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and Susan too could admire him and enjoy his society, yet be as gay as ever when he is gone— while I feel as if the light of life had departed with him, and only wish that I had been laid at rest beside my parents before I knew what a cold heartless region this world was.” The family affected not to notice the deep depression of Louisa as she moved among them in her usual avocations, though it was evident to all. They would frequently banter Susan on the loss of her favourite, and though it was painful to herself, she enjoyed the sharper pang she knew each gay jest inflicted on her cousin. But Louisa was by degrees gaining a support of which the other knew but little; it was that of a well-grounded religious faith, that led her to cling more closely to the arm that chastened her, and to feel each day that she was more and more a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth. Mr. St. Leger had not been absent many weeks before Louisa was surprised by receiving a very flourishing offer of his hand and heart from Mr. Lomond, and on her declining the unexpected honour, he assumed the air of a much injured man, and abused her as a flirt and a coquette. She was, however, relieved from his annoying attentions, and for that she was thankful. Whether we are sorrowful or happy, time still passes on, and six weary months had moved over the sad Louisa, when Mary Egerton again claimed her. In her letters she had been careful not to betray that she had experienced any trials of a more than ordinary nature, and Mary was therefore much surprised to observe the change that so short a time had wrought in the appearance of her friend. She was not long in winning from Louisa the story of her sorrows, for sympathy is a master key that can unlock the most secret portals of the heart. With her quick apprehension she soon came to the conclusion that some art had been used to separate two beings she thought formed for each other, and determined, if possible, to unravel the mystery. Her efforts were successful, and by an apparent accident she learned that the unsuspicious St. Leger had been induced by Susan Delford to believe that a strong attachment subsisted between Mr. Lomond and Louisa—that her aunt objected to the match, and that this was the reason of Louisa's restrained and distant manner to her lover. The same busy mischief-maker had whispered into Lomond's ear a hint of a secret liking and a handsome independence possessed by Louisa. His open reprobation of her conduct had afforded the clue by which the whole was discovered. As soon as it was all clear to Miss Egerton, she at once determined, with her father's approbation,
to keep Louisa with her, provided Mr. Delford would yield to such an arrangement. He had long seen that Louisa was not happy in his house, and as she was now nearly of age, he consented that she should select her own residence.
Here Louisa's faded cheek once more bloomed under the fostering care of her kind protectors, and here, within a year after her change of abode, she was united to Mr. St. Leger. Our readers may imagine the most romantic reunion they can devise. We cannot describe it.
Many years have passed since Louisa's marriage; sons and daughters of beauty are now blooming around her, and in their love, the warm attachment of her husband and the regard of a numerous circle of friends, she no longer feels this world to be the cold and cheerless dwelling it once was to her. Her warm affections, then so chilled, now throw a radiance on all about her, and while the sorrows of her youth make her more deeply grateful for the happiness of her maturer years, she acknowledges their value in having led her to the true source of all consolation. After her marriage, by which she was placed in a situation of wealth and influence, she was much caressed by her aunt's family, and at one time had hopes that she might realize Miss Egerton's wishes, and lead them to adopt higher views and aims in life. But when selfishness and worldliness obtain full possession of the soul, it must be more than human power that can drive them forth, and it was only on Caroline, who felt some compunctious visitings when she contrasted the devotion of her cousin to her domestic duties, with her own neglect of them, that she obtained any real influence; but even then, it was far from being such as she desired. Susan Delford is advancing in life unloved and unhonoured. With no resources that render single life respected, she is a censorious, envious old maid. The secret of her conduct to Louisa was whispered about, and gained for her the obloquy she deserved. After the death of her parents, she would gladly have entered the family of one of her married sisters, but Caroline was too selfish to think of sacrificing her domestic ease to a sister who had always delighted to mortify her, and the temper of Sophia too closely resembles her own for any concord to be hoped for between them. She therefore wanders from one boarding house to another, quarrelling with all her hostesses, and fomenting disputes among the lodgers; and as she passes among the gay and blooming of her native town, they shrink from her side, for she has often been held up to them as a warning against the danger of indulging in a love for detraction.
If one had been listening at the door, or in the well-lined closet of a small, pretty chamber, at the window of which the friendly wind was lifting now and then the white looped curtains, that the green leaves of a clustering vine might take a better peep at the scene within—if, as I say, one had been listening, (which I confess would have been a very improper thing!) they might have heard the rosy-cheeked occupant and mistress of all she surveyed, exclaim, “Boston, dear Boston!” in the true a la Kemble style. But to tell a story well, it is quite important to commence well. So let me answer three inquiries about this rosy-cheeked maiden, which I know are trembling on the tongue of the gentle girl, or more lordly but as curious youth, who may be whiling away a moment over this tale.
