Page images
PDF
EPUB

A

LESSON FOR THE YOUNG.

“ Turn to private life
And social neighbourhood ; look we to ourselves,
A light of duty shines on every day
For all."

Wordsworth.

The following episode in real life appears to us to be worth relating, and simple as it may seem is not without its moral. Its heroines are two young girls in the middle rank of life, whom we shall call Esen and Martha. They were not sisters nor friends, nor did they even know each other although residing in the same town and visiting at the same watering-place. But that is no uncommon thing in this strange world of ours, where one may live for years and not know their next door neighbour-except indeed in the country, and there people run into the opposite extreme. Ellen and Martha were both pretty, both engaged, and both after a short and pleasant week—for how short the time seems when spent with those we loveabout to return to their respective homes.

It was a bright, sunny morning, and they were almost the first to enter the steam packet which stood ready to convey them back again to the smoke and din of London, but neither thought of that, all places were pretty much alike then. They sat down opposite each other, and both looked a little anxious.

“ I wonder whether he will come,” said Ellen, in a whisper, to her sister. “ Did you tell him what hour we started ?"

Certainly not ; but he could not help hearing Mamma settling all about it last night.”

" But why did you not tell him, Ellen, at once ?"

“ Because it would have looked as if I wanted him to go with us.”

“ And do you not ?" asked her sister, archly.

Ellen turned away with a smile and a blush. Martha was evidently thinking upon the same subject.

afraid that Frank will not be able to come, Mamma,"

66 I am

observed she. - He said that he was not sure. I hope he will."

“ Does he know the hour ?”

“Oh, Mamma! just as if I should forget to tell him that! It will not be my fault if he is not in time—or his either,” added the girl with a happy laugh that startled Ellen into looking round. Their eyes met for a moment, and Martha thought her very pretty, and so she was; but Ellen was thinking of something else, and again her gaze wandered towards the shore. One of Martha's sisters, for there were several of them, whispered her suspicions that “ Patty was not the only one who was waiting for her lover,” and once more they laughed merrily together—but Ellen could not laugh. "I do not believe that he will come,” said she.

66 He must have made some mistake about the time. I half wish now that I had told him.” The pouting lip and tearful eyes spoke her disappointment, for the boat was now nearly full and would start in a few moments.

Martha was disappointed also.

“I am sorry,” said she, “and Frank will be sorry, but it cannot be helped.”

Ellen, less philosophical, continued to gaze eagerly at the passengers as they stepped on board, when suddenly a bright Aush passed over her pale cheek.

“ There's Philip!” exclaimed her sister. 66 But he does not see us. Shall I call him ?”

“ Not for worlds !” replied Ellen. But it was too late, and turning hastily round she began looking over the side of the vessel with a careless and pre-occupied air.

Philip sprang forward at the sound of his name, and shook hands with the mother and sisters in a very friendly manner. When he spoke to Ellen, she turned half round with a little start of well acted surprise.

“ Who would have thought of seeing you !" said she.

“ I was almost afraid that I should have been too late,” exclaimed Philip, evidently out of breath with his exertions.

“ It would have been no great matter if you had,” replied Ellen, coldly. “ It is a pity that you hurried so.

You might have come very comfortably by the next boat.”

Philip tried to look in her face, but she had again turned away. Perhaps she feared lest its expression should contradict her words. But why feared ? Why speak and act falsely, and so pain the heart that loved her?

a

“How natural that was,” whispered Martha's sister with a smile; for sitting opposite as they did they could not help seeing, and almost hearing what passed.

“Natural, do you call it !” exclaimed Martha, with honest indignation. “ I call it most unnatural ! I am sure if it had been my Frank”—she paused abruptly as a well-known voice pronounced her name, and her glowing cheeks and outstretched hand completed the sentence. Frank was tired, but she had saved him a seat beside her, and they were soon whispering together very comfortably. “ I am so glad that you are come, said she, “ I told mamma that I was sure you would if it could be managed."

“ Shall I tell you how I managed ?"

“ Yes, if you like, but I do not much care about it so that you are here. Stay, I think I can guess. I fancied

you were looking very pale. You have been sitting up half the night to finish those designs, in order that we might return together ? Am I right?"

Her companion smiled.

“Do you know that I have a very great mind to scold you, only-only that I am too happy to have you with me! 'But you must never do so again, Frank.”

Philip tried to talk to Ellen, but she had taken a book from her pocket and seemed to be absorbed in its contents, although her glance followed him with a strange interest when he spoke to others. Long before the end df the voyage he looked quite weary, and had betaken himself to the solitary pleasures of a cigar, to the evident annoyance of his fair betrothed.

