صور الصفحة
PDF

white hands? Ah, poor me ! hew sorry I feel! Is there no ehanee for me yet, think you?"

"Never mind, Miss Frank," said Clara, hiting her lip with vexation; "I '11 be revenged for this: just wait! I only hepe you will fall desperately in love with him!"

u I hepe I may," said Frank, laughing. "I do so long for somo exeitement!"

The bell rang ere Clara eould frame an answer, ind a servant entered with a eard.

"Perey Bryan, as I live, Frank!"

"The old saw verified," remarked the girl, quietly.

"For shame, Frank! Did he ask for me or • the ladies, ' Themas?"

"The ladies, ma'am. He mentioned Miss Cushman"

"There now, Frank! you must go and dress; only be quiek, there's a darling."

"I shall do no sueh thing," was the eomposed reply. "I might dress for a lady; but for a gentleman—oh no, thank you!"

"Why, Frank, that is too had!" eried Clara, angrily. "Perey Bryan is the very model of eleganee, and fastidious to a degree. Only just imagine yourself going down in that herrid wrapper, and your hair in that plight!"

"My dear Clara, the wrapper was not eonsidered herrid at breakfast, I believe. On the eontrary, if I reeolleet rightly, Mr. Hastings partieularly admired it; and, as for my hair, really I theught I had arranged it quite nieely." Aud Frank walked towards the tall mirror and smoothed, with her small fingers, the raven mass parted so plainly on her fair white brow.

Fanny Ashton had been wrong in her assertion that Frank Cushman possessed no style; she had a very deeided one; and, when she had finished speaking, she took from the arm of the sofa a erimson eashmere, and, folding it about her graeeful figure, ealmly followed Clara into the drawing-room, to be introdueed to the irresistible Perey Bryan.

She saw, at a glanee, that she had formed a wrong idea; but, with somewhat of perverseness, perhaps, seated herself at a distanee, and answered in quiet monosyllables, a lurking smile just betraying her dimples, now and then, as she eould not but see hew worried, hew angry poor Clara grew.

Perey Bryan might, indeed, have typified extremest eleganee; for every movement of his fine form was replete with unstudied graee, and every word he uttered told flatteringly upon the ear; every feature of his handsome faee beamed with subdued vivaeity when he spoke, with the utmost deferenee when others were speaking. Unlike some men, whe eonvey by every word and motion hew far beyond the rest of the world they deem they have gone in the art of good-breeding, and whese eonstant aim is to produee on all around an overpowering impression, Perey Bryan no sooner entered an assemblage than the atmosphere of perfeet ease,

whieh he earried about him, seemed to diffuse itself through the room, to the eomfort and self-satisfaetion of everybody. Then he was, as Clara had said, gifted and talented, and faseinating; and, when we have enumerated all these various and exeellent qualities, we were a most ungrateful member of soeiety to pronounee him kollote-heetted.

But what was all this to Frank Cushman? What mattered it that his speaking eyes eonstantly sought hers, so resolutely veiled beneath their sweeping fringes that, on her merest remark, his fine head bent towards her with marked deferenee and profound respeet? Perfeetly independent as regarded her own aetions, it suited her now to be silent; and silent she was through the whele of that rather long morning eall.

Perey Bryan had been so aeenstomed to be eourted, to see bright eyes grow brighter, and sweet smiles sweeter, on his approaeh, that, perhaps for the first time sinee boyheod, he experieneed the sensation of amazement, in thinking over the heur just passed, while pursuing his way to eall on the AshAons.

"Singular, verg, this Miss Cushman 1 Remarkably eolleeted and eool''—as a eueumber, he would prohably have added, had Perey, Bryan ever imagined sueh an inelegant eomparison. "Not beautiful, eertainly; and yet she is, when she lifts these splendid eyes, or speaks. I must see more of her," was his eoneluding refleetion, as he rung the bell at Ashton's residenee.

Sarah Ashton was alono in the drawing-room. It had beeome quite an understood thing for the family group to seatter, when Perey Bryan entered the front door.

