeed, it has been
no fault of mine."

"No fault of yours," said Clair, even more sternly, "that you have drawn
the eyes of all Bath upon your heartless flirtation, and subjected a
young girl's name to the ribald jest of any who chose to comment upon
it. As I am a soldier, you shall answer for it."

"Whatever you do," said Beauclerc, with a face of ashy paleness, "let us
think of her first. Do not let this get abroad."

"Canting hypocrite," cried Clair, fiercely, "do you not know that you
have made her a jest, in every place where men congregate, and you would
ask me not to let this get abroad--stand back from her I tell you."

Beauclerc, however, did not heed the latter remark, for, having
succeeded in loosening the strings, he threw back her bonnet, and
suffered the morning air to play, undisturbed, among her fair tresses,
and over her heated brow, and, as it did so, the color slowly returned
to her blanched lips, and again breathing more freely she slowly raised
her head; and then, perhaps, feeling able to stand, she drew herself
from the support of Beauclerc's arm, and, as she did so, encountered
Clair; she looked at him for an instant, with a terrified expression,
and then hid her face in her shawl.

"Will you let me take you home, Miss Lucy," he said, in an abrupt, but
kind voice, at the same time, handing her, her bonnet, which he held in
his hand, and studiously turning his back on Beauclerc.

"Home!" said Lucy, almost wildly.

Clair made no reply, except by placing himself by her side.

"Yes, I will go anywhere," said Lucy, in the same vacant tone.

He drew her hand within his arm, and without a second glance at
Beauclerc, who stood like one who had lost his senses, he hurried her
forward at a brisk pace.

She did not speak, and, it is probable, almost forgot whose arm
supported her; neither did Clair attempt to gain her attention, till
they reached her father's door. He suffered her to enter alone, waiting
a short interval before he himself gained admission, when he hurried to
Hargrave's room. The latter was waiting for him with some anxiety, and
turned towards him as he entered.

"Well!" he exclaimed, "nothing, after all, I trust?"

"Nothing!" said Clair, "nothing! when I found her in the Park, lying in
his arms in a fainting fit--scoundrel."

"And you have brought her home?"

"Yes; she came very willingly when I asked her. What had passed I cannot
divine, but if she does not know the truth already, the sooner she does,
no doubt, the better. Have you seen Miss Lesly?"

"Yes; she promised to keep watch for her, and they are together by this

"So far so good, then," said Clair, endeavouring to compose himself into
his naturally careless air, "now for Beauclerc--I declare," he added,
brushing his hand angrily over his eyes, "it almost unmans me to see a
woman in distress."

"And yet, my dear Arthur," said Hargrave, laying his hand kindly on his
shoulder, "I fear you are not guiltless."

"Well, if I have given her pain, nobody else shall. Come Hargrave, will
you go to him, I can trust no one so implicitly as I can you."

"If you are determined on meeting him, I will go, certainly, but only
consider, first, how little right you have to take up her quarrel, and
the unnecessary publicity you give to the affair."

"With regard to that, how, I cannot tell, but, depend upon it, before
to-morrow night, the affair will be discussed in every _coterie_ in the

"What do you require, then?" said Hargrave, taking up his hat.

"The most ample apology."

"And who shall I say you are--a friend of the family?"

"Never mind that--he knows me, I was his friend once, and he will not
enquire into my right to question his motives."

"Very well then, wait for me in your rooms at the Lion, and I will join
you directly."

"I have seen him--stay, where is he?"

"We are both at the Lion, so we will walk there together," said Clair,
following him into the street.

A few minutes walk brought them to the hotel, and, parting at the public
entrance, Clair proceeded to his room, while Hargrave sent in his card
to Beauclerc.

He was immediately admitted.

Beauclerc was standing by the table, his face expressing much internal
agitation, while his usual self-possessed air was entirely gone.

