Puslapio vaizdai


THEY tell me there's a happy life

Can I believe it true?

Though many see the eye beam bright,
The heart is known to few.

I know thou never canst forget
The happy days gone by;

When memory tells of early dreams
Thy smile conceals a sigh.

On moonlight eve, o'er meadow green,
The air perfumed by flowers,
When we together join'd the dance,
How happy passed the hours!
Surrounded now in courtly halls

By high-born, great and gay,

Oh! ask thy heart-art thou so blest
As in youth's sunny day?

A noble's bride, and Beauty's queen,
Ambition urged thy choice;
Love, sighing, left thy heart to pride,
But there's a still, small voice,
That tells of happy days gone by,
And whispers soft and low-
Thy high, thy proud, thine envied state,
Alas, is splendid woe!


ARRIF, Carrie! will nothing cure you of your careless habit of speech?''


Auntie, auntie! will nothing cure you of your sober habit of speech ?"

"Never, while assured, as I am now, that mine are the words of truth and soberness," rejoined the elder lady, with an emphasis which was somewhat severe, yet not unkind.

But Caroline Manning only laughed the sportive laugh of a disposition as sweet as heedless. Throwing herself upon her knees at her aunt's feet, she folded her hands with a pretty affectation of penitence, and looked up into the eyes which she knew could not meet hers without an answering

[merged small][ocr errors]


"Youre an educated girl, Carrie," said her aunt. fact should be sufficient of itself to preserve you from inaccuracies in the structure of your sentences, and your style is generally graceful and pleasant."

"Good!" said Caroline. "There is one drop of sweet to reconcile me to swallowing the abundantly bitter dose which is to follow."

"I wish I could indeed make it so bitter as to be remembered," said aunt Jane, with increasing gravity. "I should have more hope, then, that you would set yourself seriously to work to correct a great, and I fear a growing evil."

[ocr errors][merged small]

not be spoiled by any third person, no matter how agreeable at most other times ?"

"I cannot say that I do, aunt; I hope it did not betray my real feelings too plainly. There is no need I should inform her that, instead of classing her among the 'agreeables' aforesaid, I have set her down at the top of the first column in my list of 'bores.' Whatever I may have said in my intense vexation, she bears me no malice for my lack of politeness, for she sat with us two mortal hours."

"One and a quarter. Carrie, by the clock," corrected aunt Jane.

"It seemed to me to be nearer four," said Caroline; "and then she apologised so elaborately for hurrying off before'-as she phrased it- she had had half her say.' That is a pet saying of hers, by the way. The adage that half a loaf is better than no bread' does not hold good in this instance, I am sure."

"Yet you were at as much pains to convince her that she had paid a brief call as you were, at her entrance, to tell her that she was the very person of all your acquaintances whom you were wishing would call upon aunt Jane immediately.'

"Did I say that?" said Caroline. "I am delighted! In raptures at my graciousness of hospitality-at a display of urbanity so independent of circumstances!" cried the merry girl, clapping her hands. "No wonder she stayed such a length of time! How comfortable I must have made her feel!"

"And me as thoroughly uncomfortable," continued aunt Jane. "I have ever regarded insincerity and falsehood as synonyms, although it appears that you do not. But to proceed. I thought you told me that Mr. Miller left town but two days ago?"

"So he did," replied Caroline; "on Tuesday."

"And that he paid you a visit on Monday evening," said her aunt.

Caroline blushed slightly. "Of course! You do not suppose that he would have gone away without bidding me 'Goodbye?'

[ocr errors]

"If my memory serves me rightly, you added, likewise, that you expected him back to morrow?" the inquisitor went on to say, in the same quiet, confident tone.

"Yes, aunt, it was his intention, when he left, to return at that time "-dimples breaking over her cheeks-"I do not believe he will encounter any temptation potent enough to detain him longer in the country."

"Yet"-aunt Jane spoke very slowly here-" when Miss Heath rallied you-coarsely, I allow-upon the cheerfulness with which you endured his absence,' you protested that you had not seen him for an age-a week or more;' pretended ignorance of his departure for the country; avowed a like want of knowledge as to the probable period of his return, and finally, in reply to her inexcusably rude interrogatory, 'Come, now, Carrie, are you engaged to him or not?-everybody says that you are, and the wedding is to come off in the spring you said promptly, and with seeming earnestness, Everybody is wrong, then, in this, as in many other things. Mr. Miller is a friend of mine; he never has been and never can be more, if I continue in my present frame of mind.'"

