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Her mind was alternately filled with vain regrets and bitter self-reproaches, while a dull despondency or a restless misery by turns took possession of her. Her gay spirits were gone; her temper, formerly so sweet, had become almost irritable; she could not eat, she could not sleep; her youth and her beauty seemed vanishing away. Week by week she became worse; her health seemed ready to break down altogether; a low fever preyed upon her life. At last she became so very ill that she was unable to quit her bed.
It was a winter afternoon. Harriette lay in her own little bed. The shutters were shut, but the rain splashed upon the window-panes, and the wind blew loud and tempestuous, roaring in the chimney-top, while the large heavy drops fell hissing and bubbling on the small fire in the grate. There was no light in the room save that afforded by the red glow between the bars, which only served to throw a faint reddish lustre beyond the great shadow of the chimney-piece, and then faded again into total dark
Harriette had been sleeping, but uneasily—her restless slumber disturbed by worrying dreams and images of pain. Suddenly she awoke with a start and a shiver. It was a second or two ere she could separate her waking om her sleeping impressions. Then she looked nd on the darkness; then she listened to the wild turmoil of the outer world. A sense of profound sadness took possession of her; and believing herself alone, out of the fulness of a heart surcharged with sorrow she began to weep aloud.
"Tell me the cause of your distress, my darling,' said a gentle voice; and Harriette, in that moment of weakness, could reply only by another burst of tears as she flung her arms round her mother. My dearest,' said Mrs Bertram, “if he could leave you as he did, he was not worthy of you.'
* Leave me! Oh, mother, he did not leave me!' and then Harriette poured into her mother's ear the story of the grief which filled her heart.
That interview made the mother and daughter better known to each other than they had ever been ; and as they mingled their tears together, Harriette resolved to devote her life, if it was indeed spared, to that dear parent, and breathed a prayer to her Father in heaven that she might be given the power to perform her task, and that she might find her reward in her mother's added happiness.
Harriette recovered. A new impulse had been given to her feelings, a new motive to her life. The mother and daughter were now constant companions; and while the latter learned from the former the lesson of resignation, she in her turn opened to her mother a new source of interest in those mental occupations which had once been the charm of her own life, and now become its solace. Thus passed away months, years, in a sort of gentle serenity, which, if not positively happiness, had certainly in it nothing of misery. Not that Harriette had forgotten Arthur Clavering. She had never seen another to be compared with him; but she had learned to look back on the brief period of their intercourse as but a romantic episode in the sober tale of life.
Five years have elapsed since that eventful autumn morning on which Harriette Bertram had parted with Arthur Clavering. Harriette is changed since we saw her last. She looks more than five years older, yet she is beautiful still. She is thinner and paler : a more pensive grace sits on her smooth brow—a more chastened spirit looks out from her clear, dark eyes. She is changed, too, in character. The sensitive, impulsive girl has become developed into the tender, thoughtful woman. If her early vivacity has in a measure forsaken her, she is as much alive as in former days to every object of interest; while her playful fancy sheds a grace around every subject it touches. With as much both of mind and heart as ever, her feelings and her thoughts are better regulated, while at the same time they are deepened and enlarged. While her mother bends meekly beneath her trials, Harriette seems to have risen above hers. What is resignation in the one is fortitude in the other. Harriette has discovered that
' To bear is to conquer our fate.' About this time Mrs Bertram's health began to fail. She had no complaint; but an increasing debility, and a general decay of the bodily powers, afforded ample room for anxiety. She had been confined to her room the greater part of the winter and spring; but as the summer drew on, she seemed to rally, and her medical attendant was of opinion that a change to the milder air of the south of England might restore her to health, or at least enable her to get through the succeeding winter. It was determined, therefore, that, in company with Harriette, she should pay a visit to Susan at Sandilands Hall, on the Hampshire coast. Mr Bertram, who had throughout his wife's illness shewn a good deal of concern, after a fussy, troublesome fashion, agreed to the measure at once.
No place so proper for your mother to go to, Harriette, as to her married daughter's. I suggested it some time ago, and now the doctor and all of you have come round to my opinion. I am well aware that my opinions never meet with proper deference. Dr is an insolent upstart; and if it had not been that your poor mother seemed to have some unaccountable whim in his favour, I should have dismissed him long ago. By the by, the marchioness sent to inquire for your mother to-day-very polite of hervery unlike the neglect of that upsetting woman, Lady King; but these Kings are nobodies. The idea of her fancying herself superior to the Bertrams of Fernielee! I shall let her see that I will not submit to such insolence.'
