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32 THE VISIT.
daily domestic companionship. The day is passed in preparation for the ball. Then comes the business which owes its life to the world's scorn of such fanciful ideas as, that “loveliness needs not the aid of foreign ornament,” &c. &c. Lizzy's rounded shoulders almost blush to be so unprotected in that splendid dress. Yet no one can help loving her, she looks so charmingly! Mary and Caroline too look beautifully. “The carriage is waiting, ladies,” says the servant at the door, and with a last sly glance at the mirror which tells such a pleasing tale, they trip in high spirits through the hall, and seating themselves for their ride with the most devoted consideration for the welfare of their outward adornments, are driven to the scene of gaiety. Mrs. R.'s ball was, as every one said, “a splendid affair;" yet it passed off as all balls do, wearying in the end the entertainer, and the entertained. Lizzy entered with her whole heart into its exciting changes—the music's stirring strains, the graceful dance, and even the merry conversation between belle and beau, forgetting in the dazzling scene all feelings of self-reproach. So light-hearted in her appearance, and with a face which added to its regular features and clear complexion the more fascinating beauty of archness and the charm of youth, she attracted the notice of a stranger like herself, with an eye peculiarly susceptible of loveliness, whether it lay embosomed among flowery hills, or sparkled in the human face divine. He had not been observed before at any such fashionable gathering, and when as a new star his name was asked, and very natural questions respecting matrimonial prospects (for very fine-looking was the new comer) passed round from rosy mouths, no information could be obtained but that he was a friend of Mrs. R.'s, who had lately come to the city, and entered upon the practice of law. He was introduced to our sweet friend, and they talked of trifles as their neighbours did, until they seemed aware that they mutually enjoyed a taste for better things, when they insensibly fell into intelligent converse respecting the present signs of the literary times. The stranger, first won by her gentle beauty, and then charmed by the jewels of her mind, which sparkled with laughing brightness, made himself her shadow for the remainder of the evening; and she finding him so much like her own dear absent Frank, permitted and enjoyed his marked attention. The ball is over, and in their own apartment the sisters are conning over the page of incidents which the hand of time has so freshly written. Their ball dresses, heavy with richness, have been hastily and wearily thrown aside, and soon they seek repose with an aching void at heart. Oh, how few there are who lay their heads upon their pillows after such an evening of fashionable show and rivalry, with a happy feeling of content and peacefulness! Some envied notice given to a lovelier friend, some richer dress, some careless word remembered with a sigh, make the weary
heart more weary still, and the couch designed for rest unfaithful to its office. But Lizzy has one pleasant memory to lighten that weary spirit, and that is of the new acquaintance she has formed, whose friendship she sincerely hopes will be less fleeting than the gay scene in which it first existed. “He seems so much like Frank, dear Frank,” she murmurs, fondly gazing on her lover's features as they smile upon her from among the cast-off ornaments of the ball. She, too, soon seeks needed rest, but not until a well-filled letter, bearing a late date, has been most carefully read through, from “My own sweet Lizzy,” to “your devoted Frank.” And in this way day after day has passed away in the life of our friend. She had entered the vortex of fashionable society as she had wished, and it had carried her the usual brilliant, unsatisfying round. Her mind seemed vieakened with unprofitable thought, and her conscience often whispered in the voice of Frank, “Lizzy, Lizzy, thou wert not born, remember, to waste the precious hours of youth in idleness or vain pursuits, but to lay up treasures of gladness for the coming on of impotent old age. Oh, mournful thought, that in the high places of earth, woman oftentimes forgets the wisdom of living for a noble end! Beware lest thy heart, Lizzy, lose its native purity.” And she began to remember and beware, and sick at heart of all the flatteries and all the show of her present life, she welcomed the friendly intercourse of one sympathizing with herself, as if he had come from her own dear, quiet home, and had always been a brother to her. Her wild spirits had been kept in check by society's cold forms, and the kindly hinted counsel of her stately friends, and oh! how she longed for the old familiar haunts, that she might laugh one ringing laugh again, bounding as gaily as she pleased along, and have one near who would love her even better for the joyful gushing out of her glad spirit! The time for her visit had nearly passed; but since she had met Edward Stanwood at the ball, her hours had