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I hear him, that he has had the full experience of a man who had lived a life of incessant change in London. How he has contrived to learn all he knows, amid such glare, bustle, and confusion, as he describes, I cannot tell. Though by the bye he is rather an elegant, than a profound scholar. I find little solidity in his attainments. Perhaps a very quick fancy, and a very strong memory, such as he possesses, might have enabled him to pick up, and treasure, a quantity of shining facts, such as lie most on the surface of the arts and sciences, without much trouble, which the constant play of London talk, in lively society, kept in use. I can see it is not the amount of learning, but the method of using it, which makes a man agreeable. Deep study may be requisite for a scholar, but certainly is not requisite for a man of the world. He may dazzle without it; his object not being to enlarge his own immortal mind, but to charm his fellow-men, and gratify his self-love.” Arthur was leaning on the ground, raised on his right arm, and his face turned toward Jane, who sat on a low seat of sod, her hands crossed on her knee. He extended his left arm frequently in his earnestness as he continued to speak, and she heard him with increasing fears for the happiness of Lucy. “I could not oppose him if he is really attached to my sister,” continued Arthur, “although he is without any means of dependance separate from us; and although I should never wish to see her deprived of those indulgences she has hitherto enjoyed. I know that a woman who loves can bear any sorrow better than losing the object of her tenderness; and what right have I, or any one, to inflict upon her the greater sorrow, in order to spare her the lesser–No. I perceive too well she is strongly attached to Clinton, and I suppose that he would have it thought that he returns her affection with equal force. And were it so indeed, I should not speak against it. I should pray for her welfare, do her all the good I could, and allow her the natural privilege of woman, to decide whom she will have for the partner of her joys and sorrows, without interference. But what think you, Jane, speak freely, for I am very anxious on this matter, do you think Clinton sincerely prefers Lucy to every other woman o’ He fixed his eye very attentively on her until she answered, which she did, after a brief reflection, dubiously:“I think—he does: his behaviour is very particular— he is scarcely ever absent from her side when out of the study—he is always striving to amuse her—” she stopped, and Arthur observed— “You are not perfectly satisfied yourself, Jane. Your misgivings keep pace with mine.” She did not wish to increase his doubts, not knowing how it might terminate for Lucy, therefore she said— “Clinton must see that Lucy regards him, and surely we ought to be satisfied; for what must he be, who encourages an affection, which he is conscious he cannot return ? There cannot exist a more dishonourable man than one capable of such a piece of duplicity; he deserves never to be loved ; he deserves the severest treatment; he is the worst enemy of woman. I would not think Clinton was such a man.” “You express yourself strongly, Jane,” said Arthur, but to my mind not too strongly. It is bitter to entertain even the most distant probability, that Clinton is such a man. Yet he makes no open avowal. Week after week. goes on—my sister pines and wastes—she is unhappy— she is restless. She cannot long bear the excitement of suspense, and the conflict of hope with fear—her health is not strong enough for that. I have borne this suspense and conflict for you, Jane ; but I am not the fragile being she is; hardly the butterfly now fluttering on your shoulder, is more tender than Lucy: hardly yon thin, soft cloud which lies upon the bosom of the blue sky, is more delicate. Let the cold arise, and where is the butterfly —let the wind blow, and where is the thin cloud!—let disappointment in this, her first love, sall upon my sister's heart, and where is she The spot which you see yonder, below in the dell, Jane, under those melancholy trees, near the Marble Fountain, I have planned for a burial place for the settlements that may spring up in and about the Happy Valley; and I have, you perceive, provided an enclosure for it; in that spot, if Clinton is wearing a mask, mark me, before long, will my sister be laid, and the earth which I have left untilled for the reception of mortality, will receive her pure corpse.” “Oh, do not say so s” said Jane, casting her eyes in the direction which his extended arm pointed out, and at the same time, secretly sharing in his forebodings. “No-heaven forbid!” “The Majesty which created these scenes knows with what sad reluctance I do say it !” exclaimed Arthur. “My sister I love most tenderly. Her fine sensibility has knit our hearts in one—yet the excess of that quality will, I fear, destroy her. She has not the least strength of mind, not the least fortitude with which to
bear suffering. Had she passed through your trials, Jane, she would long ago have been a sleeper in the cold ground. All her character is soft, exceedingly soft, and tender to excess. Her gaiety is but like that of the white convolvulus, which flower, you know, laughs on its stem with its beautiful pink blushes, but which is so very frail, that the least change of atmosphere, the least unwary touch withers it. Her mother died of decline, and Lucy inherits a tendency to that fatal English disease. Have you not seen the hectic crimson on her alabaster cheek? You have admired it, and so has Clinton; but I and my grandfather have trembled to look upon it. We recogmise the sign; we feel that she who displays it, is marked for an early grave. The fine scarlet of her lips, too, is a concurrent witness of the malady; and her figure, or I am deceived, Jane, slight as it always was, has become slighter of late; and her eye, more brilliant than formerly. —Oh, I grieve to see such brilliancy!”— “Hush,” cried Jane, raising her hand in the act of listening, “they are near.” Lucy’s laugh, so peculiar to herself, so silvery, so gushing—like a quick, and sparkling run of waters, for the first time breaking from a verdured rock—like the laugh of an untainted child, but more intelligent and subdued—rang from a height near; and Arthur and Jane saw the delicate girl of whom they had been speaking, advancing down a path that had been cut deep between two bold elevations. Clinton was by her side. Two soft and long ringlets, of a light brown, half out of curl, were blown over her face from each side of her forehead; her back hair was knotted simply up; a plain white frock, and a white silk scarf, composed her dress. K
“See,” whispered Arthur, briefly to Jane, “she is much wasted.”
It was so, indeed—Lucy was much wasted. His forebodings had been too correct—she was sinking under the excitement, and watchfulness, which had of late possessed her. A slight cough, and a quick, fevered breath, as she came near, gave further tokens that the insidious foe was gaining fast on her constitution, though concealed under an aspect of increased attractiveness. She frequently looked up into the face of Clinton, and as frequently, with smiling bashfulness, turned her eye away. That innocent blue eye, was languid in its motions, too bright for health, and too full of exquisite feeling to give promise of permanent happiness on earth.