« PreviousContinue »
had nothing to regret; nor uneasiness—yes therefore, he had better renounce all idea of she had though, for her betrothment did marrying her. Aunt Stratelace did not do sometimes make her feel rather sad ; and this out of any regard for Charles-not she ! no wonder, for it was a strange kind of pro- | But she had a grudge against Nina for havceeding, and highly improper.
ing said that “ Aunt Stratelace looked ugly Not that it was not a good thing to marry with all that paint on her face"—which had her, or rather to promise to marry her, (for displeased Aunt Stratelace very much, as “there is many a slip between the cup and well it might, for ladies generally would the lip,”) to Charles Rightford, Charles being rather not have their complexion handled a very good, honorable young man, and too freely by critics of either sex. moreover handsome, and well to do in the | Charles Rightford, however, was not susworld. He was considered a very eligible picious either; few noble natures are, and he husband by a great many persons ; but Nina did not believe these tales, for he knew Aunt was uneasy at her betrothal, because she had Stratelace's character by report; so he mildly never seen her betrothed. There she was, informed her that he could not believe any positively engaged to him, and expecting to harm of Nina, and that he hoped some day marry him next May a year, and had never to convince his aunt that she had formed a yet seen him (since they were both infants very wrong estimate of the character of his at least) or talked to him, or judged of his betrothed. character, except by means of the very pretty | Old maids are, however, singular people, and loving letters which Charles used to under favor be it said, and with a due regard write to her from India.
to the many exceptions whom I know to Well, it was very pleasant to receive such this rule also; but they are, on the whole, kind and affectionate epistles every month spiteful, because they have been disappointedfrom the person she was going to marry, but envious, because their chances daily diminish, you know very well what letters are, and how while much younger women are being every often a man says on paper what he does not day made happy around them-sensitive, mean—the heartless creature !-- especially because they imagine themselves marks for when he writes to young ladies. True, Nina constant raillery-scornful, because they are was not at all suspicious; but she would think excluded from the privileges of freedomsometimes—ay, often-how dreadful it would snappish, because solitude makes them imbe to give her hand and pledge her heart to perious—dignified, because they imagine that Charles when he came home, if she should it is becoming to be so—and ridiculous, benot like him. She frequently dwelt on this cause they can't help it. Old bachelors are subject, and it made her consequently a equally bad, but I cannot lose time with little uneasy at times, as aforesaid.
them just now. I will have a word or two But it did not interfere with her usual to say to them before long. gayety of disposition--not a bit of it; for, The two young people had been betrothed indeed, Aunt Stratelace, who lived in the in a very singular manner. Nina's father, next house all alone by herself, and who was who had been a merchant in Liverpool, had very crabbed and spiteful, in virtue of old contracted a strong friendship for his partmaidenhood, used to make ill-natured re ner, old John Rightford, a man with a woodmarks, and say that Nina was too thoughtless en leg, but one of the best-hearted fellows that and free and all the rest of it—but she even ever lived, notwithstanding this ligneous indid worse, did Aunt Stratelace, for she used convenience. And so, when Mr. Elhingham to write to Charles all the way in India, tell was dying, he mado John promise (and John ing all sorts of tales about Nina, and mak was glad enough of it, mind you) that he ing out that Nina was too “flighty," as she would use all his influence to bring about a termed it, to make a good wife, and that, marriage between his son, then two years of age, and Nina, then an infant in arms. it however in such a cold and indifferent Old John and his son settled in India soon way, that Nina was vexed. And it certainly after his partner's death. Nina's mother, I was not generous to speak of his absent fried who regarded this last wish of her husband to the young lady who questioned him in as a sacred inheritance, did all in her power other than an enthusiastic manner. Batas when Nina grew up, which she did in Liver- we have seen, Nina did not care much about pool, to carry out the project, and old John, Charles; and Tom was so entertaining in ks to the hour of his death, always urged the descriptions of his homeward voyage, that step on his only son. The mutual pledges Nina did not think much of Charles til after were given, and Charles (named after his Tom Elmore had gone—and then Sina sat grandfather) in India, and Nina in Liverpool, | down alone in her room to think of her were duly promised to each other for man future, and to hope that Charles might reand wife. All this may appear very extra- semble his friend, who was such a nice yung ordinary and very improper; but that is not man, and seemed to be so very cleve.. my business—I tell you the facts—make | Nina's mother welcomed Tom with great the most of them.
