Godey’s magazine. v.22-23 1841. 2

Godey’s magazine. v.22-23 1841.

THE WIDOW’S STORY. 253

Written for the Lady’s Book.

THE WIDOW’S STORY.

IY ». b II ELTON MACKENZIE, Lb D.

A dull day is doubly dull in the country. Such a in the daily history of all true Britons. You may day had we, and as dullness is an epidemic of the remember how poor Byron wrote of mind, the guests were ennuye. Books lay upon the Thal ^ rf ^ |oul_tho eiane,.Ml ,.

table, but no one felt disposed to read them. I he

harp was out of tune, even had any one been inclined We should have been in despair, if, while all felt tho to draw music from its strings. The artist’s port- dullness and none made the effort to dissipate it, folio was there, and, for the first time, its treasures Julian Tressilian had not entered the room with his were unheeded. The sparkling wit of the novelist lady. Despite the heat of the day, they had been had evaporated, like the sparkle of yesterday’s cham- wandering by the river-side, and came home without pagne, and he reclined in listless lassitude on the sofa, having been smitten by a coup de soleil, but with The major was drowsy or musing — perhaps he was their spirits invigorated by the beauties of the visible planning a campaign against the widow’s heart! The creation around them. Love was theirs — the tried poet stood at the window, watching the blue heavy and the enduring; years which rolled on made it only clouds which sailed on at a minimum of speed. The more strong and beautiful, even as time, which, with ladies sate ” in solemn silence,” engaged in some of strong pinion, brushes away the gay flowers of the the nicknackeries on which the fair sex delight to garden, does but lend new strength and beauty to the waste their time and ingenuity, for a lady may be as oak of the forest. Happy they, who, amid the crush- industrious as possible over what can be of no pos- ing cares of life, can retain the brightness of its ro. sible use! The very lap-dog lay in the sunshine, mance; to whom years do but bring maturity of affec- and, as the newspapers have it, lazily ” sank into the tion, and who, while they partake of all the common arms of Morpheus.” Nor was there much difference delights which the Real affords to the right-hearted, out of doors. The day was oppressively hot — not a drink, with as free a spirit as of yore, from the ever- wandering zephyr whispered through the leafy trees, sparkling fountain of the Ideal. The river rolled on with a quiet, sleepy murmur. ” You are all bitten by the scorpion — ennui,” said Tho hum of the bees, the shrill cry of the grasshop- Tressilian ; ” and nothing is worse than the disease, per, the monotonous cawing of the rooks, the tink- if you yield to it — nothing more easily cured, if you ling of the sheep-bells in the distance, and now and will. It needs but an effort to shake off the mental then the far off ” cuckno, cuckno” of the harbinger incubus. If all of you were to die this moment, the of summer, were the only sounds abroad. All seemed verdict might be — ‘ died from want of excitement !’ the essence of a dreamy state of physical and natural Play, walk, read, dance — even have a game at blind inaction. In a word, the spirit of ennui was the man’s buff, in preference to being as if you were in. presiding deity of the scene — the evil genius of the habitants of the Castle of Indolence. Nay, if mere day! bodily exercise seem a remedy as bad as the disease,

How much unlike the rural mirth of yesterday, try mental excitement. I propose — as the porter when innocent enjoyment had a thousand voices— did, in the Arabian nights, before the three Calen- when pleasure shed, many a delight from her starry dars narrated their adventures — that, as Lady Mor- diadom — when the cheek of beauty borrowed new ton has heard our stories, she now be requested to charms from the flush of joy — when the lip, which contribute a sketch by herself; and, if it be not too before was silent, became eloquent from the delicious much to ask, of herself.”

excitement of unexpected ecstacies — when bright. The motion was laughingly seconded by Lady eyed hope scattered her flowers so profusely, that Tressilian, and ” carried by acclamation.” some of them fell, like pleasant balm, upon the hearts After some pretty protestations of inability, which of the sorrowing — when the blood ran through the went for nothing, Lady Morton complied, with the veins with a quicker flow than in the every day trans- most natural-looking hesitation I ever saw. actions of life — when the joy-crowned goblet of de- Premising that she is a lively, agreeable woman, light passed round from lip to lip, and the nectarious with hair as dark as the ebon hue of the raven’s draught gladdened the heart without maddening the wing, a quick, intelligent glance from eyes as dark senses; the same scenes — and yet how different the and soft as a fawn’s, and pretty coral lips half con- feeling ! The genius loci was wanting ! There was cealing as white teeth as ever woman delighted to as much difference between yesterday’s pleasures and show — that her countenance, although what no one to-day’s dullness, as between the ocean bearing on its could decidedly call handsome, is strikingly spiritu- bosom a thousand richly freighted argosies, which a elle, and sometimes is lighted by expression into a fresh breeze was sending in triumph to their destined bright and intellectual loveliness — that her voice is ports, and the calm lake without a single breath to sweet as the song of the nightingale — that her very crisp its surface or ruffle its smoothness. Oh, who laugh is musical as the clear chime of silver bells — that has a heart to feel, but would prefer even a and that her years are yet in the bloom of life, it chance of peril on the ocean, to the weary calmness may readily be imagined that the announcement of of the lake ! her promise to tell a tale, and a true one — for the

It warned some hours to dinner, that grand epoch promise once given, we all agreed that herself should

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254 THE WIDOW’S STORY.

be the heroine — was sufficient to draw the poet from the window, the novelist from his reverie, the artist from his semi-slumber, and to dissipate the drowsi ness or the meditations of the gallant major.

We soon formed into a group around Lady Mor ton, and after an inconsiderable pause, in which the lively story-teller seemed to be collecting her remem brances, she thus commenced, to as attentive an audience as ever were spell-bound by the combined attraction of grace, youth and genius.

” Story ! I have none. I can boast of no hair breadth ‘scapes — I have no adventures to amaze or amuse you. I have been a stay-at-home traveller all my days ; I have led a calm, quiet, lady-like life, and have nothing — positively nothing worth my telling or your listening to.

” Besides, think of the disadvantage you take me at ! Every one else has told a tale, and mine, after all of yours, cannot fail to be, as poor Desdemona says, a ‘ most lame and impotent conclusion.’ You must absolve me from my promise, and I will dance, sing, play — do any thing else you wish to amuse you. Instead of dissipating ennui, I shall increase it.

” You shake your heads and hold me to my word. Well, be yours the penalty. Bear witness, one and all, that I gave you full and fair warning.

” So, if you must have a story, and, worse than all, a true one, I shall inflict upon you an aneedote, like Othello, ‘ of my whole course of love.’ Let me again advise you to be wise in time; it is but dull, dry, matter-of-fact — no mystery, no horrors, nothing ex- traordinary, and only barely tinged with romance. — Well, if I must proceed, I must!

” Fifteen years ago, I was just fifteen years old ; it seems but as yesterday. My father was a true Yorkshire squite, and had a tolerable estate. He was an honest, true-hearted, wilful-minded country gentleman, burthened or blessed with a family of daughters, whose number equalled that of the muses. How earnestly he longed for a son I but longing went for nothing, and he had made up his mind at last, to bear the disappointment with all proper patience. I do not think that he lamented the want of a male heir oftener than ten times a day.

” My father belonged to the old school ; that is, he was fond of field sports, fond of the bottle, and so fond of his family honour, that, although he might dispose of his estate as he pleased — it not being entailed — he had resolved to leave it to Sir Edward Morton, the head of the house. So attached was he to the ‘ glorious constitution,’ that, somewhat to the detriment of his own, it was his constant and time- honoured custom, night after night, to stand by it — when, truth to say, his libations to the rosy god had left him scarcely able to stand by any thing else.

u On the whole, he merited to be classed among your ‘ good sort of men.’ Your six-bottle men — your mighty Nimrods — your thorough John Bull gentlemen, who killed their own mutton and bottled their own wines, have nearly all passed away, and it is doubtful whether, in the main, they are any very great loss. But it is a pity that, in losing this class, we seem to have lost their genuine hospitality also. There are exceptions — so Sir Julian need not fancy that I mean any thing personal respecting Tressilian Court — but the open house and the open-hearted hospitality of our English gentry seem to be almost departed, and succeeded by cold ceremony.

” All this is a sad digression — let me return to my father. He lived happily enough among his friends, and the only care that ever flitted by him — save the perpetual regret that he had not a son — was that, as life was short, he could scarcely hope to see hia nine daughters married before he died. But my mother was quite an sdept in matrimonial tactics, (I think she must have been a match maker by intuition, for, as she lived far from the London marriage marts, she did not learn from example,) so that, year after year, a daughter was sent into connubial currency.