not been so unimproved or tedious as before. He, a stranger in the city, had felt much gratified in finding so soon almost a home at Mr. Thorne's. Seeing that he was pleased with Lizzy, the sisters bade him consider their doors as always open to him, when he felt his loneliness, and would enjoy a tête-à-téte with their sweet guest. And it was not long before he became a constant visitor. They talked together of country happiness (and oh! how eloquent was Lizzy!) and the surest way of gaining true contentment in this fleeting world. They read together such entertaining and instructive works as Edward's fine taste approved, and let the untiring seekers of public wonders see that they rather preferred sweet home's retirement, preventing by this means a repetition of entreaties for their attendance at the party or the ball. But such innocent happiness as they now enjoyed, was to be disturbed by the world's coming
in. Edward's visits were first whispered of, and then smiled at by those who watch the merest approach to what they call “intentions.” How could the handsome, intelligent Edward, escape their Argus eyes. So, soon it was a settled thing that our pure-hearted, loving Lizzy, had proved inconstant to her first vow, and that the young lawyer had won her for himself. It was not until Caroline Thorne “congratulated” her (how often does the far-sighted spirit of evil smile at such congratulations) upon her new engagement,
that Lizzy's eyes were opened to the consequen
ces attending the innocent indulgence of a pleasant friendship. She had become a victim to that most evil law, by which the single of the sexes are branded with the yoke matrimonial, even if in their hearts they cherish as sweet and pure a love as moves a brother's or a sister's spirit. Oh why is it so? Why, because the youth of one sex love the company of the gentle and refined, should they be mated and paired off whether they will or no? Let but a gentleman be seen courting the society of a fair friend, and not only will the engagement be a settled matter, but the wedding-day itself appointed. Some I hope possess the moral courage to cultivate what friendships they may please, and act as if the world had left to woman alone that mischievous gift for which she is already so notorious—an incorrigible tongue. But I can tell from my own experience, that there are some who fear to follow even courtesy's necessary rules, having the consequent question, “are you engaged 2'' ringing in their ears. I speak most eloquently, for one long, long day ago, a day of dangerous walking from snow and ice, my gentleman companion neglected to offer me the needed support of his stronger arm, for very fear of the “report” that might spread abroad! I felt it to be a strange offering to my vanity, and even now sigh to think that the tale is “ower true.” But I must go back to Lizzy. She knew that in a pretty village of Vermont whence Stanwood came, there lived his chosen one; Lizzy could have told the very house she dwelt in, Edward had so loved to tell over and over again the story of his wooing. But he was to call that evening, and she awaited with some trepidation his appearance; not knowing how he might receive the story, which she believed it best to let him know, that he might act accordingly. When he entered there was a slight shadow on his open brow, as if he were grieved at something, and on its being noticed by his young friend, he whispered that after Mary and Caroline had gone to the party for which they were prepared, he would explain. The friends were soon left together, and Edward broke the silence after their departure with an exclamation of impatience against the tongue of man, which for so small a member did such incalculable mischief. Then he uttered glowing censures of the world's false views of friendship, which made Lizzy conscious
that the report of their engagement had reached his ears. Glad that he knew the burden of her present thoughts, she could not help wondering at his strange excitement, yet smilingly begged to know if he “felt sufficiently submissive to resign his beloved Ella in accordance with the world's decree?” “I have just received a letter from Ella,” replied Edward with the faintest smile possible, “and you shall read it, for I need some gentle, sympathizing voice, to soothe my excited nerves.” And Lizzy with surprise and sorrow learned from it, that some one just from the city in passing through the village where Ella dwelt, had with a sudden friendly interest, told the story of Edward's new engagement with all the adornments it had acquired in travelling so far. She could not believe the tale, and yet how strong the evidence! This very gentleman had heard a friend declare, that Edward had spoken openly in his presence of the fact. (Edward had once said carelessly that “Miss Grey and he were both engaged;” in repeating which sentence the listener merely left out, by accident of course, one little word—both—which made some difference in the prospects of the pair.) Ella, trusting still in Edward's faith, took the best means to ascertain the truth, by writing a kind, sweet, womanly