Hargrave, on the contrary, was perfectly cool, but very grave, as he
bowed to him somewhat stiffly, and said, courteously--

"My friend, Captain Clair, was--"

"I know what you would say, Colonel Hargrave," interrupted Beauclerc,
quickly, "he would ask me for an explanation of the strange
circumstances under which he met me this morning--I will not ask what
right he has to question my conduct--I am too angry with myself to seek
to take shelter under any such subterfuge--I have done wrong, I now see,
but how to atone for that I cannot tell."

"I fear there is no atonement to be made, except the poor satisfaction
of an open explanation and apology."

"That I am most ready to make," replied Beauclerc, with unaffected
sadness, "and I wish I had more to offer."

He then hurried over what he had repeated before to Lucy, while
Hargrave listened with that acute attention which seldom failed to give
him an insight into the characters of those about him, when he chose to
exercise it.

"Miss Lucy Villars," said Beauclerc, in conclusion, "was the first
acquaintance I made here, and, knowing her to be the intimate friend,
nay, almost the only admitted friend of my wife, I looked upon her with
peculiar interest--not for an instant doubting her knowledge of the
connection existing between her friend and myself, from the readiness
with which she fell into my confidence--and, indeed, from her replies to
all my allusions to the subject. Believing that she knew me to be a
married man, I never (pardon my alluding to this subject,) thought the
attention she bestowed upon me any other than that, which love for her
friend, and pity for my situation, called for."

"Are you sincere in that?" said Hargrave suddenly, changing his tone of
courteous attention to deeper earnestness, as, with his dark eyes fixed
upon him, he waited his answer.

"I am," returned Beauclerc, decidedly.

"And you were not aware of the danger in which you placed a young girl
of ardent imagination?"

"I might, had I considered; but I did not consider."

"And I may suppose myself warranted in conveying to my friend this
explanation, together with the fullest apology for the mischief you have
unknowingly caused."

"Most certainly."

"Then, sir," said Hargrave, rising, "however deeply I may regret the
mistake which has arisen between you and Miss Villars, I feel bound to
offer my testimony to the sincerity of your purpose."

"Thank you, thank you," cried Beauclerc; "where I was wrong, was,
perhaps, in believing the possibility of a friendship of so much warmth
existing between a young girl of singular attraction, and myself, a
married man."

"Why, yes," replied Hargrave, sternly; "I am not a married man myself,
yet I have my own peculiar, and, perhaps, very strict notions of the
duties of married life, which would scarcely admit of the freedom you
have allowed yourself."

"You open my eyes," said Beauclerc, as if a sudden idea had occurred to
him; but then, remembering he was speaking to a stranger, he colored,
and was silent.

Hargrave, unwilling to intrude on his private confidence, by any further
remark, immediately wished him good morning, extending his hand, as he
did so. Beauclerc shook it warmly, thanking him for his patience and
temper, and, with many repeated assurances of regret, suffered him to

He immediately went to Clair, who was waiting for him, with some
impatience, and, in a few words, repeated the subject of his

"There," he said, in conclusion, "I have done my best, and so I think
have you. It is as I suspected--Beauclerc had really no intention of
doing harm--and Lucy would have suffered none, had she not jumped to the
conclusion that, of course, he admired her. We cannot, with the best
will in the world to serve her, atone for the consequences of her own
folly--and this, I fear, she has displayed in the whole affair. What a
pity it is that girls possessing so many natural attractions should not
wait to be sought."

"A great pity, indeed," said Clair; "I know few girls who would be more
attractive than Lucy Villars, if she had but the one necessary
appendage--sterling principle."

"Perhaps, it may be so," said Hargrave, "and if she had, besides, a
greater, and a less reliance, on her own powers. But we have had
excitement enough for one morning in settling her affairs. I am going
into the country, will you walk with me?"

"Willingly," said Clare, taking his hat and stick.

And the two young men sallied forth together for a long country


    Oh, pass not, pass not, heedless by,
    Perhaps thou canst redeem
    The breaking heart from misery,
    Go, share thy lot with him.