” Heaven and herself only knew how tins was accomplished. No fortunes were paid down or promised — it was known that my father would leave his estate to the head of the family, perhaps because he did not want it — and it certainly was not the beauty of my sisters that got them wedded into the best families in the country ; for I may say, and that without any very extraordinary vanity, that I, plain as I am, was by far the best looking of the lot !”

Here her ladyship made a momentary pause ; per haps it was to take breath, perhaps to give an invol untary glance at the fair reflection of herself in a splendid mirror opposite the ottoman on which ahe lounged. Her auditors saw the glance, and her cheek glowed as she saw that they did; probably, too, the unmistakeable look of admiration which the major earnestly bestowed upon her, drew up that conscious rose-tint. At the moment she really looked beauti ful, and knew it also ; so she was in a capacity to forgive that glance of admiration. When was there a woman really angry at homage rendered to her charms ?

A playful smile — a wave of that pretty hand — a shake of that head, which threw back her clustering wealth of curls, as if the wind were playing through their tendril-like beauty — and then the fair dame re sumed her story.

u Nay — not a word! I see what you would say, so spare your compliments. But it is a truth, that my sisters were not at all distingue for beauty. They were pretty well accomplished, as accomplish ments went at that time. They could draw a litde, play a little, dance a great deal, and were most nota ble housekeepers. You smile — let me tell you that this last is a first-rate advantage in the country. A woman so endowed, although portionless, is a prize in a country household. She sees that domestic matters are properly done, and if she bring no for tune, at least she prevents her husband’s being wasted in her department.

” How it happened is of little moment now, but it is certain that my sisters, to use a proper and con ventional phrase, all are ‘ settled’ and exceedingly well off. I have had a more stirring life — I have moved in higher circles — I have been stanzaed as a beauty — I have been quoted as a wit, (mind, I use the words that others used, for I dislike your wits and am little of a beauty,) — I have been as happy as most women in my station — but I question whether, after all, my enjoyments — society, fashion, flattery, literature — have been sounder or heartier than theirs. Yet they live in what I may call a state of human vegetation. The same dull routine of employments — the same homely and household pursuits — the same unintellectual society — the same sort of stupid hus bands, whose highest ambition is to breed cattle for

THE WIDOW’S STORY. 255

the agricultural association, or carry a rate in the parish vestry, or dine with the county member, or serve at the assizes on the grand jury — the same sort of bullet-headed children, with rough locks and ruddy faces — the same petty jealousies — the same hum-drum objects have formed the doom of my wedded sisters, and in that doom they have been happy. It is ex tremely well that we have not all the same tastes — such a life as theirs would kill me in a week.

” Well, eight of my father’s daughters were taken off his hands — you see I can use the true market phrase — before I was fifteen. I was the ninth, and the youngest by some years. When all the rest had been thus disposed of, literally to the best bidders, I was yet such a child in years and mind, that matri mony was a goal to which, for some time at least, my steps were not to be directed. Perhaps, as I was the beauty of the family — mind, I only use the word comparatively — I was kept on hands a little longer, in the hope of being more advantageously disposed of! Perhaps my youth would have been no great impediment to my ‘ settlement in life,’ — how conve nient are the terms! — but my mother died suddenly, and I was sent to a fashionable boarding school at Derby, until ‘ further orders.’

” We knew very little more of the relative to whom my father intended leaving the estate, than that he was very eccentric, very rich, and very old. On the formal announcement of my mother’s death, he sent a letter of condolence, written in very courteous terms, requesting particular information respecting our domestic affairs, and intimating a desire that, connected in blood as we were, we should also be connected in friendship.

” In his usually frank and hearty manner, my father replied that it should not be his fault, if a friendship were not formed and fostered. From this followed such an interchange of compliments, that, some six months after the correspondence commenced, Sir Edward Morton invited my father to visit him at his sent in Yorkshire.

” The visit was paid, and each father must have loudly sounded the praises of his child, for they agreed that the estates should be united by the bond matrimonial. I was fluttered and flattered at receiv ing a notification that I was to proceed forthwith to Morton Hall, where my father still remained. I had a sort of suspicion that something in the marriage line was on the tapis, for my father’s recent letters had been brimful with praises of Mr. Henry Morton, the only child of his host. The praises must have all been upon hearsay, for young Morton was then on the Continent.

” I was received at Morton Hall as if I were Sir Edward’s daughter, instead of his guest. Our sex, I believe, are like children, and have a sort of free- masonry, by which we see when we are likely to be come favourites; and I knew at once that I was on the high road to the old baronet’s heart. He was so kind, so considerate, so generous, that I must have been cold indeed, if I did not seek to repay him by all the attentions in my power.

” Soon after my arrival, I was sitmmoned to a a cabinet council in the library, where, after a preli minary oration of half an hour, my father informed me that Sir Edward Morton and himself had agreed that Henry Morton should marry me, and it was ex pected the arrangement would be a pleasant one for both parties. Sir Edward said that it gave him great

delight to see that my disposition was exactly similar to that of his dear son, and this gave him assurance that the union would be a happy one. The gentle men quite forgot that neither party had yet seen the other. But a family compact of this nature, does not include much regard for the feelings or affections, it is simply an affair of business, and not an affair of the heart !

” My memory is a good one, yet I forget what reply I gave to this matrimonial proposal. Perhaps I gave none — perhaps none was expected. At any rate, the affair was looked upon as fixed, and I was sent back to school loaded with presents.

” A few months after, I was suddenly summoned home: my father was on his death-bed, and his youngest and dearest daughter arrived in time to re ceive his blessing and see him die. As a man, he was a negative character in life ; but he was a kind parent, and the tears I shed for him were neither few nor unmerited.

“On his will being opened.it appeared that he had annually laid by a considerable sum from his income, and this unexpected accumulation, divided among my sisters, was some consolation to them for the remain ing provisions of the will, which stated that, by mu tual agreement between Sir Edward Morton and my father, it had been determined that Henry Morton should become the husband of Isabella Carlisle ; that he should tender me his band within one year after his father’s death, and that in case either party de clined to make or accept such offer matrimonial, the united estates were to become the sole property of the other. If the refusal came from the gentleman, he was to be cut off with an annuity of JC300 a year— if from me, I was to have only one-third of that sum as my yearly income. There were other provisions, one of which strictly prohibited either party from adding any thing to the income of the other. All this, would have been of little use in a mere will, for it is evident that my father could not control the manner in which Sir Edward Morton might wish to dispose of his property, but it appeared that there was a bond between them, in which, under immense for feitures, the compact was confirmed. Very soon after this, Sir Edward Morton also died, and his ‘ last will and testament’ was found to correspond in these essential points with that of my father. They had taken care to fence their wishes by all the law could render most binding. The union of the estates was an important matter — of the union of hearts, they had no thought!

Here then was I, at the age of sixteen, a condi tional heiress and conditionally fiance ! Sir Henry Morton soon returned to England, and was little pleased to find on what conditions the paternal estates had been bequeathed to him. You would hardly blame him fur taking legal advice upon his father’s will. I am little of a lawyer, and cannot well explain bow it was, but I believe that some short time before he quitted England, on his continental tour, he had joined in what is called ‘docking the entail,’ which gave his father a power to alienate the property as he pleased. Poor Sir Henry was heart-sick to find himself in this dilemma. He did not attempt to con ceal his chagrin. To increase it, came the legal opinion that his father’s will was a document which nothing could justly impugn !

” Did he dislike me ? No. He had never seen me, scarcely knew, until now, that such a being was in

256 THE WIDOW’S STORY.

existence. But he had romantic feelings, was of an imaginative turn of mind, and possessed very acute sensibility. It is no wonder, then, that he had a horror of being obliged to marry * per order.’ He did not attempt to disguise his feelings, and, through one kind friend or another, I was not long left in ignorance of their unlover like nature. Nay, it was told me that he intended to decline my hand. What an affront ! — not to let me have the pleasure of re fusing him. I confess that I was not very much displeased with this report of the young baronet’s spirit : — I think I should have heartily despised him, had he made up his mind, as some of the sex would have done, to take the estates, with myself as the incumbrance ; but from the moment I heard that he vowed he would see me only once, to tell me that he would not wed me, he grew rapidly in my esteem.