letter to him, breathing confidence in his love, but giving a minute detail of all the seeming proofs she had received to test it. To show the perfect faith she felt in the continued strength of his attachment, and the powerless influence of the testimony brought against it, she had concluded to accede to the desire of a friend that she should officiate as bridesmaid at her marriage, and would be in Boston soon; “that is, if Edward would leave his new friend to be Ella's companion for the evening,” as she cheerfully added, fearing that his sensitive spirit might yield to despondency if he believed her in the least moved by the idle sayings of a mischief-loving world. Long the friends talked; and Lizzy succeeded in sweetening Stanwood's bitter feelings against the serpent slander which had entered his paradise at home, but had not left—blessings on the trusting heart of his own Ella—the direful consequences it had conceived. Lizzy enthusiastically declared her hope that Ella might arrive before she left, for she knew she should love her as a sister for the noble spirit she had shown, in not trusting to a stranger's word in matters that concerned her happiness. And Edward left Mr. Thorne's with a lighter heart than when he entered, and with a deeper feeling of attachment for the sweet girl whose voice had soothed him, so surely does the praise of those we love from friendly lips, make the faces of such friends more lovely and more dear than ever to us. Lizzy's hope was gratified. Several weeks before she expected Frank to take her home, Ella arrived; and Edward having conducted Lizzy to the house of Ella's friend, had the satisfaction of
34 TO A BEAUTIFUL UNKNOWN.
seeing before the introductory visit was over, that she for whom he felt a brother's love, and the dear one who was to be his bride, had conceived a mutual esteem which he prayed might know no decline when the wisdom of age might make them clearer-sighted, and less enthusiastic. During the remainder of Lizzy's visit they saw each other daily, and the contrast Ella presented to Caroline and Mary Thorne, made our well-awakened friend less pleased than ever with their companionship. The remainder of her visit is passed in a far happier way than its gay opening, because her conscience has no stinging voice, and the prospect of her sweet home, of parents, and village friends becomes nearer and dearer to her longing eyes. And the day of departure is fixed upon. Edward would accompany them with Ella, did not business prevent, but has promised to leave the heated city for the cool banks of their native stream some time during the summer months, and that will be very soon. Now for the last time Lizzy lays her head upon the pillow which has been wet with many a tear of self-reproach, but is now of refreshing sweetness to a head which knows no weight of casual sorrow. The morning dawns. Many an affectionate parting word is spoken, for the gay sisters are good-hearted girls, as I have said before, and had been kind, very kind in their way, to their young guest. There is even a tear in Lizzy's eye as she watches them while they stand gazing after the carriage which bears their lighthearted, sweet-tempered companion towards her home. It was soon however dried by joy, for at the depot they unexpectedly find Edward and Ella who had some days before concluded to bear them company, and designed this little surprise.
Not a more joyous travelling party could have been found than this, or a more united. With the love of nature so glowing in their bosoms, they could not fail in eloquent conversation for the whole length of the way, and when they arrived at Mr. Grey's, there was a tender greeting for the friends of their beloved child from her parents, even in the tearful joy of seeing her again.
And now will I again exert my mesmeric power, and “will” you to look upon our Lizzy and her guests before we part. I write down your words. “What a sweet spot is this! The river—the green banks—the glowing sky. And that merry laugh! 'Tis Lizzy's I well know. Let me peep into this arbor here. There they sit, Lizzy and her friend, with coarse stuff for garments lying around, upon which they are at work. At their feet upon the grassy floor are Edmund and Frank, the latter reading an amusing work which just called forth that merry note from Lizzy, who fears not now the censure of fashion's tutored lips. The garments are for the poor of the village there is no doubt, and oh how the glances of pure affection, and trust, and approbation, are raised to the sweet faces of those gentle girls, by those whose hope of happiness and peace depends upon their views of woman's duty, and her truest bliss.”
That is surely a pleasant picture you have described, and I must admire without flattering that beauty of expression in the finale of my tale with which you have aided me. And now my reader companion we must part. If I have given you a moment's pleasure by my companionship, or impressed upon your heart a distaste for any of the false customs of the world, I will rejoice that we have met, and be encouraged to seek your fellowship again.