When Lucy reached her own room, she found Mabel waiting there--but
without taking any notice of her, she sunk down upon her bed, and
remained gloomily silent.

Mabel offered no consolation, for there is a dignity in grief which
calls for something like respect; she, therefore, busied herself in
getting the chamber restored to something like order, that Lucy might
not be disturbed; and as soon as she heard her aunt stirring, she went
to her, though most reluctantly, to communicate as much as she knew of
the morning's adventure. As she anticipated, she had to bear the brunt
of her wrath, for Mrs. Villars, with the unreasonable temper of
disappointment, was almost ready to blame _her_ for the whole
occurrence. Mabel, however, listened to her patiently, glad to shield
the unhappy Lucy from the angry observations which she had herself to
endure. She then returned to her cousin, and remained with her for the
rest of the day--though there seemed very little to repay this patient
attention to her feelings. Lucy turned with peevishness from her
sisters, when they either offered their pity, or attempted to gratify
their curiosity, and they soon left her to herself.

For the last few weeks, her spirits had been kept up to an unnatural
pitch of excitement, and she had danced late, and walked early, without
shewing the slightest fatigue; but now her nerves suffered from
reaction; and sleepless nights, and fatiguing days, all seemed to
oppress her then; and before that evening had closed in, her burning
brow, which could scarcely find rest upon the pillow--her parched lips,
and feverish pulse, frightened her companion, and she hastened to Mrs.
Villars, begging her, that she might be allowed to send for a doctor.

"What!" exclaimed the latter, indignantly, when she heard this request,
and speaking very loud; "what! send for Mr. Mildman, that he may carry
the scandal all over Bath? No; I will do no such thing. She never took
to these absurd whims, till she went to Aston, and I will not have them,
and that you may tell her. Say, it is my wish that she should get up and
shew herself."

"Shew herself where?" thought Mabel, as she slowly retreated; "in the
Pump-room--the assembly rooms--or the crowded streets? and what chance
of real comfort could they offer? callous they might indeed make her to
the sufferings of life, but to its better feelings also." And she
returned, with renewed diligence to the couch of her restless patient,
resolved that no want of kindness at home, should make her seek it
abroad; but she was soon convinced, also, that her aunt was so far right
in believing that Lucy's sufferings were rather mental than bodily.

She seemed sullen and selfish in her grief; and, heedless of her
cousin's presence, she would turn her face away, or, burying it in the
clothes, seemed resolved to hug her disappointment, as closely as she
had cherished her former infatuation. She answered, with peevish
bitterness, any attempt to cheer her, and when her mother or sisters
paid her a visit, she obstinately refused, either to speak or listen to
them. This conduct they were little inclined to bear; and one after
another, as she gave up the task, readily agreed, that, as Mabel did not
mind it, it was better to leave the two alone; so that she spent her
time almost entirely in the sick room, unless when she went down to the
study to give some passing word to Mr. Villars, and to run away with
some passage which he wished copied. As she was one day returning from
him, a servant handed her a letter, which she stopped on the
landing-place to read--it ran as follows:--

     "Miss Lesly will, I trust, pardon the liberty I am now taking in
     addressing her--and will allow me, through her, to say some words
     in vindication of myself to Miss Lucy Villars--and to tell her,
     that, when I first sought an introduction to her, it was under the
     impression that she was the bosom friend of my wife, from whom
     circumstances had separated me--and with the hope that she might
     aid me in obtaining a quiet reconciliation. That we never spoke
     openly on the subject, I allow--but I frequently alluded to
     it--believing that she understood me. That she did not, I lament;
     and if in the course of our friendship, I have displayed so much of
     my admiration for her artless candour, and ingenuous beauty, as to
     place my sentiments in a doubtful light, I most sincerely repent
     having done so, and entreat her to forgive me. Again soliciting
     Miss Lesly's pardon, and begging her to convey all the apology
     which a delicate mind can with delicacy accept, I remain, her
     obedient servant,


At this moment Hargrave ascended the stairs, and Mabel handed him the
letter, saying--

"Pray read this, for you are a better judge of character than I am."

