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and undefined yearning grew upon the heart of the proud girl, and she threw herself into a chair, and leaning her head upon both hands, and these upon the table, she wept abundantly. Raising her eyes, she perceived the glove of the secretary lying upon the table beside her; scarcely conscious of what she did, she pressed it to her lips. “Blanch,” exclaimed the secretary, and he was at her feet. One moment he showered kisses upon her unresisting hand, she even murmured his name in one low whisper, then she drew herself up, and motioned him to rise. “Nay, Blanch, you love me. I have long felt it, and you, you are the idol of my idolatry.” “You have the secret of a weak maiden's heart, Sir Secretary, but little will it avail you,” she added almost bitterly, as her native pride returned. “I can bear your scorn, Lady,” said the secretary, rising respectfully to his feet, “but wherever I may go, the memory of this one moment of bliss will be more than a reward for years of exile, years of suffering. The base born secretary hath won the heart of the proud Lady Blanch.” She would have recalled him, she would have uttered one word of kindliness, but it was too late—he was gone.
No one is so accursed by fate,
Two years were past. The haughty Blanch had become the gentle, sympathizing, meekhearted woman. A touching sadness lingered about her air, almost hallowing her singular beauty. The duties of her high-born station were duly performed, and she shared the amusements of the time with a quiet grace that told neither hope nor fear were at variance in her heart. No troublous nor discordant motion disturbed her serene composure.
At first she shrank to confess even to herself the love she bore the noble-minded secretary. But as time wore on, and all the many proofs of his magnanimity, his gentleness and manliness of character came home to her memory, she grew even proud of her love; proud that she had that within herself to perceive and appreciate such qualities in whatsoever station, and then she grew proudly grateful even for the love of the poor secretary, she who had hitherto slighted that of knight and baron bold.
Love, in whatsoever shape, is allied to religion. Most fervently did she kneel at the shrine of
the Virgin, and bless her for these beautiful emotions that carried her out of self, and gave an elevation and freedom to her existence. The consciousness of having awakened the holiest emotions in one high and manly heart, from henceforth invested her with a new and almost religious dignity. A beautiful enthusiasm mingled with the sentiment. She would devote herself to this one ideal. She would hazard no other attachment, but in maidenly seclusion live upon the images the tenderness of this presented. Indeed her proud heart recoiled from all other associations. The love of a gentle and confiding woman, with its perpetual appeals to tenderness and protection, must be dear, very dear to a manly heart; but then it too often lacketh that exclusive and earnest devotion which imparts a last touch of value, its sympathies are too readily excited, and the images of others, faint and shadowy it may be, yet still images, too often sit side by side with the beloved. But the love of a proud woman with its depths of untold tenderness, rarely stirred, yet when once awakened, welling up a perpetual fountain of freshness and beauty, its concentred and earnest faith, its unmingled sympathies, its pure shrine, raised to the beloved, burning no incense upon strange altars, and admitting no strange oblations, the love of such an one should invest manhood with tenfold dignity—should make him feel as a priest in the very presence of the divinity. Blanch had no one to whom she might appeal either for counsel or aid in her solitary life. Sir Ralph was engaged in the wars of that unsettled period, and his pertinacious silence in regard to Roland annoyed and surprised her. His communications were brief, and she felt with pain that an air of coldness pervaded them. He had been her father's friend, and though bluff and somewhat stern, he was brave as a lion, and upright even to romance. Occasionally he spoke of a nephew of his, who shared with him the perils of war, and touched upon his gentle qualities with a sad and yet earnest interest. In reply to an epistle from Blanch, in which she gently hinted the pain she felt at his estrangement, the baron replied in a vein of half playful severity: “I am an old soldier, Blanch. I never knew what fear or dishonour meant. In battle or in principle there is but one way with Ralph, and that is, advance, but when it comes to a woman, by all the saints in the calendar, I never know what is the way. Here is the proud daughter of my best beloved friend, never deigning a smile upon the gallants of the age, and yet deprecating the coldness of an old man like me. Blanch, Blanch, I am no carpet knight, or I might have wild dreams. But I know better. My noble, my generous, my brave nephew, you must see him, Blanch, and yet no, he shall never endure the scorn of any woman. I would have him shun the cold, haughty Blanch, as he would the evil eye.