She was sitting at the piano, and trying to look eool, and seem absorbed in the song before her; still, before she raised her head to greet the visitor, whe had not spoken yet, the warm eolor stole *up to her temples, and down to her snowy throat, just diselosed by the gossamer fold of laee about the neek of her simple, yet exquisitely beooming morning-dress.

Sarah's beauty was of that superior kind whieh asserts its elaims instantly. No one eould presume to dispute that her eomplexion was not faultless, that her large and liquid eyes were not matebless, that her features were not all formed with the most ehiselled exaetness, and her figure with perfeet symmetry. Still, her style was not peeuliar; and, theugh few equalled her in the purity of their eharms, many might be found, the eharaeter of whese beauty, more or less, resembled hers.

She was intelligent and amiable, with a large dash of romanee in her eomposition, and somewhat singular, withal, from the warmth and simplieity of her nature; she had felt the world's breath, but had no! reeeived it, and this had formed her attraetion in Perey Bryan's eyes. For the last few days, he had almost been temptod to launeh his hark on the untried sea of matrimony; but the preeeding half

[merged small][ocr errors]

hour had startled htm somowhat; he shrunk haek from the dreaming house, passed hat so lately. He said to himself, " Do not be in too great a hurry: wait awhile."

CHAPTER IV.

"Oh. mueh I fear thy guileless heart, its earnestness of

feeling,

Its passions and its sympathies to every eye revealing;

I tremble for that winning smile and trusting glanee of thine,

And pray that none .but faithful ones may bow before thy shrine."—J. G. WHnrrra.

"Joy for the present moment! joy to-day!
Why look we to the morrow?"—Sar0ext.

Fanrr Ashron, with her own toilet eompleted for Mrs. Hastings's party, stood by her sister's dressingtable assisting, advising, and ehattering.

"Perey Bryan not going with you, Sarah! That's

odd, very!"

"I do not think so," said Sarah, laughing faintly, as she fastened a rose-bud in ber beautiful hair. "-Why should it be more singular than that Cousin Harry, or Tom Stephens, or—or any of the gentlemen we know, are not going with me?"

.'.Why, indeed? I'm sure I eannot tell, if you do not know. Of eourse, you understand your own affairs best. Only"

"Only what?"

"Oh, nothing; only that lovers are generally more attentive than the one in this instanee."

"A ioeer, Fanny! How perfeetly absurd! No one but yon would make sueh a speeeh!" said Sarah, reddening angrily.

"Well, my dear sister, we won't quarrel about terms; only, if he is not, in my humble opinion, he ought to be! I hope you have more spirit than to allow any man to trifle with you."

Sarah was silent. She would not for the world, and more espeeially at this time, have betrayed her feelings; so she ehoked down the rising emotion resolutely, and affeeted to be oblivions to her sister's insinuations.

Fanny Ashton had no idea how keenly her words struek home. She was indignant at Bryan, disgusted at what she supposed a proof of his fiekleness: her anger exhausted, she beeame ealm again, and offered her sister the loan of Tom Fenton's spare arm—Tom Fenton was her aeknowledged lover— and Sarah laughingly aeeepted it.

Still, when Fanny found herself in the dressingroom at Mrs. Hastings's, her vexation returned.

"Is it not too had, mamma, that Sarah should hare no aUendaneo? She, who has always mado her entrie with sueh ielai, to be deprived of a beau . to-night, beeause of that hated Perey Bryan's eapriees! I f he had not been so eonstantly in waited

ing lately, it would make no differenee; but now there will be a world of remarks, partieularly as I happen to know he is here to-night, and alone!"

"How do you know that?"

"Oh, never mind, mamma; trust to woman's wit to find out all she seeks to know."

"Well, dear, it eannot be helped; and really I do not see that it matters. I ean make an exeellent ehaperone: and, onee in the room, she will be surrounded: that must always be, with her beanty."

"Oh, pshaw!—I beg pardon, mamma. But, if we were not in a erowded dressing-room, I would deliver a long dissertation on the evils to whieh Bryan has subjeeted poor Sarah by his trifling. No one likes to play seeond fiddle—no one likes to be very attentive to a girl who has been jilted."