In the first place, her name; in the second, was she engaged; in the third, where did she dwell? She was called at that quite unpleasant, but I suppose very necessary period, introduction, “Miss Elizabeth Grey.” But with those who knew and loved her well, 'twas simply “Lizzy.” Was she engaged? If the course of a small black chain about her fair neck had been followed from the neat gold clasp which fastened it, the questioner would have met a locket, which opening by a spring, showed the fine features of seemingly a very young man. They could not have been those of her dear father, for the hair was beautifully dark, and slightly curling over his open brow —her father's locks were gray with years. Lizzy had no brother, and it may well be said that it looked suspicious, very — that miniature of a stranger placed so near her heart. But if it were necessary to bring more proof, look out with me upon the green below the window of the pretty chamber I have told you of before, and watch the eager spring of a horseman to the ground, and tell me if he look not very much like a lover, such as you may have heard of when your heart stirred within you with the first romance of youth. A long while they have been separated—a day. And now he is looking up to catch a glimpse of a sweet face, which he knows will glance a look of love upon him soon, through the green lattice-work of leaves, that seem to her to be always murmuring his name. Ah! there it is. The eyes are softer than they were when we first looked upon them, and “‘Francis, dear Francis,” is now upon her lips.
What could one wish more to teach them that
Lizzy's lot in life was fixed—that the future was to her one beautiful perspective of bright and joyful scenes in which that dark-haired youth and herself would wander with ever fresh and glowing love. Yet to remove all doubt, I will say that the village belles and beaux had received the news of Lizzy Grey's engagement to Francis Low from good authority—Mrs. Stone, a lady very much interested in the prospects of all her friends, who had seen them twice walking arm in arm up the main street! My reader will agree with all who heard this fact (and these were soon all the village) that nothing more could be said about the matter.
Every one knows that New England claims a noble river which waters its western section. Upon the Massachusetts bank of this long-wandering stream was located the dwelling of Mr. Grey. It was a lovely spot, so lovely that my humble pen could poorly paint that glowing picture of earth and sky and flowing water. It was a scene of perfect beauty. Let each one take this sentence, and make of it all his warm imagination can. His fancy will not exceed the lines of nature's pencil.
At a short distance from the village lived the wealthy father of Francis Low, in a quiet, retired spot, just suited to his taste and love of solitude. He did not love the crowd of busy, bustling men, but sought for happiness in a circle of sympathizing and dear friends, which he gathered around him in his calm home. Francis inherited this beautiful feeling of devotion to a few, and love for holy household joys, and was grieved to see that his beloved Lizzy, with all her beauty and gentleness of heart, entered not with him as warmly as he could have wished into the domestic plans of which he loved to talk with her. Although he was often conquered for the moment by her witchery, and would, with a lover's admiration, bless her as he said, “anywhere with you, dearest, I should be happy!” yet when she was away, when the full, fascinating, tender eyes were lost to view, and the bright ringlets fell no more upon his cheek as he pressed a warm kiss on her laughing lips; then would he find the voice of reason awakening the sorrow in his heart which had been soothed by her joyous tones and mocking playfulness. She loved to think of the gaiety of a city life, of its exciting changes. She would not be a village belle alone. She would not live all the bright spring days of her youth, and then pass the winter of old age in the same dull round of country visitings and country scenes. She had
friends in the city of Tremont, and thither she was soon to go to pass some months of life and enjoyment; and this was the cause of the exclamation “Boston! dear Boston!” with which we have introduced our heroine. She was to leave to-morrow, that sad “to-morrow” of parting words and lingering looks; and Francis had come to now say those precious things which are so full of meaning to the loving and the loved, but which to those who have no better aim than the drudgery of every-day pursuits, seem very much like something even less than “vanity.” And now, after the lucid explanation given above, to all who were curious to know the history of Lizzy and her betrothed, before we took this present interest in them, we will watch them as they go wandering slowly through the pretty garden attached to Lizzy's home. The lover's arm is wound around the waist of the dear one by his side, (I would not say small waist, it is so common for heroines to have such marvellous “taperings.” Besides, I would not say any thing of her that was not true, and Francis could have told you, perhaps better than I, that his fond arm encircled more than the coveted span which art has invented instruments to compress from nature's beautiful proportions.) They are making poetic resolves to watch at the same hour the gentle