“I give thee my blessing, child of my friend, and only regret that when beauty was given thee, a heart was withholden. I shall visit thee shortly, and Roland, thy whilom secretary, will be with me, unless his shyness should prevent it, in which case my nephew claims the gentle privilege of seeing thee.” The last paragraph drove the blood from the face of Blanch. A thousand thoughts rushed upon her brain. She would see him only once— she could control her emotions—he would feel that the illusion was over—he might not come— she would forbid him her presence. Then came the wild thrill of pleasure at the thought she should once more hear the tones of his voice, meet the glance of those dark, love-lit eyes. Her reverie closed by a flood of tears. Not many days after, the warder announced the approach of Sir Ralph and his train. Blanch and her maidens descended to the great hall to welcome her old and faithful friend. One glance amid his retainers showed that the secretary had refrained his visit, and she moved onward with a sense of relief. The greeting of the baron was as cordial as his age and long friendship would seem to justify, and then he begged her courtesy in behalf of his nephew. The stranger raised his visor, and Blanch suppressed a cry of surprise. But the cold self-possession of the quondam secretary called into action her maidenly pride, and spite of her varying colour she ushered the way to the audience room with her ordinary composed grace. Sir Ralph was puzzled—he was convinced that each was absorbed in the love of the other, and
he could not understand so much of stately punctilio. After the first ceremony of reception was over, Blanch stepped upon the terrace that she might find relief from her almost suffocating emotions. Roland approached her, but she did not lift her eyes, or betray tokens of consciousness. “Blanch, I have had dreams, wild and romantic dreams of womanly tenderness and devotion, such as I may never hope to realize. A mere boy I put spear in rest for you, and was rewarded with your coldness and scorn. I loved you still wildly, passionately. As a base-born dependant I won the love, ay, Blanch, it is true, I won the love of thy proud heart, and yet was an exile. And now,” he had taken her passive hand in his, “I come not again to encounter scorn, for I feel that I am dear to thee.” Blanch bent her head, and the tears gushed to her eyes—she would have retired, but he gently detained her. “Blanch, I may have been wrong. It may be that thy high-born pride, that spurned a base alliance, was worthy thy high-souled taste. It may be that I e acted too much for love, and would have debased thee in thine own eyes by my selfish romance. It may.” Blanch buried her face in his bosom. * * + * sk + But why detail more. He who had won the proud maiden's love as an humble secretary could not fail to retain it as a brave knight and true. And the legend saith Sir Ralph retracted his reproach that the fates that gave Blanch beauty denied her a heart.
TheRE is no being upon whom the blight of sorrow falls more fearfully than upon a young, enthusiastic woman. To find the bright morning of life suddenly overcast and clouds and darkness shrouding its beauty; to feel the warm sun of affection withdrawn, and the heart wither in the dreary night of desolation, is bitter indeed to all. But man soon forgets affliction, and seeks to do so, while to woman it seems a sacred treasure, and the memory of the dead is dear to her as her own existence.