[ocr errors]

Mercy, aunt Jane, you make my blood run cold! You remind me of a judge summing up the evidence against a person on trial for some great crime--murder in the first degree-nothing less flagrant. Surely, you did not wish me to make a confidante of the most notorious busybody in the place, in sheer compassion for the poor woman, to gratify her overweening curiosity?"

"Far from it," said her aunt; "but I should have preferred seeing you commit this indiscretion to hearing a deliberate falsehood from the lips of my brother's child, one whom I love as my own daughter."

Tears sprang to Caroline's eyes. "Oh! aunt Jane! How can you talk so cruelly?"

"Judge for yourself, my dear," returned her aunt. "Every word we utter is either true or false. Bring your conversation of the past hour to this test, and how does it appear?''

"In love all things are fair," said Caroline, gaily. "Every

[ocr errors]

body equivocates, or, if driven too hard, fibs outright, when-
when situated as Horace and myself are.'
"Everybody is wrong, then,' as I heard a sensible young
friend of mine remark not a month since," said aunt Jane.
"I understand and honor the delicacy which causes a woman
to shrink from unveiling her heart secrets to such prying med-
dlers as is this Miss Heath; still, I believe that a mild but
dignified resolution not to gratify them would more effectually
silence her inquiries than a denial she evidently discredited,
positively though it was uttered. I do not know your intended
personally, but if what you and others have told me of his cha-
racter be correct, I doubt whether he would sanction the rule of
lawful prevarication-'fibbing,' you term it-laid down by
' everybody,' and adopted by yourself."

"Horace has chosen me with his eyes open," returned Caroline, a little resentfully. "To him, at least, I am no dissembler."

"Never be, my darling," said the old lady. "You are too young and happy to understand how much of misery a single falsehood or the appearance of deception may bring upon those whose hearts and lives should be open as the day to one another."

Caroline nodded impatiently, and went on emptying her aunt's lap of the sewing it contained, upsetting the work-box by the operation.

"Never mind it," observed aunt Jane. "There will be plenty of time by-and-bye to gather up my scattered property. You do not suspect me of any intention to enact Aunt Onetoo-many very long on this the evening of his arrival.”

She was beguiled into a more protracted sitting below than she had anticipated. Prepared as she was to approve her niece's choice, confirmed by her father's endorsement of its wisdom, aunt Jane was agreeably surprised. There was a mingling of gentleness and dignity in Mr. Miller's manner, a union of heart and intellect in his conversation, which left no room for wonder that Caroline should regard him as the embodiment of all that is to be loved and respected in man. The plighted pair were a contrast in behavior and temperament, but one that formed an interesting study. Caroline's vivacity and piquant modes of expression never seemed more fascinating than when tempered, not repressed, by a certain deferential appeal in manner and tone to his stronger mind and superior judgment. Seen thus, she was the charming, winning woman; while in him the decided opinions of one perfectly conversant with his subject, independent in belief and in its declaration, were so softened by his

her sentiments, rather than awe her into reserve.

With what sad experience of her own wedded life-ended years ago by her husband's death-aunt Jane was, in remem-style of addressing her as to draw her on to a freer revelation of brance, dealing, we will not now inquire. Caroline felt that self-reproach, or an unforgotten sense of wrong, received, lent solemnity to the warning, and that further trifling on her part would be unkind. Gladly did she, for the first time in her life, hail the termination effected by other callers to a tête-à-tête interview with her favorite aunt.

'He could never be harsh with me, however deeply I might offend him," Caroline said, that day, to her aunt.

Mrs. Barrett acknowledged, as she watched them together, that this was not a girlish boast of unfounded exultation—that while Horace Miller was not the man to look lightly upon any deviation from the path of rectitude, nor perhaps to submit tamely to personal affront, there was nevertheless in him a large

give faults, even crimes, in one whom he loved.

