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what you wish, dear mamma, and I will try to do it if I can."
"If you were older, Catherine, I think I should be tempted to let you entirely into my confidence. But you are so young-so very young."
"Some people do better with entire, than with half confidence, mamma; and I believe I should, for one."
"Well, then, dear Catherine, in the present state of your father's health, you may be sure that I have many cares.'
"Of course you have, and I wish I could lighten them."
"As I said, you are too young yet; but the time may come when you will be able to assist, and it is for that time I want you to prepare."
"You are such a looker-on, mamma; always providing for the future. But pray proceed."
"Well, under the many cares I spoke of, I consult often with your brother Robert. He, too, is young for the burden he has to bear. You know we are strictly forbidden to speak to your papa on business matters now; so, as I said, Robert and I consult together. Thus it has come to my knowledge that the affairs of the family are not wearing a very encouraging aspect just now; that the business, in short, is not what it used to be. We do not speak openly of these things, and I request you to keep what I tell you entirely to yourself, not mentioning the subject even to your sister. But I want, my child, that you should be let into my confidence, even thus early, in order that you may help me to bear whatever weight may fall upon us; and so to provide for the future, that your brothers and your sister may suffer as little inconvenience as possible."
"And do you want this of me, dear mamma, because you love me, or because I am so ugly?"
'Why, I love you, of course."
'Very well, mamma. Go on, perhaps I shall understand you better after
"As regards yourself, dear Catherine, I want you to look with me into the future; and as you are not likely to settle young-"
Being so hideous that nobody can love me."
"What nonsense you talk, child ! ”
Never mind, mamma. Please go on." 'Well, then, I want you to look a little at what young women can do for themselves, in the way of being independent." "Oh! I think I know now. Let me see; I am rather quick with my hands, and very active-bustling, poor dear Seymy calls me. I think I should make a pretty good shopwoman."
"How absurd you are, Catherine! It is really of no use talking seriously with you,"
"Indeed, mamma, I feel quite serious. What do you think I could do better?"
"There is but one really honourable line of occupation for ladies who wish to be independent."
"I should like very much to know what that is. Really honourable, mamma -what can you mean?"
"I mean to be a governess." "Do you call that honourable ? " "Yes, certainly, when regarded in its proper light."
And where are the people who regard it in that light? I'll tell you where they are, mamma, and who they are. They are the angels in heaven, who look down upon this earth, and see through all the prejudices of society-see things exactly as they are. These blessed angels may honour the poor governesses, but it seems to me that nobody else does. Oh! dear mamma, don't make me a governess. I would rather be anything than that."
"I had no idea of making you a governess, now; but how much better, Catherine, that you should be preparing even now for what may probably be your situation at some future time."
"I don't think it ever will, mamma." "What makes you think that?" "Because it is not in me to be a governess. You know what a stupid little dunce I am-how difficult it is for me to learn. How, then, should I ever be able to instruct others? Besides which-I am ashamed of what I am going to say, mamma; I hope it is not very wicked in me to say itbut, why not make Helen a governess?" 'Helen, my dear. How you talk! Why Helen has prospects."
Prospects of marriage, do you mean?"
"Ah! well. I suppose it is all the
same thing. So Helen is to be settled in a handsome establishment, to be honoured and beloved, and all because she has a pretty face."
"Helen has many other merits besides her face. I am not aware that Helen ever occasioned her parents a single moment's pain." "Oh! no. Helen always does right; but it is partly because she is so stoical and cold. I pray God I may always love Helen, as I ought; but all this feels very hard. And I am the youngest, too. I have a great mind to go and talk to papa, and ask him if he will let me be a governess?"
"It is at the peril of his life, if you do. No, Catherine, you can surely command yourself better than that. I thought you worthy of my confidence, or I should not have spoken to you as I have done. Do not disappoint me. Do not add to my afflictions, already quite as severe as how to bear, when I think of your father's situation."
life-spring of the whole household was giving way; and hence the alarm which seized upon Catherine at the spectacle of her mother's tears.