” The singular provisions of the two wills were no secret, and the little brunette who had been for twelve months at Madame le Plasir’s, without attracting the slightest attention, suddenly became ‘ the observed of all observers’ in Derby. It was discovered that I bad bright eyes — that my figure was graceful — that my manners were exquisite — in a word, that I was an heiress ! Such attentions as I was now paid might have turned a wiser head or an older heart than mine. But, although I was scarcely ‘ sweet seventeen,’ I was suspicious of this novel kindness, — these new friends, — and of my altered situation. Young as I was, I was singularly suspicious of flattery; therefore, though beaux smiled at me in All Saints’ Church, and bowed to me at St. Alkmund’s, I had sufficient sense to prize their attentions at the proper value and I walked on, like Jeptha’s daughter — poor thing ! — and Queen Elizabeth,

‘ la maiden meditation, fancy free!’

” As flies hover round the honey-comb, so do ad mirers around an heiress. A dashing, handsome, im pudent fortune-hunter formed the resolution to height en the disgust which had been excited in Sir Henry Morton’s mind by the absolute command to marry me. A man of the world was Captain Adolphus Fre derick Smith, and he possessed talents and address sufficient to render his success with both parties far from problematical. He contrived to become intimate with Sir Henry, and really being a pleasant and well- informed man, the acquaintance soon ripened into friendship. Poor Sir Henry had a lonely time of it at Morton-Hall, and the prospect of giving up a fine estate, or keeping it with the burthen of a wife not of his own choosing, was not likely to render him too happy. The gallant Captain soon became so neces sary to him, as a relief from his own sombre thoughts, that in a week or two he was quite domesticated at the Hall. The Baronet did not conceal his vexed thoughts from his new friend, and I since learned that this Job’s comforter did not draw my character in too flattering terms. At all events, he neglected no opportunity of heightening the feeling against me, and almost persuaded the poor Baronet, that on £300 without me, he could live far happier than on a yearly income of £14,000 burthened with me! I believe that Captain Adolphus Frederick Smith took good care not to commit himself by saying any thing directly against me ; but he was an insinuating man ! I was a dowdy by implication — a dullard and a pedant without being actually named as such. Captain Smith dealt out his , speechless obloquy’ with admirable

discretion, and I suspect that ignorance and ugliness were the slightest imperfections attributed to me.

” Marian Smith, only sister to the adventurer, offi ciated as semi-governess in Madame de Plaisir’s , Es tablishment for Young Ladies.’ She was a clever, shrewd, showy girl, who owned to nine-and-twenty, and was exactly the materiel out of which might rea dily be made a knowing intriguante in love or poli tics. Some time previous to my becoming an heiress, she had taken a fancy to me, and treated me with a kindness which made me grateful, as it was a novelty at school. When, from the mere nobody I had been, Fortune elevated me into somebody, with high pos sessions and yet higher expectations, every one seem ed anxious to distinguish me ; but, somewhat haugh tily I fear, I turned a deaf ear to their blandishments, and my only intimate school-friend was Marian Smith, who had been kind to me when no interested motives could have influenced her. Accordingly, we were Da mon and Pythias in petticoats ! So, when her brother formed the plan of getting my hand and my acres, she was one of the best instruments he could employ.

” He could not have had a more able confederate She played her cards well, and held the honours in her own hand. She had all the arts of a practised tactician. What a tool she would have made, in former days, in the hands of the Jesuits ! She glided into my confidence, extolling the virtues of her bro ther, in the most quiet, unsuspicious way, comment ing, with well dissembled commiseration, on the horrid necessity of marrying whether I loved the man or not, and losing no opportunity of letting fall insi nuations against my intended. All this was done with such an apparent sincerity, such a deep wish for my happiness, that the most watchful suspicion would have been thrown off its guard. It readily imposed on me, who neither knew guile nor thought that others could practise it.

” What wonder if all this had much of its intended effect ? I was already rather predisposed against Sir Henry, on account of the peculiar circumstances in which we were relatively placed, and certain dark hints as to his excesses on the Continent were not quite unwelcome to me, as they tended to justify, to my own mind, the prejudice I had taken against him. The soil was exactly suited to the seed, and my dear Marian Smith was a cunning cultivator !

” Her brother sometimes came to Derby, to pay ‘ a flying visit’ to his sister, and when she inquired after Sir Henry, in my hearing, his chief reply was the significant ‘ shrug and sigh,’ which in their very silence, spoke Encyclopedias.

” I had half made up my mind to refuse the hand of Sir Henry; but the Smiths had no wish that such should be the issue of the adventure. To throw the rejection upon him, would require very little trouble; this done, the gallant Captain resolved to gain my hand, and (what he must have coveted as much) my broad lands besides. It is very probable that success would have crowned all this scheming, had not a slight incident completely changed the current of events.

” You may remember that the provisions of the double will made it imperative that Sir Henry Morton should wed me or refuse me, within twelve months after his father’s death. That period had now very nearly elapsed, and my guardians — plain, sensible, matter-of-fact people — who had no doubt that the ‘ very eligible union’ would take place, withdrew me

THE WIDOW’S STORY.

from school, thinking iliat Sir Henry might not ex actly wish to woo his future bride under the surssil. lance of a bevy of ‘ bread and butter misses’ of a boarding school. They came to remove me, and the announcement came on me so very suddenly that dear Miss Smith being accidentally out of the way, I had no opportunity of taking counsel with her, and, in the hurry of removal, I quite forgot to write to her.

” My uncle, to whose house I went, was a plain spoken gentleman, who made my journey most mise rable by a series of jokes upon my coming ‘ change of situation.’ Protestations— even tears were in vain ; he put down every thing with ‘ a little modesty, very natural to your situation, and becomes you exceed ingly !’ I never was so tormented, before.

” Fortunately for me, my aunt was of a different character. She had mixed with the world, and knew what a strange riddle is a woman’s heart. Afier some little hesitation, I told her of my distinct and firm resolution never to marry Sir Henry Morton.

” She was a woman of thoughtful kindness, and looked at events with a desire to find out their causes. With admirable tact, she succeeded in learning how my prejudices against Sir Henry had been fostered. ‘ It is well,’ said she, with a smile, * that this danger ous Miss Smith is separated from you now. I know, from authority indisputable, that her brother has been acting the same part by Sir Henry. It is not difficult to surmise the motives for this double game.’ I pro tested, of course, against all suspicions ; my aunt was too polite not to listen to my warm vindication of Miss Smith, but I could easily see that she remained incre dulous. Must I confess it, my defence of Marian Smith did not quite satisfy myself!

” It now wanted only six weeks of the expiration of the year, and I began to cherish the hope that Sir Henry would not come to demand my hand. I ven tured to hint as much to my aunt, and her answer set all my spirits in a flutter. ‘ Sir Henry doss come. He will be at your cousin’s next week, so make up your mind to be ” wooed, and married, and a’,” with as little delay as possible.’

” I do not know what impulse prompted me, but such as it was, its weight was irresistible. I inter rupted her with — ‘ I have never seen Sir Henry ; let me judge of him, myself unknown. I have promised to spend a week with my cousin, let me go when Sir Henry is there. It may be a wild fancy, but I would like to play the part of Miss Hardeastle, for once. My cousin, I am sure, will readily join in the plot.’

” ‘ Oh, I see,’ said my aunt, ‘ you would Stoop to Conquer. The thought is romantic enough — but if the execution fails you are lost. However, something nay be risked, where much is to be gained. Let it be so, if you will. I must only trust that you will be discreet, and perform with eclat .”

” We drove to my cousin’s, next day. She was delighted to enter into our plot, and arranged so well that, except from my own imprudence, scarcely any chance of discovery was left. This was easily ma naged, as Sir Henry had expressly stipulated, that, being in indifferent health and spirits, his visit was to be so strictly private that no guests were to meet, no visitors to see him.

” He visited Oatlands, therefore, without the re motest idea of seeing me there. He knew that I was i” the neighbourhood. His friend, Captain Adolphus Frederick Smith, with more delicacy than usual, did not accompany him — indeed, he was not invited!

” Ashamed — deeply ashamed of my own credulity, and very distrustful of Marian Smith’s motives, was I when I saw the Baronet. He was about threc-ar.d- twenty, tall and slight in figure, with the air of a man of fashion, and that innate gentleness of manner which, after all, is peculiar to gentle blood. When I looked at his handsome features — his expressive and melancholy eyes — his fine forehead, with its whiteness strikingly relieved by the dark hair which waved over it — I confess that, like Bob Acres’ cou rage, my prejudice ‘ oozed out at my fingers’ ends.’ He was just such a person as the quick and budding fancy of seventeen might love as a man or deify as a hero !