Caroline rattled on merrily to overcome her trifling embarrissment at the novelty of her position in her aunt's sight. "You are aware," she said to Mr. Miller, "that I lived with aunt Jane all my life before I was grown up. Until within a year or two back, I knew no other home than hers. Then she suddenly awoke to the fact that I was an incorrigibly troublesome body, and bundled me back upon my poor, dear father's hands, as merchants do unprofitable and damaged wares.”

To Mrs. Barrett, her kind "aunt Jane," had been committed the care of Caroline during her mother's serious indisposition of several years' continuance. The improved health of the lat-hearted charity and generosity which would overlook and forter, and the removal to another town of the more judicious and not less affectionate aunt, had subjected the girl to a different course of training. Of late years Mrs. Barrett's visits at her brother's home had been short and less frequent; and it was, therefore, with emotions of no ordinary pleasure that the family received her acceptance of their invitation to spend with them the Christmas which was to end Caroline's singlehood. To the last-mentioned member of the household the arrangement was fraught with peculiar delight, if for no other reason than because it was to bring the realization of a cherished desire, namely, that her lover should see and appreciate her best beloved of friends, the foster-mother whom she never wearied of describing and extolling to him.

Aunt Jane's smile was painfully constrained. "Cannot she speak without exaggeration? Into what trouble may not this foolish, worse than foolish practice lead her?" was her mental comment, as she compared Caroline's "facts" with the true statement of the case. The period of Mrs. Barrett's guardianship of her young relative was comprised between Caroline's eighth and thirteenth years, and the “ year or two back” signified the lustrum that had elapsed since Mrs. Manning's partial restoration to health, 1er daughter being now nineteen. "Your friend, Miss Heath, did us the honor of spending the entire forenoon of yesterday here," said Caroline, archly. "I trust the favor was properly appreciated by the reci pients," said Mr. Miller, in a like strain. "She quite had say out for once, I suppose."

Caroline had been universally admired since her coming out in general society two seasons before--adulation had failed to impair the many domestic virtues that made her the pet of the home she now brightened, and fitted her, in most respects, to become the centre of the more narrow sphere she ever adorned in Horace Miller's dreams of his future. Whether it were the warm breath of flattery, producing in the fertile soil the legitimate fruits of an undue ambition to shine and to please, that had brought to light less lovely traits and tendencies, defects that were grievous blots upon the otherwise fair page of characher ter, or whether these had been more slowly developed under a somewhat loose home government, Mrs. Barrett could not decide. Her upright mind only detected and recoiled at the unlooked for blemish, and love united with conscientiousness in urging her to do her utmost to check the noxious growth. Her rebuke was taken as kindly as it was given. Aunt Jane sighed as she caught herself almost wishing that her adopted child's temper were less even and sunny, at least, that her nature was

less mercurial, so evident was it that, an hour after such grave admonitions had been pressed upon her consideration, not a rankling recollection of what had transpired remained to disturb her delight in the day's enjoyments and recreations.

Certain it was that no sombre thoughts clouded the joyous mood in which she came flying to her aunt's room the next evening. Breathless with her rapid ascent of the stairs, she could not speak for a moment; nor was there need for words Aunt Jane's pleasant remark interpreted the expression of her radiant countenance: "He is here, I see and you would like to have me behold and approve your choice."

By no means, Horace. That shows what injustice you are disposed to do to her colloquial powers. Her lament at tearing herself away from us, as the lunch-bell rang-she having come before the breakfast things were removed, while the flavor of coffee and toast lingered here still had the accustomed pathetie burden, Not half had my say out, my dear creature.' ''

[ocr errors]

Her comical mimicry of the gossip was highly amusing to Mr. tire early, and did not feel that its execution involved any selfMiller, but aunt Jane bethought herself of her resolution to re

denial on her side.

"Poor child!" she sighed, as she laid her head upon her pillow. "Oh, that mothers would teach their children the worth of that pearl of great price, truth, pure and undefiled! Caroline's are only idle words, it is true, but for every one of the-e we read that we must account."

Among Caroline's visitors of the following day was Ellen Miller, Horace's sister. The girls' confabulations were always interesting, for Ellen was the most intimate associate of C roline in society.

"I chanced to meet Miss Heath as I was making a call yesterday," said Ellen, suspending the discussion of more important matters. "What an interminable gossip she is!"