affability—asking a thousand questions aber Charles's friend, Tom Elmore, as he was Charles, which quite embarrassed Tom, and familiarly called in Charles's letter, (his right made him regard Mrs. Elhingham as prosy, name was Thomas,) came home to Liverpool, quality which most matrons of Mrs. Elling in the year 1844, and brought a flattering ham's age are liable to be accused of. She introduction to Nina from her betrothed in moreover discovered, in the most unaccount India. Charles spoke of him as his dearest able manner, a likeness between Tom and friend, indeed, as his other self, to whom old Mr. Rightford, long since departed, und Nina "might speak without reserve on every gave him a warm invitation, which he s subject." The two last words were under not slow to accept. For in two or three days scored by Charles, which was a delicate way Tom again made his appearance, and cause of alluding to their intended marriage that again next day with a piece of music, and was quite charming. Now, Tom was a hand again, on the following day, with a rare study some fellow. He had one of those fine open on which Nina might exercise her pencil, and ountenances that call out “truth !" when in short, after a time he was there every das, you look upon them. He had a dark eye Sabbaths not excepted. and a fine bold forehead. He wore, more-1 And there was no reason to probibit bis over, short whiskers—not short because he coming. His manners were unexceptionable; could not have had them full and large if he was very attentive to Mrs. Elhingham, and he had had a mind to, but short and crisp to her daughter-perhaps a little more to because he liked them so—and his teeth Nina than her mother, but never mind, there were so white and regular-in fact, he was a was no harm in that, I suppose. And how handsome young fellow, and there was no well he played the piano! He used to give mistake at all about it.
Nina lessons, too, sometimes; and he te When Nina saw Tom, " and bebeld that such a patient master, and she such a decile he was comely to look on," she asked if pupil, that it was quite a treat to see them Charles had sent his portrait, as he had there together, though Aunt Stratelace did promised ; " because,” said Nina, “I have not think so; for, after she came in suddenly no other than one which was taken when he one day, and found him placing her fingers was quite a child."
on the keys for a difficult chord, and holding But Tom said no—that Charles had not up her wrist to show her how it ought to be given him one to bring home-indeed, that kept up, she quite bridled up, and straighthe had not had one painted, but that he way went about among her acquaintances, could tell her how Charles looked; he did / and made mischief. She did more, the
eir inte ow, Tom Wee fine open
spiteful thing, for she sat down that evening, now, and had not received any letters from though the packet could not sail for a fort- Charles since his arrival. But then she had night, and wrote a cruel letter to Charles, not received any either, so his might have acquainting him that “fine things were going miscarried as well as hers. At last Nina on here, and he had better come home. came to the conclusion that Tom loved her; She said nothing, because it was not her and when this thought struck her, she place to interfere ; but how Ann Elbingham | smiled so joyously and brightly, and then (Nina's mother) could sit down with the fear as suddenly burst into tears as she rememof God before her eyes, and let such things bered that her word, and consequently her go on under her roof, she, Aunt S, could not honor, were pledged to another, and she tell, and did not pretend to know. It might could never marry Tom, though he might be honorable conduct in Ann; perhaps it pray for it never so much. was; but she, Aunt S., did not think so, and | Then Nina began to wish that she had could not be guilty of it—no, not for ever so." | never been betrothed to Charles. She All of which was duly signed, sealed with blamed her father's selfishness, as she called rose-colored and scented wax, as if there was it, which had sacrificed her; for she was something cheering and pleasant inside in- | sure she never could love Charles as well as stead of all that malicious scandal, and de she loved Tom. How could she! She livered into the keeping of the post-office. looked at Charles's portrait taken in child: Having got rid of this harmonious epistle, hood, when parents love to have their chilAunt Stratelace sat down in patience, and dren's countenance preserved in paint, as if with the air of a martyr who had performed they could ever be of use to any body after a noble but a painful duty, to await the re- youth has passed into manhood. She took sults.
this portrait, and contrasted Charles's light In the meanwhile (you see it takes a long hair and blue eyes with Tom's black locks, time for a letter to get so far as India) Tom and dark, piercing, sparkling eyes, and Elmore continued to visit at Mrs. Elhing- Tom's whiskers with Charles's bare cheeks, ham's, and to instruct Nina in music, and to (as if Charles might not have whiskers then take walks with her ; and Nina somehow for aught she knew, the silly girl,) and was liked to be with Tom, for she felt happy certain that she must love Tom, and could when she heard his clear, bold voice instruct- | not love Charles on any account; and so she ing and amusing her when they were quite would lie down and weep herself to sleep. alone in the fields, and when they sat together And so Tom went and came, and Nina at the little piano up-stairs, which had learned felt glad and sorry for a long time, wonderto speak so plainly since Tom had come to ing why Charles did not write, and hoping Liverpool. Then the house was so much that he had changed his mind, and did not more lively than it was wont to be, and so | love her any more. The idea, however, of much more cheerful; and when Tom sung, | Tom's offering to marry never entered her Nina felt so pleased, and happy, more happy mind, because she felt confident that his than I could express to you, much more— high sense of honor would never permit for Nina loved Tom, though she did not him to violate the confidence which Charles know it at first, and Tom loved Nina too, had placed in his integrity when he gave but he knew it well-he did. Leave him | him so flattering an introduction to her, alone for that.