"Fanny, I am ashamed to hear you talk thus! Who has been jilted? Not Sarah Ashton, I am suro !" replied Mrs. Ashton, all a mother's pride in arms.

"What on earth are you talking about?" said Sarah, eoming over to the dark eorner where they . stood. "You eannot see to do anything here, I am sure; and, Fanny, Tom will be tired waiting."

"Let him wait, then—till I am ready," Fanny replied, applying herself slowly to the arrangement of her toiletIt was not a eonspieuous position, by any means, that Frank Cushman had ohosen; nevertheless, before the sisters had greeted their hostess, both had remarked her slight, graeeful figure seated on an ! ottoman, and, standing beside her, the tall form of Perey Bryan.

"There!" Fanny exelaimed, involuntarily, and her penetrating eyes eneountered her sister's. Her exelamation, her look, touehed the prideful heart . Sarah drow up her stately figure, the beautiful head ereeted itself haughtily, and the short, red upper lip assumed its regal air.

"Bravo!" Fanny whispered; and Sarah eould have smiled, had not her heart weighed down so heavily, when sho eaught a glimpse of herself in a splendid mirror.

Five minutes after, her merry laugh floated on the fragrant air. She started, it sounded strangely, not part and pareel of herself; and so it was with every word she uttered, every laugh that broke from her lips that evening. Many were round her, and soft and earnest the tones ministering to her vanity; but their idle eompliments wearied her, and eonstant were the efforts she made to reply to thom, to earry on the faree eommeneed. Onee she disengaged herself for a moment, and stood quiet and alone. Her sister's voiee aroused her.

"Well, I give up, Sarah; she M pretty; there's no denying it—faseinating! But I do not like her, for all—prejudiee, perhaps—but I think her vain: only wateh her !*' "Who?"

"Who? What a question! Frank Cushman! And you are looking straight at her, and ask me who."

"I beg pardon, sister; but I did not bear what you were saying. Some one's dress"

"Oh, pshaw! Why you are erazy to-night, Sarah!"

The fair girl eolored vividly.

"What did I say? I was absent . Hare I made myself ridieulous?"

"No; as it was only to me you were speaking. But pram garde, I implore you!" she whispered, as Perey Bryan moved towards them.

Little Amy Bryan stood under the ehandelier, with rosy eheeks, and ehattered volubly to a knot of admirers.

"Oh, I think she is superb! How ean you say she is not? Sarah Ashton said she was beautiful; but I didn't believe it, beeause she deelared she had no eolor, and none of us eould faney beauty without that. But it's just as she said; you never think of it . How desperately smitten Perey seems! How niee it would be to have her for a sister!"

"So, Miss Amy, you do not eontemplate the possihility of your brother ever being an unsueeessful suitor?"

"Oh dear, no !" replied the little lady. "Why, if Perey were to make love to an angel, she would have to roturn it! Why, though I am his sister, I am sure I shall never like another man like him."

Then, of eourse, followed various gallant lamentations over sueh heart-rending intelligenee, in the midst of whieh some one observed—

"And Sarah Ashton—what has happened there? I thought Perey was all devotion."

"What nonsense !" eried Amy, reddening. "That was only a 0irtation."

"I wonder," said the same gentleman, smiling, and glaneing at Frank Cushman, now thoroughly animated, and talking to Perey Bryan with great spirit—" I wonder if that is only a flirtation? and, if so, whieh will win the game, Miss Cushman or your brother?"

"No one ean exeel Perey, when he ehooses to exert himself," was Amy's reply.

"Ah, that is the thing; any one ean do that whieh one exerts one's self to do. But Miss Cushman seems to have the power to win her will without any extra trouble. What she is, she is, beeause she eannot help it; and she does not look as if any motive eould be suffieiently strong to tempt her from her originality. I like her exeeedingly!" And the gentleman sauntered off towards tho objeet of his remarks.

Fanny Ashton had been fearful that her sister would diselose her wounded feelings in a eonversation with Perey Bryan. She was thereforo surprised at her perfeet eomposure when he addressed

her; nothing in her tones, looks, or words whieh eould eonvey to the speetator that they were on other than the most indifferently friendly terms.