The desponding tone in which Mrs. Clifton spoke, and the plentiful flood of tears by which her feelings were in some degree relieved, alarmed poor Catherine so much, that she forgot in a moment her Own sorrows; and, throwing her arms around her mother's neck, entreated her to be comforted, and to think no more of all the foolish things she had been saying. "I will be a good child to you, indeed I will," she repeated, with all the sincerity of her ardent nature; and then she went on to speak undoubtingly of all sorts of good things happening to the family-prosperity arising out of unexpected quarters; kind brothers uniting to raise up the fortunes of the family; and, finally, a peaceful and happy old age for her parents, which she herself, a grim little old maid, she said, should be the comfort of their declining years.
Mrs. Clifton was not constitutionally addicted to much fruitless weeping. Her future was always too rich for that, and she lived so much in the future, that she had the happy power of making her world almost anything that was most agreeable to her. Her family were, consequently, so much accustomed to seeing their mother thus sustained, that when her hopeful spirit did break down, it seemed as if the
But to her youngest daughter, alone, was this weakness exhibited. Mrs. Clifton was soon herself again, as cheerful and composed as usual. When the dinner hour arrived, the different members of the family drew together as usual, and saw not a trace of tears upon the mother's cheek. Some of these idle wanderers came in with fresh blooming faces, looking as if they had, that morning, gathered happiness from every leaf and flower; but Seymour came last, and wearily. He had been roaming many miles, in the hope of escaping from his troubled feelings, and he had gained the weariness, without losing the load which still hung upon his spirits.
One event, however, was to happen that day, which never failed to bring pleasure to all parties, under all circumstances. Aunt Ann was expected, and already that kind sister and untiring friend might be seen walking slowly up from the garden, with Mr. Clifton leaning on her arm. had arrived in her accustomed quiet way, and had first sought her brother in a summer-house, where he was accustomed to spend a good deal of his now unoccupied time.
"The good soul!" said Philip, as he looked from the window. Why I declare, she has cast away the dear little old Kitty, your fingers have been at work here."
"Yes," said Kitty, laughing, " I was born for a milliner." But she glanced at her mother, and instantly looked grave. The conversation of that morning had left a painful feeling, like the taste of some bitter medicine kindly administered, but swallowed without hope, or faith, or even consciousness of needing it.
It was a remarkable feature in the good lady who now made an addition so welcome to the Clifton family, that whatever their moods or circumstances might be, her presence seemed to harmonise with all. Alone, Aunt Ann made no great figure, nor anywhere, indeed, when considered only in herself. Her character, regarded in its relation to others, was rather like the gray tints in a painting, upon
which the common observer never bestows a comment; but without which, the least initiated eye will soon perceive that all is thrown into harshness, discord, and confusion.
Young ladies at their worsted-work, know well would that some of them knew better-the value of these gray tints amongst their gorgeous, glaring colours; and we fancy there are in society graytinted characters, which fill exactly the same relative position amongst those which are more brilliant. Happy characters they must be, since their peculiar office is to soften, to harmonize, and to bring out what is beautiful in others. Happy characters, and far more enviable than the glaring or the bright; and yet how seldom are they valued at their real worth, until their mild influence is withdrawn, when the strong colours clash together, and the pleasant picture becomes marred.
To Seymour Clifton, especially, the presence of his aunt, on the present occasion, brought more than its accustomed amount of satisfaction. He wanted an older and a more experienced friend than his young sister, now. His mind was more than usually distracted by those conflicting emotions which it was impossible for him to communicate to anyone unacquainted with the deep things belonging to man's spiritual life. In fact, he was just now passing through one of those strange moods to which natures like his are subject, when disappointment, vexation, or mortified feeling of almost any kind, furnishes an excuse for what is called " giving up the world." As if the heart, when crossed and tortured, and filled with bitterness, was then in the fittest state for offering up to God. And yet, how much that passes under the name of holy dedication has been rushed upon, and carried out, with no purer nor loftier stimulus than this!