From the deep stupefaction—for it can hardly be called sleep—which is the refuge of exhausted nature under sorrow, Louisa Hargrave opened her swollen eyes upon a bright spring morning. She was among strangers; for they had conveyed the orphan from her desolate home to the house of a kind neighbour, where she was to remain until the arrival of the relative, selected by the father she had just lost, to supply his place. The distance of the village where she now was from the metropolis in which her uncle resided, and its remoteness from any of the great routes on which the traveller is conveyed with such rapidity from one part of our Union to the other, had rendered it impossible to delay the funeral of her father until the arrival of his brother-in-law, and she had been left dependent, upon the kindness of those who were aliens to her blood, in the first dreary days of her bereavement. Three years before, Louisa had been deprived by death of an assectionate mother, and, as she had the misfortune to be an only child, she had been the sole comfort of her father in his widowed state. Isolated as they were from congenial companionship, for the section of country in which they resided had few inhabitants of their own condition of life, a more than ordinary affection had subsisted between the father and daughter; and when, after a short illness, this sole object of her love was borne from her to the house appointed for all living, she was left alone in the wide world with no nearer relative than an aunt, to the guardianship of whose husband, her father had consigned her. It is vain for us to attempt to withdraw the veil and enter the sanctuary of filial sorrow. Louisa could seldom weep, for the fountain of tears is soon exhausted, and a deep overwhelming grief has few outward manifestations common to lesser woes. She was passive in the hands of those about her, and hardly knew she was quitting the home of so much love, when she was placed in the carriage
and conveyed to the house of the physician from the neighbouring village who had attended her father. Here she was kindly cared for, and left to the free indulgence of her grief, for the good people who were about her had sorrowed themselves, and knew by experience that nature will have her tribute before the voice of consolation can reach the wounded bosom. On the third day after Mr. Hargrave's funeral her uncle arrived, and when he tenderly embraced the stricken orphan and imprinted a parental kiss upon her forehead, she felt less desolate, and thanked Heaven for sending her such a friend. Louisa knew but little of her aunt's family, for she had not seen them for many years, and her recollections of them were those of a very young child; but with these she was not now occupied, and her future destiny was as nothing to her. It was soon decided by her uncle that after the time it was requisite he should remain to look into the affairs of Mr. Hargrave, Louisa should accompany him home and become a member of his family. While Mr. Delford and his niece are accomplishing their tedious journey, we will take the liberty of conveying our reader rather more rapidly, and take a peep at his domestic circle before the arrival of the travellers. Miss Caroline and Miss Susan Delford were seated en robe de chambre by the fire in their own room, engaged in that confidential chat in which sisters occupying the same apartment so often indulge just before retiring to rest. They expected their father and cousin the next day, and the subject under discussion was the reception of the new inmate of their family. “I wonder what sort of a being she is,” said Miss Susan, a young lady of about nineteen years. “Papa with his usual regard for our curiosity says nothing about her, but that she is in great asiliction. Of course she must be vulgar, brought up as she has been among country bumpkins, and seeing nobody but her father, who, according to all accounts, must have been a very odd sort of a genius.” “It is likely she is unpolished enough,” replied her sister, “but she must be made of rough materials indeed if we cannot rub her down a little.” “I must say,” said Susan, “I think it a most quixotic notion in papa to undertake to bring another inmate into the family without consulting his own children. There are enough of us here without her.” o
“But if the poor thing has no other home?” said Caroline. “She could very well be put to boarding school for a year or two, as she is but sixteen. Some of us may be married by that time, and if she must come here at last she will then be a more presentable person than she now is, fresh from the wild woods. Heavens! I shall die with mortification at her exhibiting her gaucherie before our friends.” “But she may not be so very bad after all. The blood of the Hargraves you know—” “Spare me the blood of the Hargraves! If you come to that I have done, for it is mamma's unanswerable argument, and is I believe the only one that would have induced her to take this girl into the house. I wish with all my heart her father had not taken it into his head to die, and inflict his precious daughter upon us. I know I shall hate her.” “Heaven help the poor thing if you undertake to hate her! I am sure I wish as much as you do that our uncle had not died just at this time, when there are so many parties. It is very hard we are to be kept in for a man we hardly knew, but I suppose a few weeks seclusion is all that will be required of us.” “I don't mind the seclusion, for I have had gaiety enough for one season,” said Susan. “It is hard for you, I confess, for a few more brilliant appearances might possibly fix the chains of Mr. Etheredge, your sage admirer, indissolubly.” “Susan, how you talk,” said her sister, “as if I would accept Mr. Etheredge, a man more than twice my age.” “And thrice your wealth. Let me see—he is but about forty-five, the prime of life in the opinion of some folks. Swear you think it so, and let it get to his ears. He is then yours for ever, for he is possessed with a fixed idea of youth.” “Is it possible, Susan,” said her sister, “that with my advantages I need stoop to solicit the admiration of any one, much less of such a man as that? You forget yourself strangely.” “I humbly crave the pardon of your royal highness. I had forgotten that royalty commands, never solicits. Caroline, you are supremely ridiculous when you assume these airs to me, of all people, who know you so thoroughly. But come, we will not quarrel now, for I want to talk about this girl. What shall we do with her?” “Do with her? Why nothing. Let her alone, and she will take care of herself, or leave her to mamma. She can manage her well enough.” “I don't suppose she will have much fortune. My father writes that the estate is smaller than he thought, and the income will be barely enough to cover her expenses. Heigh ho! I am getting sleepy. Caroline, you must do the consolatory part—bend gracefully over the mourner, drop a sympathizing tear, &c. You are so consummate an actress you can get through the part to perfection, while I would bungle it sadly.”