"What fresh evidence did she grant you of this propensity?" asked Caroline.

"Why, you will not believe it," said Ellen; "but, in my presence and hearing, she brought forward the subject of your engagement to Horace, and flatly contradicted it as an absurd rumor, quoting you as her authority! You had, she declared, denied to her that there ever had been anything of the kind, and intimated that you had rejected Horace's proposals from the beginning; and, to wind up the farce, she represented how you had implored her to check any false rumor on this head!'' Caroline was dumb with dismayed surprise. "Did you ever hear a more shameless falsehood or a boider stroke of impertinence?" continued the indignant sister. "And to use your name to foist it off upon the community!" "What did you say?" faltered Caroline, whose changing color was to Ellen only the reflection of her own warmth. "Oh, she did not stop there," said Ellen. "She referred to me for my opinion. I informed her, curtly, that she must not expect either corroboration or denial from me, since the alternatives were to cast discredit upou your word, or to betray my brother's confidence. If he were a discarded lover, you were the person most likely to be aware of your own act; if accepted, it was but natural that I, as his sister, should be apprised of the event. I can laugh now, when I think how she withered down as I concluded my speech with a frigid 'good morning;' but I was not so sensibly cool in talking the affair over with Horace, last night."

"With Horace ?" Caroline's heart almost ceased to beat. "Yes," continued Ellen. "Is there anything so surprising in that? One would think, you little goose, that he was in danger of believing the ridiculous tale from your terrified look. 'A likely story,' he said, when it was finished. 'Caroline is the most truthful girl alive, and Miss Heath is the most-well, no matter what. A toad cannot harm a star, let it spit venom from night to morning.' There's a compliment for you, my little lady. Are you not obliged to Miss Heath for having served as the means of obtaining it?''

There was too much of the true woman about Caroline for her not to feel a pang of compunction at the necessity of submitting to this un rited, ill-bestowed praise. The consciousness that in accepting it she was wronging another, however deservedly unpopular that other might be, was a poignant reflection. She became abstracted and pensive, revolving in her mind her folly --she gave it no harsher title and its present consequences, and determining to be more watchful of her tongue in future. Alas for the repentance which is based upon conviction so imperfect--for the reformation preceded by so partial a view of the nature and extent of transgression committed!

Ellen was speaking of aunt Jane when her friend again listened. "I regret that Mrs. Barrett should have gone out shopping this morning; I am impatient to see her. But I hope to have many other opportunities of improving so desirable an acquaintance, as she is to pass the winter here. You have visited her frequently at Birmingham, have you not?"

"Oh, often!" Caroline really thought that she was speaking sensibly and truthfully of the three visits she had paid her aunt

in her new residence.

"She lives in the suburbs on the Aston road, I think I have heard," pursued Ellen.

"Almost in the country," replied Caroline; "the outskirts of Birmingham are more healthy than any street in the town. The situation of aunt's house is lovely, and the neighborhood charming beyond description."

"Did you ever hear of a Mrs. Chester thereabouts ?" inquired Ellen. "Do you know whether there is a lady of that name, a widow with one child, I think, a resident in that vicinity?" "Indeed I do," replied Caroline. “Her grounds almost join aunt Jane's. She is very wealthy, keeps up a large establishment, is quite the leader of the ton, and courted also by the county families. Are you acquainted with her?"

[blocks in formation]

"You alluded to the daughter," said Ellen. "Her fame as a beauty has reached my ears before this. Is she as handsome as her mother?"

"Quite as beautiful in person and more winning in decastic; accomplished, yet not pedantic; affable, without affecmeanor," rejoined Caroline. "She is witty, without being sartation. At the parties we attended together, she was the most elegant, and, at the same time, the most simply attired of any in the room. Her kind heart gives a certain inimitable grace to her most trivial action. I loved Mary Chester from the earliest moment of our meeting, and parted from her with more regret than I experienced in leaving all the rest of my friends at Birmingham."

[ocr errors]

"I am afraid I shall grow jealous of your enthusiastic affection for her, if she makes the visit our parents have planned so long," said Ellen. However, I will take lessons of her in amiability, and try to rejoice in her pleasure at meeting one she knows and loves amongst so many strangers."