moon, when she should come forth to be the envy of the starry host, and listener of mortal lovers' vows. Did you but breathe now in their ear, my reader, a word of the world's fickleness; that constancy had been known to fail beneath the witchery of foreign eyes, and influence of time; they would scorn such tales, and give most virtuous counsel respecting your regard for truth. He thinks his Lizzy, at this moment, more dear than the devotion of a life can prove, and she feels proud that the whole bevy of city beaux will bear but poor comparison with her own warm-hearted Frank. It is, indeed, a strange happiness that they feel, as they walk together by the beds of fragrant flowers, quite unheeding where they stray, knowing the while that to-morrow they are to part. But the sweet-scented air, the clear, round, liquid notes of birds, the music of their own low, loving tones—they were not mortals to combat the hope and joy with which such influences most mercifully fill our hearts. Yet, when the mighty sungod draws the star-gemmed curtains of his couch about him, and bids the weary labourer and toiling beast take heed of his decline and rest; when the green meadows which so lately smiled and wooed them on, grow cold and dim, and the birds in their leafy homes hush their sweet voices till another morn, then it is that our lovers find that life is not all sunlight, that the night of parting will cast its shadow over the brightest day. Upon their hearts that general shadow falls, and by the time that they reach home, there is a tender moisture in the eyes of that loving girl, and Frank—he feels the woman weakness at his heart, but will not
give it vent in tears. We will not melt our own tender heart to a fountain of sympathy, or that of our reader, with a description of that night’s parting. We will but hint at the warm kiss, the sorrowful bequeathment of each to a true and loving memory, and the last pressure of the hand, and its accompanying look, when the farewell was said. Enough, they parted. The following spring Frank was to bring his Lizzy home. “Gentle reader,” (as all writers say with a quiet flattery, so I must e'en suppose with the rest, that all must be “gentle” who read this tale,) have you the will to pass the time until then, in watching with me the sweet flower which is to be exposed to the withering atmosphere of fashionable life? Was it my vanity or your own voice that answered then, “So interesting a commencement must certainly lead to something worth a few months fellowship, so I will bear you company.” Not being distinguished, particularly among those of my friends who are most partial, for vanity, or any like weakness which might lead me into error on this point, I, with the warmest gratitude, resolve it was your voice I heard, and so will introduce you to the Misses Thorne, to whom Lizzy is to pay her eagerly anticipated visit. If I were sure that you had in your study a plaster copy of that wonderful dwellingplace of tender nerve, and some say mind, the human head, marked off and numbered with most mysterious meaning, then I should not spend my time in giving you some little knowledge of the Misses Thorne's prevailing attributes. My pen might rest while, with a phrenological survey, you read the organs of their intellect and heart. Ay, even without the aid of eyes, you could, as do the blind with their raised characters, discern strange truths. But fearing you are not so scientific as all this, I must give you the returns of my more learned vision, in the following brief chart. “Admiration” of nice young men, (that is,
fashionable,) . . . . . . . . . 9 “True poetry,” . . . . . . . . 2 “Music and waltzing,” . . . . 8 “Amiability” before visitors, . . . 10 “Amiability” before “none but the family,” . . . . 7
“Veneration” for sedate old maids, and counsel of experienced old ladies, . . . 1 “Taste” in dress, and devotion thereto, 11 “Time” for taking needed rest, . . . 12 And lastly, “numbers,” in calculation of an establishment, . . . . . . 120. But yet my readers do not judge from this plain statement that the Misses Thorne are unworthy, altogether, of being our sweet Lizzy's hostesses. Oh no! They are what the world calls “wellmeaning girls,” and fashionable society, “the charming Misses Thorne.” They are rich, admired, indolent, in fact, mortal young ladies, living in all the folly of a life of ceaseless gaiety and show. What can you expect of such? But Lizzy is among them now, and we will see
if the effect of that city life for which she would have almost chosen single blessedness, (or as so she thought, excepting when Frank's arm was round her waist, and his words of tenderness in her ear,) will be to make her more in love with her own sweet country home or not. I will beg of my reader-companion to imagine that three months have flown in the history of our friend, and at the same time ask indulgence for having brought about an introduction to the Misses Thorne in the common imaginative way, when, by a wonderful process, I can bring you face to face. Genius of Mesmer, pardon my error, and deem it not too late to atone for it, by conveying as speedily as possible, my companion from the spot where we first met, to Lizzy's present dwellingplace. You are with me, reader. This is the good oldfashioned stage. But here now are the noisy locomotives. Let us enter. Swiftly we go, now with villages beneath our feet, and now through the bowels of the earth, but ah! we are at our journey's end. What do you see now? “A great many houses.” Right. Let us leave the cars, and pass down this long street. Turn to your left. You are with me. Well, what do you see now? “A beautiful extent of ground, laid out with walks and noble trees, having hill and valley, whose snow-white carpeting bears the fresh impress of tiny feet. And them I also see, running the merry race of sled and slide. Oh! 