Mrs Bertram bore her long journey pretty well. The travellers were most affectionately received by Susan and her husband, and every accommodation prepared for the invalid. Sandilands Hall was a tolerably large modern mansion, built in imitation of the Elizabethan style of architecture. The grounds possessed little natural advantage of situation, except that in some places they commanded a view of the sea, but were nicely laid out and beautifully kept—a striking contrast, in their newness and trimness, with the slovenly wildness and old-fashioned dulness of Fernielee. All within the house looked the very quintessence of cheerfulness and comfort-as comfortable and cheerful as Susan herself. Susan was now fatter, fairer, and rosier than she had ever been before. An air of extreme satisfaction with herself and with everything that belonged to her was diffused over her whole face and person, and seemed to be expressed in every word and gesture. She and Mr Hartley were the most comfortable couple in the world. He was a clever man, tried experiments, and contributed to scientific journals: she spent her time in working ottoman
after ottoman, and chair after chair, in paying visits, playing with her children, and superintending the gardener. They had few ideas in common, and spent very little of their time together; still they had a strong mutual respect and regard, and an entire mutual confidence. Both were perfectly satisfied that they had drawn a prize in the matrimonial lottery, and neither wished for more sympathy than the other gave. Susan had since her marriage become very sage and proper in all her notions. She
decided opinions upon all the common affairs of life, and had at command an abundance of truisms and trite pieces of wisdom. She had a horror of flirting young men and women, and was constantly lecturing upon this subject to a ward of Mr Hartley's, a very pretty, lively girl, who was at present an inmate of Sandilands Hall. Harriette could not avoid occasionally smiling at these lectures, for she well remembered the time when no one enjoyed a flirtation more than Susan herself. · But times were changed now. Secure in her own position, she seemed to possess an entire oblivion of her former actions and motives, and to have no sympathy with them. And yet Susan was a kind-hearted woman : nor is such forgetfulness in any situation a phenomenon of very rare occurrence.
Mrs Bertram's health seeming to improve with the change of air and scene, Harriette began to indulge in the hope that her life might be spared ; and her spirits rising in consequence, she also found considerable amusement and enjoyment in the scenes by which she was surrounded. Some share of this amusement was contributed by Clara Norris, the young lady mentioned above. Clara was a young girl between eighteen and nineteen, with the prettiest, fairylike figure, the rosiest cheeks, the most roguish blue eyes, and the softest, most luxuriant gold-brown hair that ever was seen. She was an heiress and a spoiled child, wayward, whimsical, and capricious, and yet not without a certain fitful goodness of disposition, and some glimpses of right and truth. Without being either clever or intellectual, she was much too lively and amusing to be called either stupid or silly. She was excessively fond of Airting, and to Susan's horror, made no hesitation of declaring that she preferred the society of gentlemen to that of her
At present she had no one to flirt with but a certain Mr Charles Crawford, the younger son of a neighbour, a young man about twenty-five, of a rather gentlemanly and agreeable appearance, but with nothing decidedly handsome either in face or person. Mr Charles Crawford had been educated for the bar, and had kept the necessary terms; but somehow or other he had got tired of the profession, and did not care to be called.' He was now doing nothing, and seemed to be quite contented with the occupation. He was quite a lady's man, and would spend whole forenoons in criticising work, and trying over polkas and songs; for he both played the piano and sung himself. He was also a tolerable draughtsman, and sometimes hit off a caricature very cleverly. He had an abundance of small talk, literary, theatrical, operatic, musical, complimentary, sentimental, and gossipping. He was a great favourite of Mrs Hartley, with whom he frequently passed the morning either at the greenhouse, or sitting upon a footstool (his favourite position), playing with the children, or telling her the news while she worked. She was more tolerant of Clara's flirtations with him than with any other person, for she considered him a very safe young man.' 'People who are so ready to pay attention to anybody
never fall in love. · Charles Crawford will never marry anybody, but will go on being everybody's beau to the end of his life. And so Susan was tolerably content that he should talk less to her, and play polkas and romp in the garden instead with Clara Norris, as .it kept her out of greater mischief.' And now that Mrs Hartley had her mother and sister to occupy her, Clara Norris and Charles Crawford were more together than ever.
On the very night of Harriette's arrival, Clara, with her usual frankness, announced to her that she had taken a fancy to her.
Why, may I ask ?' said Harriette, a little amused.
Oh, because you are so tall and graceful, and have such beautiful long dark ringlets, and you sing so sweetly. I like music, and I like a gentlewoman; and you are a gentlewoman all over, and you must let me call you Harriette, because I love you.'