“ARE you going to call upon Mrs. Clayton and her daughters, Mrs. Marygold?” asked a neighbour, alluding to a family that had just moved into Sycamore Row. “No, indeed, Mrs. Lemmington, that I am not. I don't visit common kind of people.” “I thought the Claytons were a very respectable family,” remarked Mrs. Lemmington. “Respectable—Humph! Every body is getting respectable now-a-days. If they are respectable, then, it is very lately that they have become so. What is Mr. Clayton, I wonder, but a schoolmaster! It's too bad that such people will come crowding themselves into genteel neighbourhoods. The time was, when to live in Sycamore Row was guarantee enough for any one—but now, all kinds of people have come into it.” “I have never met Mrs. Clayton,” remarked Mrs. Lemmington, “but I have been told that she is a most estimable woman, and that her daughters have been educated with great care. Indeed, they are represented as being highly accomplished girls.” “Well, I don't care what they are represented to be. I'm not going to keep company with a schoolmaster's wife and daughters, that's certain.” “Is there any thing disgraceful in keeping a school?” “No, nor in making shoes either. But then, that's no reason why I should keep company with my shoemaker's wife, is it? Let common people associate together—that's my doctrine.” “But what do you mean by common people, Mrs. Marygold?” “Why, I mean common people. Poor people. People who have not come of a respectable family. That's what I mean.” “I am not sure that I comprehend your explanation much better than I do your classification. If you mean, as you say, poor people, your objection will not apply with full force to the Claytons, for they are now in tolerably easy circumstances. As to the family of Mr. Clayton, I believe his father was a man of integrity, though not rich. And Mrs. Clayton's family I know to be without reproach of any kind.” “And yet they are common people for all that,” persevered Mrs. Marygold. “Wasn't old Clayton a mere petty dealer in small wares. And wasn't Mrs. Clayton's father a mechanic?” “Perhaps if some of us were to go back for a generation or two, we might trace out an ancestor who held no higher place in society,” Mrs. Lem
mington remarked quietly. “I have no doubt but that I should.” “I have no fears of that kind,” replied Mrs. Marygold in an exulting tone. “I shall never blush when my pedigree is traced.” “Nor I neither, I hope. Still, I should not wonder if some one of my ancestors had disgraced himself, for there are but few families that are not cursed with a spotted sheep. But I have nothing to do with that, and ask only to be judged by what I am—not by what my progenitors have been.” “A standard that few will respect, let me tell you.” “A standard I hope that far the largest portion of society will regard as the true one,” replied Mrs. Lemmington. “But, surely, you do not intend refusing to call upon the Claytons for the reason you have assigned, Mrs. Marygold.” “Certainly I do. They are nothing but com
mon people, and therefore beneath me. I shall not stoop to associate with them.” “I believe that I will call upon them. In fact,
my object in dropping in this morning was to see if you would not accompany me,” replied Mrs. Lemmington, rising. “But of course it will be no use to ask you.” “Indeed it will not. were you.” “Why not?” “For the reasons I have given. They are only common people. You will be stooping.” “No one stoops in doing a kind act. Mrs. Clayton is a stranger in the neighbourhood, and is entitled to the courtesy of a call, if no more; and that I shall extend to her. If I find her to be uncongenial in her tastes, no intimate acquaintanceship need be formed. If she is congenial, I shall have added another to my list of valued friends. You and I, I find, estimate differently. I judge every individual by merit, you by descent.” “You can do as you please,” rejoined Mrs. Marygold, somewhat coldly. “For my part, I am particular about my associates. I will visit Mrs. Florence, and Mrs. Harwood, and such as move in good society, but as to your schoolteachers' wives and daughters, I must beg to . be excused.” “Every one to their taste,” rejoined Mrs. Lemmington with a smile, as she moved towards the door, where she stood for a few moments to utter some parting compliments, and then withdrew. Five minutes afterwards she was shown into Mrs. Clayton's parlours, where, in a moment or 35
But I would not go, if I
two, she was met by the lady upon whom she had called, and received with an easy gracefulness, that at once charmed her. A brief conversation convinced her that Mrs. Clayton was, in intelligence and moral worth, as far above Mrs. Marygold, as that personage imagined herself to be above her. Her daughters too, who came in while she sat conversing with their mother, showed themselves to possess all those graces of mind and manner that win upon our admiration so irresistibly. An hour passed quickly and pleasantly, and then Mrs. Lemmington withdrew, with the inward resolution to cultivate an intimate acquaintance with so charming a family. The difference between Mrs. Lemmington and Mrs. Marygold was simply this. The former had been familiar with the best society from her earliest recollection, and being therefore constantly in association with those looked upon as the upper rank, knew nothing of the upstart self-estimation which is felt by a class of weak, ignorant persons, who by some accidental circumstance, are elevated far above the condition into which they moved originally. She could estimate true worth in humble garb as well as in velvets and rich satins; and felt as much honoured by the friendship of those truly worthy of regard who were below her in the social rank, as by that of those who moved in the same grade with herself. She was one of those individuals who never pass an old and worthy domestic in the street without recognition, or stopping to make some kind inquiry—one who never forgot a familiar face, or neglected to pass a kind word to even the humblest who possessed the merit of good principles. As to the latter, notwithstanding her boast in regard to pedigree, there were not a few who could remember when her grandfather carried a pedlar's pack on his back—and an honest and worthy pedlar he was, saying his pence until they became pounds, and then relinquishing his peregrinating propensities, for the quieter life of a small shopkeeper. His son, the father of Mrs. Marygold, while a boy, had a pretty familiar acquaintance with low life. But, as soon as his father gained the means to do so, he was put to school and furnished with a good education. Long before he was of age, the old man had become a pretty large shipper; and when his son arrived at mature years, took him into business as a partner. In marrying, Mrs. Marygold's father chose a young lady whose father, like his own, had grown rich by individual exertions. This young lady had not a few false notions in regard to the true genteel, and these fell legitimately to the share of her eldest daughter, who, when she in turn came upon the stage of action married into an old and what was called a highly respectable family, a circumstance that puffed her up to the full extent of her capacity to bear inflation. There were few in the circle of her acquaintances who did not fully appreciate her, and smile at her weakness and false pride. Mrs. Florence, to whom she had alluded in her
conversation with Mrs. Lemmington, and who lived in Sycamore Row, was not only faultless in regard to family connections, but was esteemed in the most intelligent circles for her rich mental endowments, and high moral principles. Mrs. Harwood, also alluded to, was the daughter of an English barrister, and wife of a highly distinguished professional man, and was besides richly endowed herself, morally and intellectually. Although Mrs. Marygold was very fond of visiting them for the mere eclat of the thing; yet their company was scarcely less agreeable to her, than hers was to them, for there was little in common between them. Still, they had to tolerate her, and did so with a good grace. It was, perhaps, three months after Mrs. Clayton moved into the neighbourhood, that cards of invitation were sent to Mr. and Mrs. Marygold and daughter to pass a social evening at Mrs. Harwood's. Mrs. M. was of course delighted; and felt doubly proud of her own importance. Her daughter Melinda, of whom she was excessively vain, was an indolent, uninteresting girl, too dull to imbibe even a small portion of her mother's self-estimation. In company she attracted but little attention, except what her father's money and standing in society claimed for her from those in whose eyes these things had peculiar attractions. On the evening appointed, the Marygolds repaired to the elegant residence of Mrs. Harwood, and were ushered into a large and brilliant company, more than half of whom were strangers even to them. Mrs. Lemmington was there, and Mrs. Florence, and many others with whom Mrs. Marygold was on terms of intimacy, besides several “distinguished strangers.” Among those with whom Mrs. Marygold was unacquainted, were two young ladies who seemed to attract general attention. They were not showy, chattering girls, such as in all companies attract a swarm of shallow-pated young fellows about them. On the contrary there was something retiring, almost shrinking in their manner, that shunned rather than courted observation. And yet, no one, attracted by their sweet, modest faces, found himself by their side who did not feel inclined to linger there. “Who are those misses, Mrs. Lemmington?” asked Mrs. Marygold, meeting the lady she addressed in crossing the room. “The two girls in the corner who are attracting so much attention?” 4 : Yes.” “Why don't you know them?” “I certainly do not. I never saw them before to my recollection.” “They are no common persons, I can assure you, Mrs. Marygold.” “Of course not, or they would not be found here. But who are they?” “Ah, Mrs. Lemmington! how are you?” said a lady coming up at this moment, and interrupting the conversation. “I have been looking for you