'tis a joyous sight!” 'Tis surely so, but we must not stay to admire it now, for opposite is Mr. Thorne's. We can enter without the servant's aid, and make our way unmolested even through the parlour door. There you see upon a low, embroidered tabouret, our Lizzy! Now that you are face to face with her in a spiritual sense— thanks to that wonderful science which produces such benevolent effects—I drop the style mesmeric, although I “will” you to be with me, while I watch her movements for some little time, thereby gaining some knowledge of her heart's present sentiments, and the manner in which she passes her hours. There she sits, as I have said, on that low seat, with her ringlets fashionably looped, with bracelet and girdle, and all the little etc. which inconstant fashion invents to charm the variety-loving female taste, and bring fair customers at every change, to the door of him, who in very large characters without, commends himself, and libels his neighbours, by declaring his goods to be the “richest, the cheapest, and most unique” of any to be found, among which may be seen “the rare la Miller silk, of entirely new style,” &c. &c. Lizzy's head is resting upon her fair hand, (a sadly impressing posture for a light-hearted girl,) and there is a look of weariness in her sweet face. A novel lies in the chair by her side, and she is thinking how the hours have been taken from adding knowledge of living men and women to her scanty store, while she has been shedding tears over the fictitious fortunes of some almost perfect pair, who, through many
grievous tribulations, (from which they escape most marvellously just at the right time,) at last— only get married. Caroline Thorne is putting the
last stitch in a pair of elegantly embroidered slip
pers, which are to be a philippina to some rich old bachelor, and Mary is reclining upon the lounge without any visible employment, although she is actually engaged, with that wild worker the imagination, in dressing herself from head to foot for a ball, the when and where of which is explained in that exquisite little article marked “quadrilles,” which lies upon the mosaic table in the recess yonder. She asks Lizzy what she intends to wear, and receives for a reply, “My white dress, to be sure; what else prettier have I?” At this Mary seems in no way surprised, but in a very impressive manner rejoins, “Lizzy dear, you must not wear white to-morrow night. That love-in-a-cottage dress, is very pretty to talk about, but nothing else. Plain white, with your hair just looped, and without an ornament, as you wear it here at home! Why I believe you have appeared at every party during the fall in the same ‘charming simplicity,' as some would-be poets call it. You must have something more attractive and unique if you would make a sensation at that splendid ball. Come, put on your hat, and I will go with you to choose the costume of so great a ‘debut,’ as we French scholars say.” And what can Lizzy do? Slowly she rises from the rich cushion of green leaves and buds and flowers, and consents to Mary's plan. As we have travelled already much to-day, my reader, they may go alone to make their purchases, and we will rest the while. They have returned. And there the servant enters with the neat “brown paper parcels,” which to those who have not mingled in the “shopping,” are so full of exciting interest. Guided by the rich taste of her adviser, Lizzy has indulged in an expenditure which three months before, she would have considered extravagantly appropriated for a mere dress, and would have thought how with it she could make the heart of some poor creature bound with gratitude and joy. To be sure she had hesitated when she purchased, but the gay girl, who in her luxurious home believed little of, because she could not imagine, the sufferings of the destitute, advised her to combat such notions, for it was very necessary she should appear well at this first great ball of the season, and she was sure there were societies enough to take care of the poor; she herself paid a yearly subscription to three or four, she had forgotten their names, but supposed, and in fact had heard, that they did a vast deal of good. And so tempted by her friend's praise of the rich dress, and her own admiration, it was purchased with the suitable trimmings, and corresponding ornaments for her hair. Now our eyes are to be gratified with a sight of the purchases, for while Mary throws herself upon the lounge again after so great a fatigue, Caroline, with exclamations upon its beauty, is spreading out the folds of the costly stuff, and placing them in a favourable light to show their rich shade. And oh! how beautiful it is. The richness of the velvet, the soft becoming shade of blue, the indented flowers! And there upon the table lie the girdle of white gem-like beads, (for the life of me, reader, I cannot tell their name, can you?) and the head-dress of blue and silver net-work, most indescribable. But we must