“Susan, you are too bad. Have you really no compassion for her?”
“Assuredly I have——just as much as you—nor more, nor less—good night.” So saying, these amiable sisters retired to their repose.
Their mother, Mrs. Delford, was one of those perfectly selfish persons, numerous, I fear, in every condition of life, though they are less repulsive when their egotism is concealed by the polish of conventional refinement, than when we look upon it in its native ugliness without that silver veil. She was courteous and polite, not that she might gratify others, but that they might be pleased with her. As a girl, she had been spoiled by her parents, and admired by the world, and after her marriage to a kind and affectionate husband, her selfish vanity only enlarged its sphere, enclosing all that immediately concerned herself, in one magic circle in which alone perfection was to be found. Her house and her furniture were vastly superior to those of her neighbours. Her children were the most gifted, the most accomplished, the most healthy (for even this, instead of a source of gratitude to Heaven, was converted into an occasion for boasting) of any family of her acquaintance. No mother was half so devoted, no father half so distinguished. So far the hallucination was only ridiculous, not offensive. But when it led her to decry others, to dilate upon the deficiencies of their establishments, the inferiority of their children, the humbleness of their origin, the defects of their character, the scantiness of their means, it became positive sin; and had she not possessed the tact to discriminate between those to whom such detraction is acceptable, and that smaller class who seek the good instead of the evil in their neighbour's portion, she would soon have appeared to all in her true colours, instead of being considered, as she generally was, “a very agreeable woman, a little vain, perhaps, but knowing the world.” The effect of this character on her family was just what might have been expected from their having been reared under the firm impression of their superiority to the rest of the world. Her eldest daughter, Caroline, now about twenty-one, was very beautiful, but ignorant, selfish and vain. Susan was plain in her appearance, possessed more talent than her sister and more ill-nature, and the younger children (for there was a wide difference in age between Susan and the brother next herself) were spoiled and troublesome. Fortunately for Louisa Mrs. Delford's egotism included, though of course in a minor degree, the relatives most nearly connected with her. She had seen but little of her only brother, Mr. Hargrave, for many years; still his child was her niece, and as such, when she welcomed the sorrowing orphan on her arrival, she felt pleased she could offer a home to one so young and desolate. Her reception by her cousins was less cordial, but Louisa was too much agitated to observe it, and, as she was immediately after attacked by a tedious illness, the result of sorrow and fatigue, she was for many weeks unable to mix at all with the family. Mrs. Delford prided herself greatly on her skill as a nurse, and was devoted to the invalid. Caroline and Susan were as little with her as they could decently be, but as they came now and then to inquire how she was, and Louisa was not of an exacting temper, she saw nothing amiss. After her recovery, however, she began to perceive by little and little the real state of their feelings towards her. Her aunt began to criticise one thing, her cousins another, and all blamed the indulgence of the grief she regarded as a sacred tribute to her father's memory; a totally different standard of right was exhibited to her, and she felt as in a kind of uneasy dream from which she hoped she might soon awake, and find her faculties relieved of the chain that was weighing upon them. Her father, a man of superior education and sincere piety, had been anxious that his only child should combine the graceful attributes of womanhood with strength of character and devotion to duty. But man can poorly estimate the peculiar trials to which woman is most frequently subjected, and his error had been, that he encouraged rather than repressed the extreme sensibility and ardent imagination of his child, and while he felt the charm they threw around his own existence, forgot that these same endowments might one day be productive of misery to herself. The Miss Delfords were greatly surprised to find in their country cousin a grace