Many times already, in Seymour Clifton's short experience, would he have cast himself within the shelter of monastic walls, if his religious education had been that of the Romish Church. Many times, and most willingly, would he have pronounced those irrevocable vows which would have cut him off for ever from all social intercourse with his fellow travellers through the world. Now, especially, now
more than ever, he longed to take some desperate step by which an entire break would be made in his habits and objects of life. What, in fact, was he living for? Fame?-What was fame to him? Honourable position in the world?—all empty words. The solitary cell, with bread and water, nay, even daily self-inflicted penance, would have been preferable to him just now, provided only he could enjoy within that cell the presence and the approbation of his God.
With a little more of earthly hope, with a little more of heart-stimulus, Seymour thought he could have gone back to the sea, and perhaps have done his duty there; but now? And yet what had happened to him? No alteration had taken place in his outward circumstances. He had lost nothing. No promise had been broken to his hopes: no friend had deceived—no enemy had injured him.
The feelings which now absorbed se much of Seymour Clifton's existence were not so absurd as they were romantic; and they owed much of their extravagance to the circumstances under which he had been placed. If he was very near being guilty of that folly which is vulgarly called falling in love at first sight, it was because his pent-up affections were all prepared to flow forth towards any real representation of those images of beauty and of grace which had so long fired his imagination, and which so often filled his soul.
As one who is a native of a flat uninteresting country may grow up with the love of mountains, rocks, and rivers in his heart, and so, when he beholds them, that love may gush forth as at the meeting of old friends; so may there be a love of human excellence and beauty which recognises in some fair vision, when first really seen, the living form of that which has had life and long companionship within the silent soul. Yes, and of all human beings, Seymour Clifton was perhaps the most addicted to this kind of spiritual intercourse with imaginary beings. In fact, how else was he to live amongst the strange and rude companions to which his cruel destiny consigned him? Holding this intercourse, living this ideal life, he could endure his lot; not otherwise. Thus, in the dark nights, upon the dreary ocean,
he had seen a form like that of Grace Linden, arrayed in light and purity, walking on the waves, and beckoning him, ever and ever, to some peaceful inland home. With his fair pale cheek shivering in the blast, he had heard a voice like hers whispering-oh! so kindly!-sweet words of a household hearth, where winter fires should blaze, and smiles and pleasant jests pass round, and heart-warm hospitality make the stranger welcome to the plenteous board. Hand in hand he seemed to walk sometimes with this fair being, listening to the blessings of the poor, and feeling that in her they recognised the ministering angel through whom heaven sent alike rewards for their patient toil, and alleviations of their care.
Ah! what had the romantic boy not dreamned while tossing on the heaving waves, living perpetually two lives, the inner life indissolubly bound up with this fair but imaginary being. No wonder, then, that after all these tender associations had been called into fresh life by his sister's affectionate and glowing description of her friend Grace Linden - no wonder that when the beautiful girl herself appeared before him, and looked and smiled as the fair image on the dark waters used to look and smile-no wonder that his heart at once became a willing captive to her charms, nor that in the space of one short hour, while he walked beside her, he should persuade himself that his spirit had at last found all for which it had been so long pining, and found all this, too, under a sort of spell. which every moment grew into a fate.
How long Seymour lived in the few hours which constituted this fate, it would
be impossible to say. We should have to mark our calculation not by minutes, or by seconds, but by the boundings of a heart which sprung to its new joy, as the captive deer let loose springs to the mountains and the woods. It was the force of the sudden rush of the happiness, not its duration, which made him in one moment a strangely altered being, lifting him, as above the earth, so that he could cast back its paltry cares as the sea-bird casts from its soaring wing the foam of the ocean wave.
Seymour Clifton had felt himself not only rich, but great, powerful, and strong. He knew no fear then; no, not even when he had so much to lose. He was manly in his own consciousness-all that he wished to be-valiant as ever was champion of the olden time; for what would he not dare and execute for her?
Then there was the mild reflection of her smile, which showed him back the image of a nature corresponding with his own; the echo of her voice which answered his as if it came from the world of spirits, where their souls had long enjoyed com. munion like that of angels; and beyond and perhaps above all, there was the sweet womanly beauty, the aristocratic bearing blended with the gentleness of sisterhood and affection for his favourite sister. All human as well as spiritual things, and perhaps the human most of all, seemed contributing their value, and concentrating their force in one direction. And thus it was that the stroke fell upon him.