not look too long upon the tempting things, lest we should forget, as Lizzy did, the foolishness of lavishing upon such decorations, that which would fill the mouths of the hungry, and clothe the shivering form of some child of sorrow. The velvet is folded again, and the servant is rung for to carry it to Mrs. L–’s, where Lizzy has been this morning to make the necessary arrangements for its being speedily made up. It is after dinner, and the drawing-room is empty, for the three young ladies have, according to their usual rule, retired to pass the afternoon in refreshing repose. Evening is coming on, and now the toilet is consulted with peculiar care. Now, with the curtains drawn, and the latest invention for making the absence of sunlight less of an evil, brilliantly illuminating the room, we see the family assembled after the evening meal. Look at Mary! There must be some magnetic influence of the bell wire upon her fingers, for that curl is adjusted with a hasty touch, and the last graceful fold put to her dress, as the servant opens the door to announce the entrance of a very fashionable young man. Another and another is announced, until quite a party of the lordly sex is collected at the house of Mr. Thorne, whose daughters are to have a little fortune each. One of the most distingué in dress of the gentlemen seats himself at Lizzy's side, and after gazing upon her for a moment with unqualified and flattering approbation, asks if she “is not in raptures with the magnificent Jane?” (He belongs to that class of the genus homo which indulges in elegant superlatives.) “If you mean Miss Sloman,” replies the smiling Lizzy, “I must confess myself, as you ask, “in raptures with her ease and skill.’” “Will you honour me by bearing me company to her next feast of sweet sounds?” There is a dilemma for poor Lizzy! How she wishes some good angel had nipped that eloquent desire in the bud! At last she thought of a chance of escape, and replies, “as my friends say. You know, Mr. Singleton, that I am under their commands,” sincerely wishing that he might not have the pleasure his words so elegantly expressed. She scarcely believed that having heard Miss S. some dozen times, they would care about accepting an invitation again, especially from such an attempt-at-brilliancy as he. But in that hope Lizzy had not comfort long, for “his friend George Moore had,” as Mr. Singleton observed, “just put into execution his intention of inviting the
THE VISIT. 31
Misses Thorne, and they had accepted.” So seeing that the party had been arranged before their visit by the two young men, and that her friends were pleased to favour them, she consented to accompany Mr. S. Common minds that judge by flashy sentences and high sounding words, call him “a very intelligent young man.” How many receive the title, and exert themselves to sustain its dignity, while those to whom it is more due pass almost unnoticed in the crowd, because they do not care to have each passable thought tricked out in showy dress for mere effect. Lizzy is weary of such beings and such scenes of party-makings as these, for evening after evening she must be from home, playing the agreeable from sheer gratitude for her companion's politeness, if nothing else. 'Tis indeed “distance that lends enchantment to the view,” she often thought, as she reflected on the life she led, and yet she could not refuse to enter into the pleasure parties continually formed, for that might make her appear “ odd,” a little word that has often conquered a larger and better—resolution. But Mr. Singleton interrupts our philosophizing by begging Miss Grey for one of her sweet ballads, very naturally supposing that in return for his compliment, she would by and by request to hear some flourishing strains of his own. Without a word of faint remonstrance, and then excuses for a distressing cold it would seem some sudden draught had just inflicted, Lizzy smilingly consents to do her best for the amusement of the little circle, and soon are heard those very expressive, if not very rare, exclamations of “charming” and “delightful,” which are quite necessary to fill up the rather embarrassing pauses between the pieces, when something must be said. So passes the evening in light badinage, and the unprofitable criticisms of unprofitable things. Now with graceful bow and last word of gallantry, the gentlemen depart. As yielding as Lizzy has been to the influence of her friend's companionship, and seemingly as thoughtless and as happy as they, yet as she lays her head upon her pillow, she sighs in thinking how her noble-hearted Frank (so different as he was from the mere imitators of such as he, around her) would disapprove the waste of intellect and heart in which she was indulging. The long-fringed lids are closed, and she is sleeping now, but the tearful moisture of the cheek tells how that even youth and beauty have common lot with all who dwell in the valley of discontent. The sun has shown his bright face above the house tops, and has even peeped into Lizzy's chamber, but she still remains in that weakening slumber of the morning sluggard, and will not arouse herself until the voice of the ‘second bell’ calls her to the late breakfast. A few months ago she would at this invigorating hour have been feeding her birds, or reading some book which Frank had recommended. How great is the power of habit, and influence of those with whom we hold