” How awfully had he been slandered ! His intel lectual attainments surpassed those of every one with whom I had ever conversed. His knowledge of books had been corrected and aided by his knowledge of life. Travel had not been thrown away upon him. It may not, with me, have been love at first aight ; but I fancy he awakened something very like it.

” Sir Henry Morton’s personal attractions, con siderable as they were, formed the very least of his merits. His melancholy mien — the thoughtfulness that brooded on his pale cheek and in the dark beau ty of his eye — the gentleness, the tenderness of his manner — the mournful sweetness of his low, sad voice — the eloquence of his impassioned words — all combined to make him rather too interesting an ac quaintance.

” We soon became friends. His melancholy some times brightened into a smile, as he listened to the wild and girlish sullies which fell from my lips; for, I know not how, while my actual spirits were at zero, my seeming spirits were as high as fever-heat. We walked together — we conversed together — until at last, the AubIi on his cheek, and the flashing of his eye, and the deepening tenderness of his voice, when we were together and alone, made me suspect that my task was over. I had conquered my own idle prejudices — I trusted now, that I had conquered his

” At last, it was time for me to return, for only two days remained of the fatal year. As the time passed on, Sir Henry had sunk deeper and deeper into gloom, which my presence served but to increase, and yet he was uneasy and unhappy when I was absent.

” I had been introduced to him as a portionless and friendless orphan. Another day, and he would see me in my own character. But how would the change affect him? Would he think lightly of the deception, or would his delicacy shrink from the folly which had sought to make his heart the object of an experiment. With such conflicting doubts, I was almost as much disturbed as himself.

“The crisis came. I was sitting alone in the drawing-room, when Sir Henry entered. He took his seat by my side, as usual, and both were silent for a time. At last, he spoke :

, You leave us, Isabella. You will leave many regrets behind you. I must be pardoned — but before you go, let me tell you how much I love you- N«y, shrink not ! — Your colour changes and you tremble. Are you indeed so angry with me that you will not speak? Pity me, if you cannot forgive.’

” He took my hand and — and I did not withdraw it. One moment’s pause — he looked into my eyes — he saw them filled with tears — his lip was on my burning, blushing check, and I knew — how. exquisite

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258 THE WIDOW’S STORY.

the knowledge — that this was love, the ardent and

the true !

” Trembling — blushing — panting — filled with new and delicious sensations, which seemed to crowd the happy feelings of years into that one concentrated moment of delight, I withdrew myself from his em- brace. We were both silent, once again ; but I felt it now was my turn to speak.

” ‘ I can forgive — let us both forget this weakness. To you it can matter little what becomes of me in after life. You will think of me yet, it may be, as one who has amused your idle hours — whose youth may have been her greatest, her only charm. You will forget the friendless orphan, and it is right that you should forget her. Remember, Sir Henry, that you are betrothed. Leave these scenes, where you have forgotten your duty to the dead and your claims on the living, and become, even as your father willed, the husband of one who, far better than myself, has a claim on your affection.’

” ‘ By Heaven !’ he exclaimed, ‘ this will drive me mad. What right had my father to dispose of my hand — how could he fathom the depth of my feelings? No, beloved, let my betrothed, as you call her, take the broad lands that my fathers won at the point of the sword, in the olden days — let the heir of a thou sand years live without wealth, but cherish his pure and first affection as kindly nature dictates. I cannot marry the woman whom I do not love. When the tyrant of ancient days chained the living body to the dead corpse, the union was not more unnatural than that w hich, from the grave, my father would make between hearts which cannot love each other. No, better to die than be party to such an union !’

” He spoke with so much eager vehemence, that I could perceive his mind to be firmly resolved. I could not resist inquiring into the causes of his dislike to the marriage.

” * And is it,’ I said, ‘ only to the manner of this union, as a family compact, in which your heart was not consulted, or to the lady herself, that you object V

” ‘ To both : — my faith plighted without my know ledge — without my consent : this, of itself, would create a spirit of opposition. But the lady — ‘

‘”What of her?’

” ‘ Not much, dearest — only she is as unlike you as possible. If she were not vain and pedantic — at once a coquette and a blue stocking — I could easily forgive her want of personal attractions. But you change colour — perhaps you know Miss Carlisle ?’

‘ * I do, indeed,’ said I, with some bitterness, for although I had expected much, I did not look to have my character drawn in such colours. ‘ I do know her, as well as I know myself.’

” ‘ I am sorry then,’ said he, ‘ that I have spoken thus warmly.’

” ‘ Oh ! it is no matter,’ said 1, ‘ you have drawn her portrait, no doubt, but the shadows predominate. It is somewhat curious, though, that she should have heard not much better of you.’

” ‘ Of me V he inquired, with evident astonishment.

*’ , Yes, that you were a roue in morals — a pre tender in fashion — a clown in manners — and, to crown all, a gambler.’

” ‘ There seems,’ said he, with an air of the great est vexation, ‘there seems to be some strange mis take here. I abhor gambling. I am any thing but a roue : and for my manners, fashion, and attainments they are as you see.’

” He drew himself up, with some stateliness, and paused, as if expecting me to reply. 1 kept silence, and he resumed —

” ‘ What I heard of the lady, I fear is no more than the truth. My informant — ”

” ‘ Was Captain Smith, whose sister daintily drew your character for Miss Carlisle — so it is likely that the misrepresentation has been mutual.’

” ‘ If I thought so — ”

” ‘ You would throw yourself at Miss Carlisle’s feet — become her prcux chevalier for life — and for get the world of protestations you have made me, just now ?”

” ‘ No,’ said he, with a smile, ‘ my resolution is taken, and my only dread now is that I may uncon sciously give pain to one on whom it should not fall. 1 shall see her to-morrow, resign all claim to her hand, and then, if you can wed a man of broken for tunes, my fate is in your bands— my happiness — my life. Isabella ! you cannot, you must not refuse me.’

” My answer was brief — for I was so much affect ed by this proof of the sincerity of his afiection, that I scarcely dared trust myself to speak : —

” ‘ It may be well for all parties, that I decline all answer until to-morrow. See Miss Carlisle, and if you then reject her hand, or rather, if you still decline to offer yours for her acceptance — for, after all, the refusal may come from her — I will — ”

” ‘ Be mine ? Is it so V — But I checked his rap tures, for I heard the carriage wheels. I merely said, ‘ I am going to Miss Carlisle now, and shall hope to see you to-morrow !’ — In five minutes, I was on my way to my own house.

” I reached home late, and found my kind aunt there before me. Pleading fatigue, I hurried to my bed-room, and left her, with curiosity ungratified, quite unconscious of the issue of my experiment.

” The next day was to bring me joy or sorrow. I was pretty confident as to the result — though, at times, knowing how fastidious Sir Henry’s feelings were, a doubt would chill my heart, that he might be disgusted with the Jinesse I had used. But hearts were trumps, and who would not play the bold game?

” My room of audience was the library, and (to keep up my character of a baa bleu,) maps, books, mathematical instruments, were scattered on the ta bles. The floor was strewn with ‘ learned lumber’ from the shelves — a pair of globes were on the table immediately before my seat — in short, the whole apartment was in a state of literary litter; well cal culated to strengthen the impression that I was what well-informed men must hate — a vain, pedantic fe male.

” Sir Henry came — I knew the sound of his foot fall, as he paced down the passage. He was an nounced, and I rose to receive him. A sudden pause before he entered — a slight start as he caught a glimpse of my figure. I had taken care to bave the window curtains drawn, so that in the indistinct light, and the distance at which he sat, it was impossible to distinguish my features.

” Our tete-a-tete was coldly formal. A few sen tences from him — a few monosyllables from me. At last, taking courage, he stated in a most respectful manner that, after due consideration, he had resolved to decline presenting himself as a suitor for my band. He apologized for what he called his ‘ insensibility to my merits,’ but frankly said that his heart w as not his own to offer. He would thus, it was true, abandon

THE WIDOW’S STORY. 253

Written for the Lady’s Book.

THE WIDOW’S STORY.

IY ». b II ELTON MACKENZIE, Lb D.