Looking around from the height to which this new impulse had lifted him,
He would not have defended himself from the stroke, even had he known from whence it would come. Had the stoutest breast-plate been offered him, he would have dashed it to the ground. He wanted no defence, he cared for no precaution, he acknowledged no fear. And thus it was that the enemy stepped in, and took possession in the form of a brother; and so entirely do the affairs of the human heart baffle all human calculation, that his brother Philip would probably have been the last individual on earth whom Seymour would have feared as a rival in the favour of Grace Linden.
So it was, however; and the fair delicate girl now leaned upon the manlier arm, as if conscious, and happy in that consciousness, that she had found exactly the support she so needed to guide and sustain her often feeble steps. tomed to support from her childhood, Grace seemed naturally to cling for help to those she loved, and to demand it from those to whom she was indifferent; for there was at times an air of imperiousness about her, which only made her gentleness more charming, her tenderness more exquisite in its influence upon others. Perhaps Grace Linden had a little more than her share of natural pride; and this was
All these strong feelings on the part of the fair girl were arrayed against poor Seymour, and in favour of his brother Philip; for Seymour sometimes spoke on religious subjects in a strain which Grace considered far from orthodox. His profession, too, she did not like, thinking it wild, loose, and often corrupting to the morals; and, indeed, so little did the simple-minded girl know of the world and its strange ways, that she fancied Philip Clifton's heart must of necessity be purer and holier than that of his brother.
"If she did but understand Philip better, I think I should be better satisfied," said Seymour, one day, to his aunt, whom he had admitted to his heart's confidence; and who, though a spinster herself, had unbounded sympathy for the tender passion. "If she was not so completely in the dark," Seymour went on to say; "if she was not supposing him to be so very different a character from what he is, or ever will be."
"Ah!" said aunt Ann, with a sigh, "this is so often the case, that love, you know, has come to be proverbially called
"But," said Seymour," for me to stand by, and see and know all this."
And yet, what could you do?" "Speak openly, and kindly to her, to be sure, like a brother, as I desire to be to her."
"Do you think so?"
"My dear child, for you are a child yet in experience, there is no greater deception,-self-deception I mean, than that which often assumes the name of duty." "Will you do this great kindness instead of me, then?"
"I don't see how that would much alter the case. Besides which, Miss Linden is no relation of mine-scarcely an acquaintance yet. She appears to be a very sweet and charming girl; but what right have I to meddle in her affairs. No, my poor Seymour, you must look for help elsewhere, than in any interference, either of yours or mine, in matters of this kind."
"I know what you mean, dear aunt, and I think I should be perfectly resigned, and even satisfied, if I thought my brother Philip could ever make Grace Linden happy. Do you know, aunt, I believe he has already contracted debts, to say nothing of habits, which are frightful and disastrous in the extreme."
Seymour, in his earnestness, looked full into the face of his aunt as he spoke, no doubt expecting to see there the expression of surprise and horror, such as he considered his intelligence calculated to call forth. But she was looking at him with a sad smile upon her countenance, and sadder tears in her eyes. She was not thinking of Philip, but of one nearer to her, and perhaps dearer. She drew her arm round Seymour's neck, as he sat at her feet on a green bank in the field where he had taken her to rest beneath his favourite trees; and bringing her cheek very near to his, she whispered softly in his ear," Beware of yourself, Seymour. You may have as much reason to fear what lies lurking in that gentle heart of yours, as Philip has to fear his passions."
Seymour looked back into his heart, and was silent. Perhaps he detected something there which echoed to the warning so softly sounding in his ear. He clasped the hand which hung gently over his shoulder, and pressed it to his lips.
"Seymour," said his aunt, "do you ever breathe a prayer to this effect-Search me, and try me, and see if there be any
"And what effect, dear Seymour, do you think this would produce?"
"I don't know."
"But I think I do."
"It would make her dislike you, with- wicked way in me; and lead me in the out loving your brother less."