"You cannot, then," replied Hargrave, "detect the deception which
prevents some people from reading themselves. Now I really do not think
this man knew he was exactly flirting, for the knowledge that he was a
married man made him admire the confidence and freedom which would have
disgusted him had he been single."


"Because," replied Hargrave, smiling, "he would have suspected motives,
which, being married, he knew could not exist."

"But this was still very, very wrong."

"I own it; marriage should be like the Devonshire lane of the poet's
song; and he is most unhappy who looks over its high hedges to discover
more beauties in the scenery beyond, which he has given up for ever.
Still, I do not think Beauclerc meant any harm; at least, when I called,
on the part of Captain Clair, to demand an explanation, he assured me
so, in such a simple manner, that I felt it impossible to doubt him; and
you must know how very imprudent Lucy has been; she was likely to bring
such a thing upon herself, becoming attached to him, without enquiry as
to who or what he was, and having no certainty with regard to his
sentiments. So I think it would be much better to hush this foolish
affair up as quietly and quickly as possible."

"Then what shall I do?" enquired Mabel, taking the letter.

"Try to make Lucy think no more than may be beneficial to her. Write to
Beauclerc, absolve him, and treat his offence as trifling, and, promise
that she will do as he desired--become a mediator between him and his

"Thank you," said Mabel, scarcely suppressing a smile at the difficulty
of her task; and she went on to Lucy's room; as she did so, she heard a
step hastily retreat from the top of the stairs, and the rustling of a
silk dress.

For the first time, Mabel found Lucy in a sound sleep, and, fearful of
waking her, she took up a book, and seated herself by the fireplace, for
fire there was none, though the day, for February, was particularly cold
and cheerless.

She had been sitting thus for nearly an hour, when looking to see if
Lucy still slept, she found that she was awake, and with her large
light blue eyes filled with tears, was gazing at her with a gentle
earnestness, which was a relief to see, after the angry flush, which had
before so constantly marked her countenance.

"Will you ring the bell, if you please," said Lucy.

Mabel did as she was desired, and, when the servant entered, Lucy said--

"I wonder that Miss Lesly has been suffered to sit so long without a
fire. Will you light one directly, Jemima?"

As Jemima did so, she watched the preparations with more interest than
she had lately regarded any thing.

When they were again alone she said--

"Can you tell me how it was that Captain Clair happened to see me in the
Park that morning?"

"Because he went out on purpose to meet you."

"And why?"

"Do you remember, that after the party, Colonel Hargrave went to bed
earlier than we did?"

"Yes; I think I do."

"Well, when he went down stairs, he found Captain Clair, who had lost
his hat, so he offered to lend him one, and took him into his
room,--where they found the fire blazing so temptingly, that, late as it
was, they sat down to talk, and in the course of conversation, Captain
Clair remarked on your intimacy with Mr. Beauclerc, which he had noticed
that evening, and, in return, Colonel Hargrave observed, he was supposed
to be paying you attention, and that it was generally expected that he
would soon come forward. But why need I tell you all this?"

"Because I wish to know--pray go on, what then?"

"Why, then, Captain Clair startled him by saying, that he knew him very
well, and that he was married, though separated from his wife. Colonel
Hargrave, feeling very much distressed, for he is very kindly
interested in you, and had many doubts of Mr. Beauclerc, before--went on
talking and planning with Captain Clair, how to break such disagreeable
news to you--and, while they were doing so, you came down stairs, and
went out. Now, as this appeared to them very singular--after a night of
such fatigue--they suspected something wrong, and, with the hope of
being able to serve you, Captain Clair followed you at a distance,
keeping you in sight, though he did not like to interfere till he saw
you faint."

Lucy listened with attention, but made no remark, and when Mabel left
off speaking, she again buried her face in the bed-clothes, and seemed
to sleep.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mabel, Vol. II (of 3) - A Novel" ***

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