Then, with the impetuosity of her nature, she went to the other extreme; she was thoroughly vexed that Sarah had not been more dignified and reserved'—had not shown plainly her full appreeiation of his eonduet . She was wrong, and Sarah right .

The impulse of a noble woman guided Sarah eorreetly; her feelings, regulated and subdued by true pride, were too delieato to obtrude themselves: she was almost the same as she had been in the early stages of their intimaey. The one sad thing in this was not pereeptible, but, nevertheless, existing. She had not only taken a step forward in life, but, in so doing, some of youth's fresh bloom was lost from her spirit: inevitable eonsequenee, and a wise one, perhaps; but sad, for all.

She was glad, after he had gone from her, that she had met him: she suffered, but she was ealm; her delirious, flighty gayety exhausted her: now sho moved about attended by her full faeulties; before all was eonfusion. Yes; she was glad she had eonversed with him.

Frank Cushman talked peeuliarly. There was nothing eonventional in her form of eonversation; it differed from the eurrent eoin, in that its tone was higher and superior; still, no one eould have aeeused ber of pedantry; indeed, there was mueh more of sentiment than of intelleet about her. She was not affeeted either; both her language and mannor were perfeetly simple; one only felt a pervading sense of the beautiful diffused, as it were, through the air around her, through her being.

Besides, Frank was both independent and dependent in her nature: not sneh an anomaly as it may seem. Independent in her thoughts, her viows, her line of aetion, so long as her spirit stood alone, from a eonseiousness that there was nothing on whieh to lean; but ready, the moment sueh a stay offered, to yield all and repose. Tho yearning of her life was for repose: should she never find it? Perfeet trust must be so delightful; yet sho had never felt it .

Though, as a girl, she had devotedly loved Philip Arden, she had never for a moment felt that she eould give up the direetion of her life to him. What! a man who eould not govern himself a fit support for her? Absurd! And yet she loved him, and not as a brother, she felt assured; the stream of tenderness ran too deeply. "But I do not respeet him suffieiently," she said. "I know him too thoroughly. If he eould only eoneeal from me his faults of disposition!—but no; all is open to me as the day." Yet sho eould not but aeknowledge that, if ever he learned to govern himself, then Philip Arden for her against the world! One thing was eertain though—she would not marry him unless he did.

Perey Bryan she liked; but she eould never love him. Ho might be more elegant than Philip, moro intelleetual, perhaps—he was also less strong. Ho might lead many through life with happiness, and

[merged small][ocr errors]

eommand their respeet, too; but not her, with her strong mind, and strong feelings, and deep eapahilities. What was love without respeet—almost veneration? She eould not eoneeive of it.

When the lost guest had departed, and Clara would fain hare detained her in the eomfortable lounging-ehair by the fireside, to talk over the events of the evening, she hastily bid her goodnight, and ran up to her room. She throw on her dressing-gown and seated herself before her toilet in a largo arm-ehair; taking the eomb from her hair, and suffering her magnifieent tresses to fall over her neek and shoulders, she leaned haek in abandonment . She felt so weary; as if life was sueh a faree, and its aetors so pitiable 1 She often felt thus, but was not wont to give way to her emotions. She know that sueh thoughts were opposed to religion; that religion whieh her exeellent mother had striven so long to instil into her heart . She blessed God for a pious mother, without whieh she thought she had been in danger of straying into those easy paths whieh an imaginative, speeulative mind lays out so eonstantly and involuntarily. She felt sometimes that she was like a perverse ehild— every way but the right way. She had imposed on herself this trial, this going from home; now she shrank from it; she felt herself looking forward to the future. After all, Philip might not be ehanged! What was there to alter him? And, then, what was to be done? Frank forgot Divine ageney, whieh direets and eontrols human ageney; she was giving up to her usual unbelief and uuresisting nature. But . after all, it is very hard for the natural human heart to see a way for the aeeomplishment of its hopes. We may not eondemn her.