and because she did not believe that Tom Nina's happiness, however, did not en could think so lightly of her as to suppose lure. After Tom had gone home, she that she would break her plighted word to would then sit and think how it was that Charles, unless he voluntarily released her.
Tom did not speak so much of Charles as She therefore had no fear, because she he did at first. He seldom called his name thought no wrong. Pure in action as in
Sitten Tom had gone homes that
Charles, unless had no fear, bec
mind, she continued to learn and to improve upon her ear, they pained her heart; for under the attentive care of Tom Elmore, to she recollected the difficult but solemn duty enjoy the happiness of his society in the which she owed to another, even though evening, and to weep her hard fate at night. she had never seen him, and something
• At length Tom began to speak more whispered to her conscience that the man freely of his absent friend. He did not do who could speak thus, though indirectly, so at first directly, but in insinuations which was not worthy of the esteem in which corresponded neither with the prestige Charles held him. She said nothing, how. which his features bespoke for him, nor ever; and in the meanwhile, 0 Heaven! with his general conduct since his arrival in what strange sounds came forth from Tom's Liverpool
instrument! Strange, fitful sounds; now "It is strange," he said, on one occasion, low and wailing, now loud and angry, and “that Charles does not write."
then gay and glad; so glad at length, that "Very,” Nina replied. “ Can he be ill ?" they seemed almost to leap out from behind
“Scarcely, or I should have heard of it. the crimson silk in airy shapes, and skip Do you
know if any one has made mischief with joy about the keys. And then again between you ?”
they assumed the soft, plaintive tone of the “Surely not !" said Nina.
former melody, and Tom sang again : "Perhaps" said Tom; and after stop
“No, not for me those priceless gems of grace, ping abruptly, he continued, “perhaps Which glad the sight and lift the heart above; Charles has his eye on an Indian beauty."
The poetry of look in that sweet face
Has not for me one line that shines with love. The color mounted to Nina's brow as he
If there be heaven on our earth e'en now,
'Tis in that heart, where Purity may see said this, for she felt with all the sensitive
Herself reflected. But Heaven is merciful, and thou
Hast yet no ray of light or love for me." ness of woman the inference of indifference which the remark conveyed. But at the
Before he had finished the concluding same instant she felt that the time had notes of his symphony, Nina had left the come to assert the position which she in
She began to look on Tom Eltended to assume; and making a powerful more's conduct in a far less favorable light effort, she replied, “ Charles will, of course,
than before. He knew that she was sol suit himself as it may best please him. emnly engaged to another, who had placed For
me, I consider myself as betrothed to implicit confidence in him; and yet he did him until his own permission or his own not hesitate indirectly to pour into her ear act releases me.”
declarations of his own passion, to which her She looked directly in Tom's eyes as she heart only'too well responded. He saw this; spoke, and saw a deep blush, as of shame he knew it; and that knowleilge made his it might be, for the deception which he had conduct only the more culpable. practised; it might be for the defeat which As she thus reasoned with herself, Elhe had sustained; but saying nothing, he more's character lost caste in her estimation, turned to the piano, and after running over for she felt that if she broke her word she the keys with a brilliant prelude, he com- would be acting dishonorably, she would menced the following song :
be a fallen woman-fallen into the shame
which he had opened out before her; and “ Why art thou so wonderfully fair ? Those lustrous eyes reflect no light for me ;
Nina shuddered as she thought. And oh! There dwells no beauty in that dark brown hair Which I might praise to win a glance from thee;
what can be more dreadful than woman's No love in that bright angel's smile, which seems The home where innocence had gladly flown;
falsehood ? Pure, bright, and true in natura No pity on that brow which brightly tcoms With purest good, that I can call my own.”
as she is beautiful in form, woman stands
between man and the angels, a higher beNina turned her eyes downward when cause a purer being. Like to angels in the she heard these words. Sweet as they were spirit, she has, besides, the lesser beauties