'Why, you said you had never seen her!" exclaimed Caroline.

'Nor have I," said Ellen. "That treat is yet in store for me. Our mothers were schoolfellows and constant companions in their girlish days, and their correspondence has not ceased through all the years that have brought age and cares upon both. Recently, there has been a deal of conference respecting an exchange of visits. Several times have been actually fixed, which have passed without the accomplishment of the important event. At present the scheme is for Mrs. Chester and Mary to come to us about the latter end of January; but hope deferred has rendered us incredulous of its final fulfilment."

Caroline brightened visibly. About two months off, and an uncertainty at the best, which would, unquestionably, be the worst for her! No need for her to brood upon the idea that she had given Ellen an erroneous and unpardonably highlycolored version of the history of her association with the Chesters. She had seen them repeatedly at church and in public places; had scrutinised the daughter across the room at one large party, where her chaste elegance of apparel and engaging behavior made her the observed of all observers. Nay, Caroline had even sat next to her at supper, and received a graceful apology for a slight injury done to her dress by a falling spoon from Miss Chester's plate, as an attendant was in the act of handing it to her.

Mrs. Barrett, once in a great while, exchanged calls with her more fashionable neighbors, but her retired habits formed too decided a contrast to their gay life to make intimacy likely or possible. The day spent in the Chester grounds was a picnic. held during the absence of those ladies, and by permission of the steward, under the parklike noble old trees that constituted the principal attraction of the place. Caroline would have blushed at the suspicion that she had stooped to subterfuge to to exalt her personal importance in the eyes of Horace's connections, yet this motive was the spring that had hurried her into culpable misrepresentation. An uncomfortable foreboding did, notwithstanding her attempts to feel easy and unconcerned, find entrance to her thoughts for an hour or so after Ellen's departure, but her native and habitual buoyancy enabled her to shake it off.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

is a sagacious man of business for one so young; but he is young, and, it may be, has not couted the risk of extending his operations in times of such momentary pressure."

"He impress's me as a person of singular judgment for his years," said aunt Jane, noticing Caroline's uneasy look. "Have not his operations heretofore been characterized by prudence?"

"Yes, I suppose they have," commenced her brother, who was a cautious man and slow of speech.

Caroline broke in eagerly with, "Oh, papa! you know that he is discreet. I have heard you say, five hundred times, that he has the oldest head you ever saw upon young shoulders. It is unkind to depreciate him now, when this is the only speculation of doubtful propriety he has ever entered upon."

"While the wisdom of the measure remains a question, it is but fair that he should have the benefit of the doubt," remarked the ever kind aunt.

"Agreed, with all my heart!" said Mr. Manning, patting his daughter's head; "but you must not fly out at your father, puss, until you are sure that he means to find fault with a noble friend of yours, whom we all like, although there are degrees of fondness amongst us."

"But you do not really apprehend loss for him, do you, papa?" inquired Caroline.

"I cannot say that I do, dear," he replied; "I merely intimated that his course was a bold one; I feared lest it should prove unwise also, in view of the breakers ahead of business men. I do not understand his drift, but I imagine that he does, so it's all right, perhaps."

[ocr errors]

Objection would dishearten, without altering his purpose. We will hope for the best and let him have his own way." "We were speaking of the subject yesterday," she replied, as if trying to recall the conversation. Her courage failed fast at seeing his intent expression.

"Well," urged Horace, as she paused again, "did he call me an imprudent speculator ?" "He declared his entire con

"No, indeed!" said Caroline. fidence in your talents and judgment." "Excepting as I have displayed them in this case," suggested Horace with an attempt at gaiety.

"He made no exception," said Caroline, "but was hopefu for this as for the rest of your undertakings."

"Ah! he approved it, did he?" exclaimed Horace, joyfully. "This is too good news to be true! Are you sure that there was no dissatisfaction, no foreboding of evil mingled with the grateful sentence?"

"He said that yours were a steady eye and hand, which united with a true heart, made failure almost impossible," said Caroline, proud of the enlivening effect of her communication. "And aunt Jane was not backward in expressing her cordial assent to this."

She was doing him a signal favor in thus turning the bright side of the picture to him-unloading his mind of fears that would impede his progress.