She was sleepless that night; the struggle between impulse and prineiple wearied her, yet, at the same time, drove repose from her. Taking up a peneil, she strove to release herself from the troublesome bondage of thought by eommitting it to paper.

"I do not see why I should feel it ineumbent on xne to destroy my happiness with mine own hand— to leave seareely a ehanee for brighter days I And yet I eannot shake off my mother's influenee. She hade me ask my own heart if, in the faee of Heaven, I eonld wed a man who feared not his Maker, and thus, by my aetions, dare the misery sure to follow? And, when I did so, my heart answered, * I would dare anything,-' but my eonseienee—that it waa whieh restrained me.

"But oh, when I think, it seems so ealeulating to love environed by sueh restraints! My impulse hide me beeome Philip's, and trust to fate; my prineiples hid me rejeet him, and trust my happiness to Providenee!

"Why are my nature and my edueation made to war so eonstantly? And yet I shame to ask the question: I should rather bless God that it is so!

"Oh, how solemnly I deelared my intention to forsake him! I know I eould not do so now; but,

just then, the passions of the heart were still, subdued by the effeet of a mother's prayer. Just then, all I desired was to do right, and leave the rest with Heaven. It hath passed—that momont; I fear I shall never feel so again,''

CHAPTER V.

\ u Her faee was hidden in her hands; but tears

Triekled through her slight fingers—tears, those late
Vain tributes to remorse.*'

"My desolation does begin to make
A better life!"

Thr next fow months were passed by Frank in a whirl of gayety.

'Her sister, Mrs. Hastings, was a fashionable woman, living handsomely, frequenting exeellent soeiety; giving, herself, many extravagant parties, and ealled upon, in return, to bestow the light of her eountenanee on the assemblies of her friends— so ealled.

Frank was somowhat bowildered; she forgot her depression in eonstant exeitement; right and wrong were not so elearly defined as they wero wont to be. She was now—she queened it, as Sarah Ashton had predieted: she even did that for whieh she had always expressed the most supreme eontempt—she flirted! and with Perey Bryan!

With the young ladies she was therefore uupopu\ lar; but the gentlemen, aeeording to eustom, adored her, or profe**ed to adore. Her style of dress was pronouneed whimsieal and outlandish by the ladies; by the gentlemen, unique and refreshing.

"Would you believe it?" said Amy Bryan, one morning, quite eonfidentially, to a knot of girls who had gathered around her—"would you believe it? I went with brother yesterday to eall on Miss Cushj man—a formal morning eall, mind you Well, wo I eaught her in the drawing-room! Caught, I say, > beeause she looked as if attired for some tragio f representation; her long hair eurled, I suppose f Perey would eall it, but I should say waving upon } her shoulders, and a shawl thrown around her. \ Then she was seated in a lounging-ehair, with her \ eyes elosed, and humming some sentimental song; ] and the strangest thing of all was, that she didn't \ express the slightest apology, or show any eonfuj sion, but got up, looking as pale and eomposed as ; though we had found her in the most elegant \ nigligie. Well, what do you think Perey said, after i all? That he admired her dress a thousandfold \ more than mine! Than mine.'" Amy repeated, \ glaneing down at her rieh silk dress and elegant . velvet eloak—at her eostly sahies, and most reI eherehi and beeoming little bonnet! i "I left Perey there," she eontinued, after the j various eomments had been expended. "He grow Ro empreat, that I was frightened lost he eheuld make a deelaration while I was present!"

Amy possessed all her brother's fiekleness; she had early taken a jealous dislike to Frank Cushman; and, while she was pouring forth what she had seen, and heard, and theught, Perey was making the offer of his hand to the uneonseious objeet of her remarks.

And hew Frank started! She had trod the samo ground before; but never to feel the aeute sting of eonseienee rising up to tell her hew weak she had shewn herself—hew she had departed from her staudard of right!