A dull day is doubly dull in the country. Such a in the daily history of all true Britons. You may day had we, and as dullness is an epidemic of the remember how poor Byron wrote of mind, the guests were ennuye. Books lay upon the Thal ^ rf ^ |oul_tho eiane,.Ml ,.

table, but no one felt disposed to read them. I he

harp was out of tune, even had any one been inclined We should have been in despair, if, while all felt tho to draw music from its strings. The artist’s port- dullness and none made the effort to dissipate it, folio was there, and, for the first time, its treasures Julian Tressilian had not entered the room with his were unheeded. The sparkling wit of the novelist lady. Despite the heat of the day, they had been had evaporated, like the sparkle of yesterday’s cham- wandering by the river-side, and came home without pagne, and he reclined in listless lassitude on the sofa, having been smitten by a coup de soleil, but with The major was drowsy or musing — perhaps he was their spirits invigorated by the beauties of the visible planning a campaign against the widow’s heart! The creation around them. Love was theirs — the tried poet stood at the window, watching the blue heavy and the enduring; years which rolled on made it only clouds which sailed on at a minimum of speed. The more strong and beautiful, even as time, which, with ladies sate ” in solemn silence,” engaged in some of strong pinion, brushes away the gay flowers of the the nicknackeries on which the fair sex delight to garden, does but lend new strength and beauty to the waste their time and ingenuity, for a lady may be as oak of the forest. Happy they, who, amid the crush- industrious as possible over what can be of no pos- ing cares of life, can retain the brightness of its ro. sible use! The very lap-dog lay in the sunshine, mance; to whom years do but bring maturity of affec- and, as the newspapers have it, lazily ” sank into the tion, and who, while they partake of all the common arms of Morpheus.” Nor was there much difference delights which the Real affords to the right-hearted, out of doors. The day was oppressively hot — not a drink, with as free a spirit as of yore, from the ever- wandering zephyr whispered through the leafy trees, sparkling fountain of the Ideal. The river rolled on with a quiet, sleepy murmur. ” You are all bitten by the scorpion — ennui,” said Tho hum of the bees, the shrill cry of the grasshop- Tressilian ; ” and nothing is worse than the disease, per, the monotonous cawing of the rooks, the tink- if you yield to it — nothing more easily cured, if you ling of the sheep-bells in the distance, and now and will. It needs but an effort to shake off the mental then the far off ” cuckno, cuckno” of the harbinger incubus. If all of you were to die this moment, the of summer, were the only sounds abroad. All seemed verdict might be — ‘ died from want of excitement !’ the essence of a dreamy state of physical and natural Play, walk, read, dance — even have a game at blind inaction. In a word, the spirit of ennui was the man’s buff, in preference to being as if you were in. presiding deity of the scene — the evil genius of the habitants of the Castle of Indolence. Nay, if mere day! bodily exercise seem a remedy as bad as the disease,

How much unlike the rural mirth of yesterday, try mental excitement. I propose — as the porter when innocent enjoyment had a thousand voices— did, in the Arabian nights, before the three Calen- when pleasure shed, many a delight from her starry dars narrated their adventures — that, as Lady Mor- diadom — when the cheek of beauty borrowed new ton has heard our stories, she now be requested to charms from the flush of joy — when the lip, which contribute a sketch by herself; and, if it be not too before was silent, became eloquent from the delicious much to ask, of herself.”

excitement of unexpected ecstacies — when bright. The motion was laughingly seconded by Lady eyed hope scattered her flowers so profusely, that Tressilian, and ” carried by acclamation.” some of them fell, like pleasant balm, upon the hearts After some pretty protestations of inability, which of the sorrowing — when the blood ran through the went for nothing, Lady Morton complied, with the veins with a quicker flow than in the every day trans- most natural-looking hesitation I ever saw. actions of life — when the joy-crowned goblet of de- Premising that she is a lively, agreeable woman, light passed round from lip to lip, and the nectarious with hair as dark as the ebon hue of the raven’s draught gladdened the heart without maddening the wing, a quick, intelligent glance from eyes as dark senses; the same scenes — and yet how different the and soft as a fawn’s, and pretty coral lips half con- feeling ! The genius loci was wanting ! There was cealing as white teeth as ever woman delighted to as much difference between yesterday’s pleasures and show — that her countenance, although what no one to-day’s dullness, as between the ocean bearing on its could decidedly call handsome, is strikingly spiritu- bosom a thousand richly freighted argosies, which a elle, and sometimes is lighted by expression into a fresh breeze was sending in triumph to their destined bright and intellectual loveliness — that her voice is ports, and the calm lake without a single breath to sweet as the song of the nightingale — that her very crisp its surface or ruffle its smoothness. Oh, who laugh is musical as the clear chime of silver bells — that has a heart to feel, but would prefer even a and that her years are yet in the bloom of life, it chance of peril on the ocean, to the weary calmness may readily be imagined that the announcement of of the lake ! her promise to tell a tale, and a true one — for the

It warned some hours to dinner, that grand epoch promise once given, we all agreed that herself should

vol. xxiii. — 22

254 THE WIDOW’S STORY.

be the heroine — was sufficient to draw the poet from the window, the novelist from his reverie, the artist from his semi-slumber, and to dissipate the drowsi ness or the meditations of the gallant major.

We soon formed into a group around Lady Mor ton, and after an inconsiderable pause, in which the lively story-teller seemed to be collecting her remem brances, she thus commenced, to as attentive an audience as ever were spell-bound by the combined attraction of grace, youth and genius.

” Story ! I have none. I can boast of no hair breadth ‘scapes — I have no adventures to amaze or amuse you. I have been a stay-at-home traveller all my days ; I have led a calm, quiet, lady-like life, and have nothing — positively nothing worth my telling or your listening to.

” Besides, think of the disadvantage you take me at ! Every one else has told a tale, and mine, after all of yours, cannot fail to be, as poor Desdemona says, a ‘ most lame and impotent conclusion.’ You must absolve me from my promise, and I will dance, sing, play — do any thing else you wish to amuse you. Instead of dissipating ennui, I shall increase it.

” You shake your heads and hold me to my word. Well, be yours the penalty. Bear witness, one and all, that I gave you full and fair warning.

” So, if you must have a story, and, worse than all, a true one, I shall inflict upon you an aneedote, like Othello, ‘ of my whole course of love.’ Let me again advise you to be wise in time; it is but dull, dry, matter-of-fact — no mystery, no horrors, nothing ex- traordinary, and only barely tinged with romance. — Well, if I must proceed, I must!

” Fifteen years ago, I was just fifteen years old ; it seems but as yesterday. My father was a true Yorkshire squite, and had a tolerable estate. He was an honest, true-hearted, wilful-minded country gentleman, burthened or blessed with a family of daughters, whose number equalled that of the muses. How earnestly he longed for a son I but longing went for nothing, and he had made up his mind at last, to bear the disappointment with all proper patience. I do not think that he lamented the want of a male heir oftener than ten times a day.

” My father belonged to the old school ; that is, he was fond of field sports, fond of the bottle, and so fond of his family honour, that, although he might dispose of his estate as he pleased — it not being entailed — he had resolved to leave it to Sir Edward Morton, the head of the house. So attached was he to the ‘ glorious constitution,’ that, somewhat to the detriment of his own, it was his constant and time- honoured custom, night after night, to stand by it — when, truth to say, his libations to the rosy god had left him scarcely able to stand by any thing else.

u On the whole, he merited to be classed among your ‘ good sort of men.’ Your six-bottle men — your mighty Nimrods — your thorough John Bull gentlemen, who killed their own mutton and bottled their own wines, have nearly all passed away, and it is doubtful whether, in the main, they are any very great loss. But it is a pity that, in losing this class, we seem to have lost their genuine hospitality also. There are exceptions — so Sir Julian need not fancy that I mean any thing personal respecting Tressilian Court — but the open house and the open-hearted hospitality of our English gentry seem to be almost departed, and succeeded by cold ceremony.

” All this is a sad digression — let me return to my father. He lived happily enough among his friends, and the only care that ever flitted by him — save the perpetual regret that he had not a son — was that, as life was short, he could scarcely hope to see hia nine daughters married before he died. But my mother was quite an sdept in matrimonial tactics, (I think she must have been a match maker by intuition, for, as she lived far from the London marriage marts, she did not learn from example,) so that, year after year, a daughter was sent into connubial currency.

” Heaven and herself only knew how tins was accomplished. No fortunes were paid down or promised — it was known that my father would leave his estate to the head of the family, perhaps because he did not want it — and it certainly was not the beauty of my sisters that got them wedded into the best families in the country ; for I may say, and that without any very extraordinary vanity, that I, plain as I am, was by far the best looking of the lot !”

Here her ladyship made a momentary pause ; per haps it was to take breath, perhaps to give an invol untary glance at the fair reflection of herself in a splendid mirror opposite the ottoman on which ahe lounged. Her auditors saw the glance, and her cheek glowed as she saw that they did; probably, too, the unmistakeable look of admiration which the major earnestly bestowed upon her, drew up that conscious rose-tint. At the moment she really looked beauti ful, and knew it also ; so she was in a capacity to forgive that glance of admiration. When was there a woman really angry at homage rendered to her charms ?

A playful smile — a wave of that pretty hand — a shake of that head, which threw back her clustering wealth of curls, as if the wind were playing through their tendril-like beauty — and then the fair dame re sumed her story.

u Nay — not a word! I see what you would say, so spare your compliments. But it is a truth, that my sisters were not at all distingue for beauty. They were pretty well accomplished, as accomplish ments went at that time. They could draw a litde, play a little, dance a great deal, and were most nota ble housekeepers. You smile — let me tell you that this last is a first-rate advantage in the country. A woman so endowed, although portionless, is a prize in a country household. She sees that domestic matters are properly done, and if she bring no for tune, at least she prevents her husband’s being wasted in her department.

” How it happened is of little moment now, but it is certain that my sisters, to use a proper and con ventional phrase, all are ‘ settled’ and exceedingly well off. I have had a more stirring life — I have moved in higher circles — I have been stanzaed as a beauty — I have been quoted as a wit, (mind, I use the words that others used, for I dislike your wits and am little of a beauty,) — I have been as happy as most women in my station — but I question whether, after all, my enjoyments — society, fashion, flattery, literature — have been sounder or heartier than theirs. Yet they live in what I may call a state of human vegetation. The same dull routine of employments — the same homely and household pursuits — the same unintellectual society — the same sort of stupid hus bands, whose highest ambition is to breed cattle for

THE WIDOW’S STORY. 255

the agricultural association, or carry a rate in the parish vestry, or dine with the county member, or serve at the assizes on the grand jury — the same sort of bullet-headed children, with rough locks and ruddy faces — the same petty jealousies — the same hum-drum objects have formed the doom of my wedded sisters, and in that doom they have been happy. It is ex tremely well that we have not all the same tastes — such a life as theirs would kill me in a week.

” Well, eight of my father’s daughters were taken off his hands — you see I can use the true market phrase — before I was fifteen. I was the ninth, and the youngest by some years. When all the rest had been thus disposed of, literally to the best bidders, I was yet such a child in years and mind, that matri mony was a goal to which, for some time at least, my steps were not to be directed. Perhaps, as I was the beauty of the family — mind, I only use the word comparatively — I was kept on hands a little longer, in the hope of being more advantageously disposed of! Perhaps my youth would have been no great impediment to my ‘ settlement in life,’ — how conve nient are the terms! — but my mother died suddenly, and I was sent to a fashionable boarding school at Derby, until ‘ further orders.’

” We knew very little more of the relative to whom my father intended leaving the estate, than that he was very eccentric, very rich, and very old. On the formal announcement of my mother’s death, he sent a letter of condolence, written in very courteous terms, requesting particular information respecting our domestic affairs, and intimating a desire that, connected in blood as we were, we should also be connected in friendship.

” In his usually frank and hearty manner, my father replied that it should not be his fault, if a friendship were not formed and fostered. From this followed such an interchange of compliments, that, some six months after the correspondence commenced, Sir Edward Morton invited my father to visit him at his sent in Yorkshire.

” The visit was paid, and each father must have loudly sounded the praises of his child, for they agreed that the estates should be united by the bond matrimonial. I was fluttered and flattered at receiv ing a notification that I was to proceed forthwith to Morton Hall, where my father still remained. I had a sort of suspicion that something in the marriage line was on the tapis, for my father’s recent letters had been brimful with praises of Mr. Henry Morton, the only child of his host. The praises must have all been upon hearsay, for young Morton was then on the Continent.

” I was received at Morton Hall as if I were Sir Edward’s daughter, instead of his guest. Our sex, I believe, are like children, and have a sort of free- masonry, by which we see when we are likely to be come favourites; and I knew at once that I was on the high road to the old baronet’s heart. He was so kind, so considerate, so generous, that I must have been cold indeed, if I did not seek to repay him by all the attentions in my power.

” Soon after my arrival, I was sitmmoned to a a cabinet council in the library, where, after a preli minary oration of half an hour, my father informed me that Sir Edward Morton and himself had agreed that Henry Morton should marry me, and it was ex pected the arrangement would be a pleasant one for both parties. Sir Edward said that it gave him great

delight to see that my disposition was exactly similar to that of his dear son, and this gave him assurance that the union would be a happy one. The gentle men quite forgot that neither party had yet seen the other. But a family compact of this nature, does not include much regard for the feelings or affections, it is simply an affair of business, and not an affair of the heart !

” My memory is a good one, yet I forget what reply I gave to this matrimonial proposal. Perhaps I gave none — perhaps none was expected. At any rate, the affair was looked upon as fixed, and I was sent back to school loaded with presents.

” A few months after, I was suddenly summoned home: my father was on his death-bed, and his youngest and dearest daughter arrived in time to re ceive his blessing and see him die. As a man, he was a negative character in life ; but he was a kind parent, and the tears I shed for him were neither few nor unmerited.

“On his will being opened.it appeared that he had annually laid by a considerable sum from his income, and this unexpected accumulation, divided among my sisters, was some consolation to them for the remain ing provisions of the will, which stated that, by mu tual agreement between Sir Edward Morton and my father, it had been determined that Henry Morton should become the husband of Isabella Carlisle ; that he should tender me his band within one year after his father’s death, and that in case either party de clined to make or accept such offer matrimonial, the united estates were to become the sole property of the other. If the refusal came from the gentleman, he was to be cut off with an annuity of JC300 a year— if from me, I was to have only one-third of that sum as my yearly income. There were other provisions, one of which strictly prohibited either party from adding any thing to the income of the other. All this, would have been of little use in a mere will, for it is evident that my father could not control the manner in which Sir Edward Morton might wish to dispose of his property, but it appeared that there was a bond between them, in which, under immense for feitures, the compact was confirmed. Very soon after this, Sir Edward Morton also died, and his ‘ last will and testament’ was found to correspond in these essential points with that of my father. They had taken care to fence their wishes by all the law could render most binding. The union of the estates was an important matter — of the union of hearts, they had no thought!

Here then was I, at the age of sixteen, a condi tional heiress and conditionally fiance ! Sir Henry Morton soon returned to England, and was little pleased to find on what conditions the paternal estates had been bequeathed to him. You would hardly blame him fur taking legal advice upon his father’s will. I am little of a lawyer, and cannot well explain bow it was, but I believe that some short time before he quitted England, on his continental tour, he had joined in what is called ‘docking the entail,’ which gave his father a power to alienate the property as he pleased. Poor Sir Henry was heart-sick to find himself in this dilemma. He did not attempt to con ceal his chagrin. To increase it, came the legal opinion that his father’s will was a document which nothing could justly impugn !

” Did he dislike me ? No. He had never seen me, scarcely knew, until now, that such a being was in

256 THE WIDOW’S STORY.

existence. But he had romantic feelings, was of an imaginative turn of mind, and possessed very acute sensibility. It is no wonder, then, that he had a horror of being obliged to marry * per order.’ He did not attempt to disguise his feelings, and, through one kind friend or another, I was not long left in ignorance of their unlover like nature. Nay, it was told me that he intended to decline my hand. What an affront ! — not to let me have the pleasure of re fusing him. I confess that I was not very much displeased with this report of the young baronet’s spirit : — I think I should have heartily despised him, had he made up his mind, as some of the sex would have done, to take the estates, with myself as the incumbrance ; but from the moment I heard that he vowed he would see me only once, to tell me that he would not wed me, he grew rapidly in my esteem.

” The singular provisions of the two wills were no secret, and the little brunette who had been for twelve months at Madame le Plasir’s, without attracting the slightest attention, suddenly became ‘ the observed of all observers’ in Derby. It was discovered that I bad bright eyes — that my figure was graceful — that my manners were exquisite — in a word, that I was an heiress ! Such attentions as I was now paid might have turned a wiser head or an older heart than mine. But, although I was scarcely ‘ sweet seventeen,’ I was suspicious of this novel kindness, — these new friends, — and of my altered situation. Young as I was, I was singularly suspicious of flattery; therefore, though beaux smiled at me in All Saints’ Church, and bowed to me at St. Alkmund’s, I had sufficient sense to prize their attentions at the proper value and I walked on, like Jeptha’s daughter — poor thing ! — and Queen Elizabeth,

‘ la maiden meditation, fancy free!’

” As flies hover round the honey-comb, so do ad mirers around an heiress. A dashing, handsome, im pudent fortune-hunter formed the resolution to height en the disgust which had been excited in Sir Henry Morton’s mind by the absolute command to marry me. A man of the world was Captain Adolphus Fre derick Smith, and he possessed talents and address sufficient to render his success with both parties far from problematical. He contrived to become intimate with Sir Henry, and really being a pleasant and well- informed man, the acquaintance soon ripened into friendship. Poor Sir Henry had a lonely time of it at Morton-Hall, and the prospect of giving up a fine estate, or keeping it with the burthen of a wife not of his own choosing, was not likely to render him too happy. The gallant Captain soon became so neces sary to him, as a relief from his own sombre thoughts, that in a week or two he was quite domesticated at the Hall. The Baronet did not conceal his vexed thoughts from his new friend, and I since learned that this Job’s comforter did not draw my character in too flattering terms. At all events, he neglected no opportunity of heightening the feeling against me, and almost persuaded the poor Baronet, that on £300 without me, he could live far happier than on a yearly income of £14,000 burthened with me! I believe that Captain Adolphus Frederick Smith took good care not to commit himself by saying any thing directly against me ; but he was an insinuating man ! I was a dowdy by implication — a dullard and a pedant without being actually named as such. Captain Smith dealt out his , speechless obloquy’ with admirable

discretion, and I suspect that ignorance and ugliness were the slightest imperfections attributed to me.

” Marian Smith, only sister to the adventurer, offi ciated as semi-governess in Madame de Plaisir’s , Es tablishment for Young Ladies.’ She was a clever, shrewd, showy girl, who owned to nine-and-twenty, and was exactly the materiel out of which might rea dily be made a knowing intriguante in love or poli tics. Some time previous to my becoming an heiress, she had taken a fancy to me, and treated me with a kindness which made me grateful, as it was a novelty at school. When, from the mere nobody I had been, Fortune elevated me into somebody, with high pos sessions and yet higher expectations, every one seem ed anxious to distinguish me ; but, somewhat haugh tily I fear, I turned a deaf ear to their blandishments, and my only intimate school-friend was Marian Smith, who had been kind to me when no interested motives could have influenced her. Accordingly, we were Da mon and Pythias in petticoats ! So, when her brother formed the plan of getting my hand and my acres, she was one of the best instruments he could employ.

” He could not have had a more able confederate She played her cards well, and held the honours in her own hand. She had all the arts of a practised tactician. What a tool she would have made, in former days, in the hands of the Jesuits ! She glided into my confidence, extolling the virtues of her bro ther, in the most quiet, unsuspicious way, comment ing, with well dissembled commiseration, on the horrid necessity of marrying whether I loved the man or not, and losing no opportunity of letting fall insi nuations against my intended. All this was done with such an apparent sincerity, such a deep wish for my happiness, that the most watchful suspicion would have been thrown off its guard. It readily imposed on me, who neither knew guile nor thought that others could practise it.

” What wonder if all this had much of its intended effect ? I was already rather predisposed against Sir Henry, on account of the peculiar circumstances in which we were relatively placed, and certain dark hints as to his excesses on the Continent were not quite unwelcome to me, as they tended to justify, to my own mind, the prejudice I had taken against him. The soil was exactly suited to the seed, and my dear Marian Smith was a cunning cultivator !

” Her brother sometimes came to Derby, to pay ‘ a flying visit’ to his sister, and when she inquired after Sir Henry, in my hearing, his chief reply was the significant ‘ shrug and sigh,’ which in their very silence, spoke Encyclopedias.

” I had half made up my mind to refuse the hand of Sir Henry; but the Smiths had no wish that such should be the issue of the adventure. To throw the rejection upon him, would require very little trouble; this done, the gallant Captain resolved to gain my hand, and (what he must have coveted as much) my broad lands besides. It is very probable that success would have crowned all this scheming, had not a slight incident completely changed the current of events.

” You may remember that the provisions of the double will made it imperative that Sir Henry Morton should wed me or refuse me, within twelve months after his father’s death. That period had now very nearly elapsed, and my guardians — plain, sensible, matter-of-fact people — who had no doubt that the ‘ very eligible union’ would take place, withdrew me

THE WIDOW’S STORY.

from school, thinking iliat Sir Henry might not ex actly wish to woo his future bride under the surssil. lance of a bevy of ‘ bread and butter misses’ of a boarding school. They came to remove me, and the announcement came on me so very suddenly that dear Miss Smith being accidentally out of the way, I had no opportunity of taking counsel with her, and, in the hurry of removal, I quite forgot to write to her.

” My uncle, to whose house I went, was a plain spoken gentleman, who made my journey most mise rable by a series of jokes upon my coming ‘ change of situation.’ Protestations— even tears were in vain ; he put down every thing with ‘ a little modesty, very natural to your situation, and becomes you exceed ingly !’ I never was so tormented, before.

” Fortunately for me, my aunt was of a different character. She had mixed with the world, and knew what a strange riddle is a woman’s heart. Afier some little hesitation, I told her of my distinct and firm resolution never to marry Sir Henry Morton.

” She was a woman of thoughtful kindness, and looked at events with a desire to find out their causes. With admirable tact, she succeeded in learning how my prejudices against Sir Henry had been fostered. ‘ It is well,’ said she, with a smile, * that this danger ous Miss Smith is separated from you now. I know, from authority indisputable, that her brother has been acting the same part by Sir Henry. It is not difficult to surmise the motives for this double game.’ I pro tested, of course, against all suspicions ; my aunt was too polite not to listen to my warm vindication of Miss Smith, but I could easily see that she remained incre dulous. Must I confess it, my defence of Marian Smith did not quite satisfy myself!

” It now wanted only six weeks of the expiration of the year, and I began to cherish the hope that Sir Henry would not come to demand my hand. I ven tured to hint as much to my aunt, and her answer set all my spirits in a flutter. ‘ Sir Henry doss come. He will be at your cousin’s next week, so make up your mind to be ” wooed, and married, and a’,” with as little delay as possible.’

” I do not know what impulse prompted me, but such as it was, its weight was irresistible. I inter rupted her with — ‘ I have never seen Sir Henry ; let me judge of him, myself unknown. I have promised to spend a week with my cousin, let me go when Sir Henry is there. It may be a wild fancy, but I would like to play the part of Miss Hardeastle, for once. My cousin, I am sure, will readily join in the plot.’

” ‘ Oh, I see,’ said my aunt, ‘ you would Stoop to Conquer. The thought is romantic enough — but if the execution fails you are lost. However, something nay be risked, where much is to be gained. Let it be so, if you will. I must only trust that you will be discreet, and perform with eclat .”

” We drove to my cousin’s, next day. She was delighted to enter into our plot, and arranged so well that, except from my own imprudence, scarcely any chance of discovery was left. This was easily ma naged, as Sir Henry had expressly stipulated, that, being in indifferent health and spirits, his visit was to be so strictly private that no guests were to meet, no visitors to see him.

” He visited Oatlands, therefore, without the re motest idea of seeing me there. He knew that I was i” the neighbourhood. His friend, Captain Adolphus Frederick Smith, with more delicacy than usual, did not accompany him — indeed, he was not invited!

” Ashamed — deeply ashamed of my own credulity, and very distrustful of Marian Smith’s motives, was I when I saw the Baronet. He was about threc-ar.d- twenty, tall and slight in figure, with the air of a man of fashion, and that innate gentleness of manner which, after all, is peculiar to gentle blood. When I looked at his handsome features — his expressive and melancholy eyes — his fine forehead, with its whiteness strikingly relieved by the dark hair which waved over it — I confess that, like Bob Acres’ cou rage, my prejudice ‘ oozed out at my fingers’ ends.’ He was just such a person as the quick and budding fancy of seventeen might love as a man or deify as a hero !

” How awfully had he been slandered ! His intel lectual attainments surpassed those of every one with whom I had ever conversed. His knowledge of books had been corrected and aided by his knowledge of life. Travel had not been thrown away upon him. It may not, with me, have been love at first aight ; but I fancy he awakened something very like it.

” Sir Henry Morton’s personal attractions, con siderable as they were, formed the very least of his merits. His melancholy mien — the thoughtfulness that brooded on his pale cheek and in the dark beau ty of his eye — the gentleness, the tenderness of his manner — the mournful sweetness of his low, sad voice — the eloquence of his impassioned words — all combined to make him rather too interesting an ac quaintance.