My dear Clara,' said Susan, there is nothing more foolish than to take sudden fancies. People often turn out very differently from what they appear. In the present instance, indeed, with my sister Harriette you are quite safe; but often it might be dangerous.'
“So you have often told me, and Arthur Clavering laughs at me for it; but I don't care whether it is sensible or not, for I cannot help it, and I am not going to give it up. By the by, I wonder when Arthur Clavering is coming.
At the first mention of that long-unspoken name Harriette's heart beat violently, but she contrived to ask : ‘Is Mr Clavering expected here ?'
Ere Susan had time to reply, Clara exclaimed: 'Do you know Arthur Clavering? How odd he should never have spoken of you to me!'
“It is a long time since I met Mr Clavering.'
Oh, but he could not have forgotten you! I wonder he did not fall in love with you! I shall attack him for his want of taste.'
'Indeed, Clara,' cried Susan, 'you shall do nothing so indelicate and improper! I can assure you Arthur Clavering will be much displeased !'
• I don't care if he is ! I shall do what I please till we are married at anyrate! And to do Arthur justice, he is not half so straitlaced as you are. If he only would not insist on lending me horrid histories and poems to read, and always asking me if I have read them, I should have no fault to find with him.'
Married ! then Arthur Clavering was going to be married, and to Clara Norris! Harriette thought that she had quite overcome her love for him; but she could not hear of his marriage without unwonted perturbation. As soon as she and Susan were alone, the latter said: 'I have only waited, my dearest Harriettė, till I knew whether it would be agreeable to you for us to have Arthur Clavering down. He and Clara are to be married next spring; but I would rather do anything, Harry, than make you uncomfortable.'
'You are ever kind, my dear Susan,' said Harriette, embracing her sister; " but I can have no objection to meet the affianced husband of another woman.' · Are you sure, Harriette ?' said Susan, for she felt a hot drop upon her
'It is but the remembrance of past pain, dear Susan. Do not fear that I shall disgrace you.'
Disgrace me! No, that I am sure you never will! All I mean is, do not try yourself too much.'
'I trust it will be no trial, my kind Susan. If it should, the sooner I school myself to bear it the better.'
It was a few mornings after this conversation, as Harriette hastily opened a door leading from a passage which conducted from the breakfast parlour into the entrance-hall, that in the most awkward manner she nearly ran against a gentleman who was entering. She looked up. It was Arthur Clavering. As their eyes met, an expression of some kind of emotion flitted rapidly over his face, but so rapidly, so instantaneously, that one could hardly have said it had been there; and in a calm tone, and with a manner perfectly self-possessed, he said : Miss Bertram! I beg your pardon;' and then, after a second's pause, 'I hope you are well. His self-possession restored Harriette to hers, though it could not so instantly chase the bright flush from her usually pale cheek. She returned his salutation, and, as if by mutual consent, they shook hands, coldly and formally, like common acquaintance. In the same ceremonious style Mr Clavering inquired for her mother and the family at Fernielee; and they passed on in opposite directions.
As their intercourse had begun, so it continued. Ever perfectly polite, yet never too polite, neither familiar nor distant, Arthur Clavering's manner convinced Harriette that he had not only forgiven, but in a sense forgotten their former intercourse. So perfect appeared his indifference, that as far as he was concerned the past seemed as if it had never been. She had ceased to interest him in any way; and thus it was best—far best. So she said to herself; and she strove to repress all regretful musings, and sought to divert her mind by busying herself in cares for her mother. To the latter Arthur Clavering shewed a gentle, unobtrusive attention. They often chatted together on general topics, while Susan and Harriette worked, and Clara rode with Charles Crawford; for Clavering was no equestrian, and Clara 'could not do without her ride on the downs. In the evening Clavering was generally occupied with his betrothed at the piano, while after breakfast they strolled together in the grounds. It was on one of these latter occasions that Clara put in execution her threat of asking Arthur Clavering why he had not fallen in love with Harriette Bertram. They had been talking rather sensibly for a few minutes, Arthur having been making an endeavour to lead the volatile Clara into something like a sober train of thought. He had just begun to hope he had succeeded in arresting her attention, for she had asked one or two pertinent questions, when all at once she exclaimed: 'Oh, Arthur ! I am tired of being wise. If you wanted a sensible wife, you should have married Harriette Bertram.'
As Clara spoke, a shade of displeasure stole over her companion's countenance. “Really, Clara, you get more and more childish. It seems to me as if you could not fix your attention for five minutes.'
'I know I cannot. My thoughts are like those butterflies, wandering about from one pretty flower to another, and never resting upon anything disagreeable.