"Is it possible that I have given enough eneouragement for this V she said; and then she eould not but answer, yes. A vivid reeolleetion of hew her time had been spent for many weeks presented itself with uupleaeing distinetness: the long mornings lounged away in Clara's own quiet sittingroom, where the sentimental song blended with the breathings of the harp or guitar, beguiled the swiftfooted heurs. Or the books whieh he was eonstantly bringing to read to her, while she busied herself in some quiet feminino oeeupation, listening to his deep, rieh voiee and animated remarks. Then the noonday walk or drive, and the evening meeting again at some erowded party or shewy eoneert, where many eyes were upon them, watehing her undisguised preferenee to his soeiety above all others.

And now, after all this, she was to say "No;" for instantly she felt it eould be no other word; and tears of shame and eontrition were aehing in her eyes, whieh must not be shed.

Ho heard her quietly, not ealmly, and left her. Perhaps he felt he deserved hor rejeetion; perhaps he remembered—for, in his heart, he felt he had been trifled with—that on him, also, the eharge might be laid.

Dashing away the blinding tears, Frank rushed from the room: on the stairs, a servant handed her a letter; elosing her door, she threw herself on her knees and tore it open. Well she knew the handwriting; but she read it slowly, for her eyes were dim, and she eould not see the lines her tears were blotting so sadly. It ran thus:—

"You forhade my writing to you, Frank—dear Frank!—but you must forgive mo that I eannot obey.

What was it that you said to mo that took from me my life, and strength, and energy—whieh plaeed an obstaele between our union whieh I feared eould not be ovoreome?

"You eould not marry me as I was; one whe had so little eontrol over self: I must be ehanged.

"' Hopeless!' I said to myself. 'Has it not been my eonstant, unavailing effort, sinee ehildheod, to keep my temper in subjeetion, and now, at five-andtwenty, what eneouragement have I to proeeed V

"For weeks after you had gone, Frank, I was ! mad, wild; and my temper, the very thing whieh j had sent you away from me, was destroying me! "Frank, did you ever thank God that he had given you a pious mother 1 That, morning and I evening, through all your life, one had knelt to plead for you, to eall blessings on your path? Oh, if you have not, do so now!

"They did not tell you hew the fever in my veins brought on delirium; hew days passed in eeaseless agony; or hew one knelt by my side and prayed for me. How, through all my madness, that kneeling figure haunted me; and, when I woke from that long, dreadful dream, still it was there, wittT its ealm eyes and heavenly peaee. It was your mother! When I looked on her the fever stayed; when I listened to her words a hely yearnmg was born in me, and over the struggles of my soul, beyond heurs and days to eome of eomhat and trial, lay the etrength for whieh I had wished. It was still in the future; but what of that? I had reeeived the deep, the sineere desire to possess it, and that, with the help of Heaven, must prove its surety.

"And oh, hew different the motives with whieh I regarded the future struggle from these with whieh, in former days, I strove to subdue my passions! Be not offended, Frank, when I tell you higher, purer motives now animate me. My theughts before were,' Give me Frank, and I have Heaven!" Now I feel, 'Give me Heaven, and I shall win my Frank!'

"I said to your mother, 'Now I have found the way to eonquer; but you must aid me still by your prayers, and Frank also. I will write, and ask her not to forget me in her morning and evening petitions to Heaven.'" j Frank dropped the letter with a feeble, wailing s ery. "While he has been struggling, what have I ! been doing? While he was lying in siekness, in j pain, where was I? Oh, Philip! you have been

faithful, but I"

\ "Frank, I am well now; I am mingling again j with life, and find hew hard it is to be in the world. ( yet not of it. But by my side an angel walks, and \ your memory makes me strong. In the evenings I \ go to your mother, and she is ever ready to aid me

> by her eordial eonverse. Sometimes I ask her if I

> am ehanged—if Frank ean respeet and trust me

> now? And then she smiles, and, pressing her hand 5 upon my sheulder, says, with inexpressible affeetion, s 'My son!'

i ".Do these words eonvej to your mind all that j they do te. mine? Sueh fulness of joy, sueh serene, j unelouded hepe?

J "You see, I do not write as theugh I feared a { ehange in you. When a doubt obtrudes, I think of i your last fervent kiss; I feel it now. I measure you by myself: lea devotion I eould not believe j you eapable of."

« السابقةمتابعة »