” We soon became friends. His melancholy some times brightened into a smile, as he listened to the wild and girlish sullies which fell from my lips; for, I know not how, while my actual spirits were at zero, my seeming spirits were as high as fever-heat. We walked together — we conversed together — until at last, the AubIi on his cheek, and the flashing of his eye, and the deepening tenderness of his voice, when we were together and alone, made me suspect that my task was over. I had conquered my own idle prejudices — I trusted now, that I had conquered his

” At last, it was time for me to return, for only two days remained of the fatal year. As the time passed on, Sir Henry had sunk deeper and deeper into gloom, which my presence served but to increase, and yet he was uneasy and unhappy when I was absent.

” I had been introduced to him as a portionless and friendless orphan. Another day, and he would see me in my own character. But how would the change affect him? Would he think lightly of the deception, or would his delicacy shrink from the folly which had sought to make his heart the object of an experiment. With such conflicting doubts, I was almost as much disturbed as himself.

“The crisis came. I was sitting alone in the drawing-room, when Sir Henry entered. He took his seat by my side, as usual, and both were silent for a time. At last, he spoke :

, You leave us, Isabella. You will leave many regrets behind you. I must be pardoned — but before you go, let me tell you how much I love you- N«y, shrink not ! — Your colour changes and you tremble. Are you indeed so angry with me that you will not speak? Pity me, if you cannot forgive.’

” He took my hand and — and I did not withdraw it. One moment’s pause — he looked into my eyes — he saw them filled with tears — his lip was on my burning, blushing check, and I knew — how. exquisite

22*

258 THE WIDOW’S STORY.

the knowledge — that this was love, the ardent and

the true !

” Trembling — blushing — panting — filled with new and delicious sensations, which seemed to crowd the happy feelings of years into that one concentrated moment of delight, I withdrew myself from his em- brace. We were both silent, once again ; but I felt it now was my turn to speak.

” ‘ I can forgive — let us both forget this weakness. To you it can matter little what becomes of me in after life. You will think of me yet, it may be, as one who has amused your idle hours — whose youth may have been her greatest, her only charm. You will forget the friendless orphan, and it is right that you should forget her. Remember, Sir Henry, that you are betrothed. Leave these scenes, where you have forgotten your duty to the dead and your claims on the living, and become, even as your father willed, the husband of one who, far better than myself, has a claim on your affection.’

” ‘ By Heaven !’ he exclaimed, ‘ this will drive me mad. What right had my father to dispose of my hand — how could he fathom the depth of my feelings? No, beloved, let my betrothed, as you call her, take the broad lands that my fathers won at the point of the sword, in the olden days — let the heir of a thou sand years live without wealth, but cherish his pure and first affection as kindly nature dictates. I cannot marry the woman whom I do not love. When the tyrant of ancient days chained the living body to the dead corpse, the union was not more unnatural than that w hich, from the grave, my father would make between hearts which cannot love each other. No, better to die than be party to such an union !’

” He spoke with so much eager vehemence, that I could perceive his mind to be firmly resolved. I could not resist inquiring into the causes of his dislike to the marriage.

” * And is it,’ I said, ‘ only to the manner of this union, as a family compact, in which your heart was not consulted, or to the lady herself, that you object V

” ‘ To both : — my faith plighted without my know ledge — without my consent : this, of itself, would create a spirit of opposition. But the lady — ‘

‘”What of her?’

” ‘ Not much, dearest — only she is as unlike you as possible. If she were not vain and pedantic — at once a coquette and a blue stocking — I could easily forgive her want of personal attractions. But you change colour — perhaps you know Miss Carlisle ?’

‘ * I do, indeed,’ said I, with some bitterness, for although I had expected much, I did not look to have my character drawn in such colours. ‘ I do know her, as well as I know myself.’

” ‘ I am sorry then,’ said he, ‘ that I have spoken thus warmly.’

” ‘ Oh ! it is no matter,’ said 1, ‘ you have drawn her portrait, no doubt, but the shadows predominate. It is somewhat curious, though, that she should have heard not much better of you.’

” ‘ Of me V he inquired, with evident astonishment.

*’ , Yes, that you were a roue in morals — a pre tender in fashion — a clown in manners — and, to crown all, a gambler.’

” ‘ There seems,’ said he, with an air of the great est vexation, ‘there seems to be some strange mis take here. I abhor gambling. I am any thing but a roue : and for my manners, fashion, and attainments they are as you see.’

” He drew himself up, with some stateliness, and paused, as if expecting me to reply. 1 kept silence, and he resumed —

” ‘ What I heard of the lady, I fear is no more than the truth. My informant — ”

” ‘ Was Captain Smith, whose sister daintily drew your character for Miss Carlisle — so it is likely that the misrepresentation has been mutual.’

” ‘ If I thought so — ”

” ‘ You would throw yourself at Miss Carlisle’s feet — become her prcux chevalier for life — and for get the world of protestations you have made me, just now ?”

” ‘ No,’ said he, with a smile, ‘ my resolution is taken, and my only dread now is that I may uncon sciously give pain to one on whom it should not fall. 1 shall see her to-morrow, resign all claim to her hand, and then, if you can wed a man of broken for tunes, my fate is in your bands— my happiness — my life. Isabella ! you cannot, you must not refuse me.’

” My answer was brief — for I was so much affect ed by this proof of the sincerity of his afiection, that I scarcely dared trust myself to speak : —

” ‘ It may be well for all parties, that I decline all answer until to-morrow. See Miss Carlisle, and if you then reject her hand, or rather, if you still decline to offer yours for her acceptance — for, after all, the refusal may come from her — I will — ”

” ‘ Be mine ? Is it so V — But I checked his rap tures, for I heard the carriage wheels. I merely said, ‘ I am going to Miss Carlisle now, and shall hope to see you to-morrow !’ — In five minutes, I was on my way to my own house.

” I reached home late, and found my kind aunt there before me. Pleading fatigue, I hurried to my bed-room, and left her, with curiosity ungratified, quite unconscious of the issue of my experiment.

” The next day was to bring me joy or sorrow. I was pretty confident as to the result — though, at times, knowing how fastidious Sir Henry’s feelings were, a doubt would chill my heart, that he might be disgusted with the Jinesse I had used. But hearts were trumps, and who would not play the bold game?

” My room of audience was the library, and (to keep up my character of a baa bleu,) maps, books, mathematical instruments, were scattered on the ta bles. The floor was strewn with ‘ learned lumber’ from the shelves — a pair of globes were on the table immediately before my seat — in short, the whole apartment was in a state of literary litter; well cal culated to strengthen the impression that I was what well-informed men must hate — a vain, pedantic fe male.

” Sir Henry came — I knew the sound of his foot fall, as he paced down the passage. He was an nounced, and I rose to receive him. A sudden pause before he entered — a slight start as he caught a glimpse of my figure. I had taken care to bave the window curtains drawn, so that in the indistinct light, and the distance at which he sat, it was impossible to distinguish my features.

” Our tete-a-tete was coldly formal. A few sen tences from him — a few monosyllables from me. At last, taking courage, he stated in a most respectful manner that, after due consideration, he had resolved to decline presenting himself as a suitor for my band. He apologized for what he called his ‘ insensibility to my merits,’ but frankly said that his heart w as not his own to offer. He would thus, it was true, abandon

LOCH LOMOND.

worldly fortune, but enough would be left for compe tence ; the world was open to him, to win wealth and fame by his talents, if such he had ; and at all events he was happy in the belief that he could persuade the object of his affection to share his lot, be it gloomy or bright.

” He made this declaration with such manly gen tleness — anxious to spare my feelings, while justify, ing his own — that, while thus resigning me, I felt I loved him more than ever — warmly as such a heart should be loved !

” My thoughts overpowered me. I grew faint, and sank back in my chair. Sir Henry hastily arose, took me in his arms, and supported me to the window. I revived at his touch. He threw up the blinds that I might have air, and the light fell full upon my face — could he trust his sight? He stood in amaze — was it but a dream ? At last, my smile told him all. He threw himself at my feet. — You may be sure he did not plead in vain.

” I spare you the detail of what followed. My

uncle had already taken the precaution of providing a special license — during my absence, my aunt had got me a bridal wardrobe, — there was my dear old friend, the vicar, ready to do his part — so, as all comedies, of life and love, end with a wedding, we were married that evening !

•’ Of the Smiths I never heard more — I never in quired after them. I have been happy as a wife, and never had cause to repent my experiment. Even yet, though years have elapsed since Sir Henry’s death, I cherish the pleasant memory of our happy love.

** Here ends my story. If it has been dull, remem ber that I warned you against expecting other from me.”

Our thanks followed. I am mistaken, indeed, if the story has not made a deep impression on the Major, for I observed him, at the tender scenes, brush away a tear from eyes all unaccustomed to ” the melting mood.”

Written for Uie Lady’s Book.

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