"You are a comforting angel," he said, fondly. "It is almost a luxury to be despondent now and then, so sweet is the I am unwilling to confess how utterly the knowledge of your father's sentiments has altered my feelings. He would have bestowed his counsel very sparingly had I solicited it in


"He will outride the breakers, if any one can," said Caro-person. Conscious of this peculiarity of his, I did not persist line, confidently. His is a steady eye and hand."

"And a true heart, you might have said," subjoined aunt Jane, as her niece stopped, confused at the warmth she had manifested in her lover's defence. "Might not a word of caution from you be of use to him?" she continued, addressing Mr. Manning.

"I would have spoken had he consulted me in the begining," was the reply. "I fancy that matters are now in such a state of forwardness that objections would dishearten him, without altering his purpose. My fears may be false prophets after all. We will hope for the best and let him have his own way." Horace did not appear very sanguine as to the result of his speculation, when he unfolded his plan to Caroline.

in my design of wresting an opinion from him. I have boundless confidence in his sound sense and far-sightedness. I came here to-night, depressed and irresolute. It was my wish to see him for a few minutes in private, and ascertain, if I could, how he stood affected with regard to this somewhat bold enterprise in the present state of the money market. I was ready- -more than ready-anxious to abandon it at the eleventh hour, at a single dissuading word from him. How happy am I that I made you my confidante instead, and, by this manœuvre, became possessed of his most candid decision, unbiassed by any desire to conform to my inclinations!"'

"Had you not better consult him, as it is?" said Caroline, faintly.

"Oh, no" said Horace. "There is no necessity or propriety in doing so. He is careful to a fault, and never would have used the language you have quoted, had he not been altogether satisfied with the policy of my course."

"The language you have quoted!'' How mockingly conscience repeated the phrase, as Caroline tossed upon her sleep

"It may be that I have been too precipitate," he said, "have trusted too implicitly to the representations of others who ought to be better informed in these affairs than I am. I am getting timid now-a-days, I have so far greater happiness at stake than formerly. Something more than my own comfort or profit depends upon my success or failure. My pride and joy in our mutual relations are still so new and precious that I am in continual dread of losing them-the common fate of those "I wished to spare him needless pain," she alleged, in exwho have become rich suddenly. Forgive me, love, for troub-cuse; "I meant it for his good. It cost me a struggle to speak ling you with business speculations. I am ashamed of my selfishness in unburdening my heart of its cares, the details of which must be annoying to you.'

less bed!

as I did; but could I bear to see him sad, and not strive to console him by any sacrifice of my comfort? How could I foresee that he who is generally so independent in forming plans, so resolute in their execution, was prepared, on this occasion, to be swayed by a word from another? I hope no evil will come of it. I will not allow that he can be mistaken; he must succeed."'

"If he should fail-and failure has come to others as keen

"Nothing is annoying or uninteresting that relates to you," said Caroline, with an ingenuous affection for which her auditor honored and blessed her from his inmost soul. "I am troubled -but it is at seeing you cast down. I should be more distressed if you showed a disposition to deprive me of my right to sympathise with you. Have you any reason, apart from your pre-of sight and brave of heart-who is to be blamed for it ?"" sentiments, for doubting the policy of your recent transac- sneered the tormentor; and Caroline, dumb at this hometions?" thrust, cried herself to sleep over the bare imagination of this sequel to her "well-meant" consolation.

[ocr errors]

None, if I except the ominous nods and sighs of a few croakers, and the lowering aspect of the commercial horizon," A month went by, and nothing had occurred to arouse the replied Horace. "I called several times at your father's count-fears which had sunk into a lethargic slumber almost as quickly ing-house, while the business was undecided, in the hope of gaining a few words of advice, but was invariably so unfortunate as to find him out or engaged. Has he passed any opinion upon my speculation in your presence ?"'

Caroline hesitated. The truth, unpalatable as it would be, was upon her lips; then a second glance at his anxious face summoned to her memory her father's concluding remarks:

as the pillow wet by her tears was dry. Life was one continued smile of love and beauty to the betrothed maiden. Preparations for the marriage were going forward steadily and quietly. Friends gathered lovingly about her, whom they were to resign to care yet more tender and constant, when spring should furnish her first flowers to grace the bridal feast.

[ocr errors]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »