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النشر الإلكتروني

MIFFLIN AND PARRY, PRINTERS,

DE VERE.

CHAPTER I.

PROVIDENCE.

Yet again, methinks,
Some unborn sorrow, ripe in fortune's womb,
Is coming toward me; and my inward soul
With nothing trembles.

SHAKSPEARE.

AND why should tears flow from one described so innocent? And how could they be excited by festivity, or a fair and harmless display of magnificence?

Strange and unnatural to suppose such inconsistent compunctions in the bosom of a young and noble lady, on the very close of a birthnight in which she had charmed all eyes! But my business is with facts; and as Constance, at present at least, could not be sophisticated by a world she had scarcely seen, I will trust to that simple circumstance, and her own character, for proof that I have recorded nothing unnatural. . Who, indeed, not absolutely worn out, or plunged in dissipation for a longer time than its novelty could charm who that has discovered the powerless realities of the pageantries of life, but has felt a re-action, a want of assistance, and a remorse, such as has been described?

The disposition in which we left Constance, was not merely transient; nor were the thoughts with which she lay down to rest dissipated, like an evil dream, by the cheerfulness of the morning sun.

At breakfast, it was remarked that she bore the traces of any thing but joy; and many of her younger guests wondered that a beauty, an earl's daughter, and an heiress, could exhibit a face of seriousness.

But, in fact, the enjoyment of the day before seemed now at least to have been problematical. What she had seen, had by no means satisfied her; for it had left her with no very high opinion of her species. The fashionable part of her company seemed stiff, jealous, and unimpressive; the rustic, equally jealous, and not the more sincere from having less polish. Examining her own part in the exhibition, she could not divest herself of the notion, that to be the object and centre of a great circle, one must be, or at least seem to be, a great actress. This did not please; and in the midst of company and magnificence, she found there was a void in her heart, for which, as it was unexpected, so she could not account. It was, therefore, without regret, that she saw her guests rapidly diminishing as the day advanced. Unreasonable Constance! thus to deal with the gifts of the world, and not to “take the good the gods provide thee!” She wondered at it herself; and upon being rallied by the Marchioness, and questioned (though without raillery) by Lady Eleanor, she confessed all that had passed in her heart the evening before; and in particular the little sufficiency of the apparently gay scene in which they had been engaged, to supply the enjoyment she had expected. The three ladies had escaped from the Partridge family and from the gentlemen who were occupied with their politics, into the path that led to the bee-garden, when this confession began; and I shall make no apology for presenting it to the reader, as characteristic of all three. Lady Eleanor said she was not surprised, for she had herself remarked the conversation of those who had approached Lady Constance; “and whether,” said Lady Eleanor, “from my retired habits, or that the world is really changed, I found none who came up to the notions I had formed of fit companions for the mind of my niece.” “And yet we must not be too fastidious,” said the Marchioness; “the world has many disagreeable things in it, men and women among them, yet, upon the whole, it is a good world, and the little defects that appear in manners and character in mixed society, where all character seems for a time disguised, may soften down, and disappear upon better acquaintance.”

" The acting of Mr. Freshville, for instance,” said Lady Eleanor; “the folly of Sir Bertie; or, I am > sorry to say it, the insolence of my kinswoman, Lady Elizabeth, and her daughters.”

" Why, even of these," observed the Marchioness, 56 we have only seen some faults that certainly float on the surface. Should we look deeper, we might find some counter-balancing good. I cannot, I own, discover much under the solemnity of Mr. Freshville; but Sir Bertie has, at least, great good-nature; and the youthful silliness of your young cousins may not prevent them hereafter from proving good wives and mothers."

6 Impossible!” exclaimed Lady Eleanor. - I love your good-nature, Marchioness, but you have been too happy in the world; the Marquess and a prosperous life have spoiled you, and long may you continue to be so spoiled.”

Lady Clanellan rather smiled at her earnestness; and as, like most people who have no reason to be out of humour with the world, she was in good-humour with it, and had always endeavoured to infuse this spirit into her young pupil, she did not choose this representation to pass without comment; she therefore observed, 6 You will at least allow, my dear Lady Eleanor, that I have had no reason for misgivings in the midst of prosperity, and that our dear Constance's fears, at the end of her fète, may have been, as they probably were, the mere effect of fatigue.”

" It was the effect,” said Constance, 6 of an unsatisfied feeling, for which I could not, and cannot now, give a reason, where all is seemingly so promising of satisfaction.”

" As if,” said the Marchioness, “there' being different lots in life, we should not pursue, or enjoy the high, as well as the low.

6. That is all very true and sensible," answered Lady Eleanor; “but the sear is, that the high lot may

make us think too much of ourselves, and too little of the Giver; though that, I am sure, will never be my dear Constance's condition.”

“I trust not,” said Constance; 66 and yet the feeling I had, was as if I was not sufficiently humble, and deserved to be lowered. I thought, too, as I looked fearfully at these proud walls, and recollected who I was, how much happier I should be if I had a brother."

66 In that respect, I scarcely know what to wish for you,” said Lady Clanellan; “ but leave it safely to Him whom you so properly invoked not to try you beyond your strength. Yet I cannot help owning, that had you a brother, it might save you some tri

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• It might save me from Lord Cleveland,” obseryed Constance, with a sigh; " and on this I could not help brooding. I thought myself too great, and could not help repeating some of those passages which Mortimer is so often repeating. • One heav'd on bigh, to be hurl'd down below;

@ A garish flag, To be the aim of ev'ry dangerous shot.' On the other hand, I thought, and wistfully too, of the passage in your favourite Walton, which we are all so fond of —- I will walk the meadows, by some gliding strcam, and there contemplate the lilies that take no care.' I almost wished myself one of these lilies.”

" These are all delightful indications,” said the Marchioness, and show a disposition, the farthest in the world from what you dread; and upon the whole," added she, smiling, “ I think you may be reconciled to your fate, of being a great heiress; though I allow it is not every heart that can stand prosperity.”

66 Will it give me one real friend?” asked Constance.

6. It neither will, nor ought to give you one,” replied her aunt; 6 too happy if it do not forbid your distinguishing friends from flatterers."

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