and refinement of manner that was seldom surpassed by their fashionable associates, and as she had seen nothing of the world, and had never learned to dance, they were quite at a loss to know how this polish had been acquired. Their mother said it was to be ascribed entirely to the Hargrave blood, and with this explanation, for want of a better, they were obliged to be contented. Still they did not like her. Susan, in particular, true to the prejudice she had taken up before seeing her cousin, was not at any pains to conceal how little she was pleased with the addition to the family circle. Louisa felt this keenly, and finding her cousins would not let her love them, would fain have turned towards her aunt, and poured forth upon her the affection her heart was yearning to bestow, but any exhibition of it was repelled by the cold and polished exterior from which it would glance like the reflected sunbeam. Her uncle was always kind and considerate, but he was much absorbed in business, and she was consequently but little with him. The three months seclusion which Mrs. Delford required from her daughters had now passed, and the glowing brightness of summer was sending the fair and fashionable from the heated town to the still more heated rooms and crowded halls of the different watering places. The Miss Delfords were allowed to join a party of friends who were visiting Saratoga, and here the beautiful Caroline riveted the chains of her admirer, Mr. Etheredge, and on her return engaged to marry
THE COUSIN S. 21
him during the ensuing autumn, notwithstanding her repeated assertions that she would never think of him. Susan had apparently made no conquest, and the asperity of her criticisms upon more successful belles was not abated. She knew she was not handsome, but she thought her wit, fashion and consequence more than compensated for that defect. Unfortunately for herself, her temper displayed itself rather more plainly than she was aware of, and frightened away those who might have been attracted by her other advantages. She fully appreciated the motives that induced her sister to accept Mr. Etheredge's addresses, and though she gave out to the world, as is usual on such occasions, that she was delighted with the match, yet in private she uttered many a bitter jest upon disinterested affection, the charm of a first love, &c. &c., which were any thing but agreeable to her sister. Mrs. Delford was really pleased, for the gentleman was wealthy and of good family; that he was rather old and personally uninteresting was Caroline's concern, and as she never dreamed that her daughter could do wrong, she took it for granted she loved him quite as well as was necessary. Mr. Delford, who, though a sensible man, saw with his wife's eyes, and heard with her ears, was entirely satisfied, so that preparations for the marriage were immediately commenced. -But what a contrast did the gay excitement that now pervaded the family afford to the dark and desolate feelings of the orphan, who was among them though not of them. With no one about her who noticed her sadness but to chide its indulgence, none with whom she could, as it were, live over again the happy past, by dwelling on its brightness, her heart seemed frozen within her, and had it not been for her trust in Him who is the Father of the fatherless, she would have sunk entirely under the chilling influences that surrounded her. A portion of her father's well chosen library had been, by her own request, sent after her, and among them were some of his favourite religious authors, which she now read with great profit. In all the books were many passages marked by his own hand, and these seemed to speak to her as if from himself. Still, though religion may shed her heavenly light upon the mind, and the gifted dead may speak to us through their glowing pages, the human heart sighs for human love and the sympathy of the living, and pines and languishes without it. But Louisa did not allow her own sadness to prevent her being as useful as she could be to her aunt and family on this great occasion, and she soon found that she gained more of their good will by the interest she was forced to feign (for she could not feel it), in dress and fashions, and her really exquisite taste in furniture, decorations, &c., than she had done since she had been with them. Caroline's wedding was indeed a brilliant affair, and most amusing was the account given of it by Susan to Louisa (who had not been present) after