“ Are you ill, Ellen ?” asked her lover, at length, stopping opposite to where she sat.

No, not ill; but you know I hate smoking !" Phillip threw away his cigar.

“ I should not have smoked, Ellen, if you had not read, but I had nothing else to do.” “ Could

you not talk to my sister, or mamma ?” asked the girl, with an air of the most provoking nonchalance, and yet looking so pretty all the time that it was impossible for Philip to be angry with her. And she knew that. She felt her own power, and yet dared to trifle with itnay, even to triumph in that consciousness. A petty and despicable triumph, unworthy of the woman who really loves!

“ So soon !” exclaimed Frank, when they arrived at length

at the place of their destination. “ Should you have thought it, Martha ?”

“ No indeed,” replied his companion. “It does not seem above an hour since we started, and we were so long going down."

- But then I was not with you!"

“ To be sure that makes all the difference,” replied Martha, simply. She did not even blush. Why should she? She was only speaking the truth, and that to her betrothed husband.

“ But,” we hear someone exclaim, “young girls must not always speak the truth.” This is a false prudery, and wrong because it is false. A pure minded woman can have nothing to conceal from him to whom she has plighted her faith. A maiden's heart is a sealed book while she remains free; but when once the key has been given into the keeping of another there must be no more secrets.

Philip was far less surprised, and certainly far more pleased to find himself at the termination of his journey. He looked a thousand times more tired than Frank, although the latter had been sitting up half the night. It may be that Ellen perceived it and her heart smote her, for she put her arm gently within his when her mother asked him to come home and take a late dinner with them, and looked at him with a glance that settled the question at once. The invitation was accepted with a bright smile. How easily she might have made him happy—and yet she had not ! “ She liked,” as she told her sister, “ to tease him a little first. It would not do to spoil men, and let them have their own way too much. Girls were never thought half so highly of if they did not give themselves a few airs. And if she did love Philip better than any one else in the whole world, she was not such a fool, and had too much proper pride to let him know it."

Poor Ellen! And yet we fear that such reasoning is but too common. How few women dare to be truthful! the more's the pity that it should be so. No human being was ever yet spoiled by kindness, and who ever heard of love and pride existing together? Unless indeed we grow proud of the beloved one. A beautiful woman may perhaps convert her lover into a slave for the time being ; but she is wiser if she try to make him her friend.

Having dwelt somewhat minutely upon this trifling but characteristic episode in the lives of our heroines ; their future history, so far as we know it, shall be briefly told.

Frank is now one of the most promising artists of the dayunquestionably talented, and possessed of that persevering industry which is so rarely the accompaniment of genius, but when united renders it irresistible. He knows that Martha loves him, and that knowledge keeps him pure in heart. It is his incentive to increased exertions, and their reward. He feels, perhaps, that she thinks too highly of him, in her innocent and guileless affection; but it does not spoil him, it only makes him strive the more earnestly to deserve it. Generally speaking, it must be confessed that Frank has it pretty much his own way, Martha having a fond belief that whatever he says and does must be best. But occasionally she has thought it right to differ from him, and told him her reasons for so doing, frankly and honestly, and yet with the utmost gentleness, and many loving words. Frank looks up to her as his sweet counsellorhis better angel! And Martha is proud, very proud—but it is only of him. Well, perhaps, she was a fool to tell him so, and how dear he was to her—but not surely, when it made him so happy, and kept him from all evil ! for there is no better safe-guard for a young man than the rich talisman of a virtuous love.

They are to be married soon. Martha goes two or three times a week with her mother, to superintend the furnishing of that comfortable little house which is so soon to be her own. There is the studio where she means to bring her work and sit beside her husband while he paints; and the tiny drawing-room with the very easiest of couches for dear Frank! when he is tired. She never thinks of herself and the little book-shelf full of choice volumes, his favorites, and therefore hers—and above all, “ The Book," neither would have thought the house complete without that. Well might Martha declare, that she was the happiest girl in all the world! Never heeding her sister's laughter, and answering the silent pressure of her lover's hand with a blush and a tear—such tears as we shed in our deep joy, and are far more eloquent than words.

We turn away lingeringly from this sweet picture to contemplate one of a far different character. Ellen went on “ trying her power,” as she called it, and it was a mighty power either for good or evil, for Philip loved her with all the devotion of his passionate nature. Could she really prize, and yet trifle with his affection ? It seems a strange contradiction, but nevertheless it was so. Chilled by her reserve, her caprice, her well feigned indifference, Philip sometimes doubted the

« PreviousContinue »