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marrying from mercenary motives, and looked forward to their future with that melancholy resignation which characterised all her anticipations of a temporal nature.
Fernielee was an old-fashioned place, sweetly situated in one of the wilder districts in the south of Scotland. When I say old-fashioned, I do not mean, however, that the mansion was rendered picturesque by gable-ends and turrets, and innumerable stacks of quaint chimneys; nor do I mean that it was covered with ivy, or had a hall
, with 'storied windows richly dight.' There are few such mansions in Scotland, and Fernielee assuredly was not one of them. On the contrary, it was one of the very plainest edifices one could imagine. It was built of rough gray stone, with a long plain front, and long rows of small windows, with a very steep roof of gray slates, or rather slabs, in many places overgrown with moss and lichens. The door, which was in the middle of the house, was approached by a long flight of moss-grown steps, with long thin gray iron railings, round which some creeping plants made an ineffectual attempt to climb. The house was situated at the top of a gentle acclivity, which might have been made a pretty lawn but for the grass - covering, which was generally rough and unshaven. At the foot of this bank flowed a stream, here and there overhung by low alders and birches, and dwarf-trees of various descriptions. Behind the house rose a green hill, used as pasture-ground for sheep; while on the right and left stretched away to some little distance plantations of various kinds of wood, conspicuous among which at present was the mountain ash, with its clusters of coral berries. In front there was a view of some heathy hills, not high, but wild, interspersed with green knolls, and ferny or broomy glens, down which generally tumbled and sparkled a little streamlet. Although a very pretty place, there was about it a certain air of desolation. The trees wanted pruning, and the walks weeding. Within, though neat and tidy, and full of young and blooming girls, it was dull too: and to-day, when I am about to introduce you to its interior, it was unusually so. Mr Bertram and five of his daughters had gone to the races, which were to be held near a town a few miles from Fernielee; Mrs Bertram was busy at work in the breakfast parlour; and Harriette was reading in her own room --for Harriette did not care for races, and had remained at home.
Harriette Bertram was generally allowed to be a pretty girl, and not without some reason. Her well-proportioned figure was light, active, and graceful; her movements easy, quiet, and natural. Her complexion, though pale, was remarkably fresh and clear; her eyes large and beaming, and full of an ever-changeful expression; and her rich, dark hair singularly soft and luxuriant. What she wanted in regularity of feature and brilliancy of colour was amply atoned for by the vivacity and intelligence of her expression, the sweetness of her ready smile, and the spirit of her manner and bearing. There was nothing insipid in her appearance—it everywhere bespoke what we call character, and was, besides, pre-eminently ladylike. And in truth her appearance belied her not. A warm sensibility, generous, and even noble impulses, with a refined sensitiveness of disposition almost approaching to fastidiousness, and a spirited, though sweet, affectionate temper, were among her most distinguishing characteristics. The faults of her character grew, as it were, out of its beauties. The warmth of her feelings, and the glow of an imagination, ever, ere reflection came to her
-aid, prone to paint in brighter or in darker colours, as the case might be, each incident which befell her, obscured the clearness of her judgment, and led her to act from the impulse of the moment rather than from the good sense she really possessed. In short, she needed the teaching of life, and a touch, perchance, of the discipline of sorrow, to give regular beauty to a mind which was yet but a wilderness of flowers.
Harriette, I have said, was reading-one of those noble books which warm and elevate the heart while they expand the mind. She raised her eyes from time to time, and looked up in thought, her countenance full of a lofty gladness. At last her glance fell on a ball-dress, which, with its various accessories, lay spread out on a bed before her. "Ah!' she thought, as the sight of it recalled her to everyday cares— I wish I were not going. I may enjoy it perhaps, but not as I enjoy this quiet morning. Everybody seems so commonplace. I wonder if I shall ever meet any one different. There must surely be many, and yet I never met one. But now I must go down to mamma.'
At dinner, Mr Bertram and his daughters were full of the races; the former was in unusual glee. “Had a bow from the marquis, Mrs Bertram ! indeed his lordship was uncommonly gracious ; said, when he passed me the second time: "A fine autumn day, Mr Bertram; but rather windy." The marchioness, too, shook hands with Marianne on the stand, and bowed to the rest of the girls. There was a Mr Hartley of Sandilands Hall in Hampshire there, who paid a good deal of attention to Susan, so I asked him here to dinner to-morrow after the races. It would be an excellent match for her. Be sure, Mrs Bertram, that you have everything in good style. 'What sort of person is Mr Hartley ?' faintly inquired Mrs Bertram.
Person! Mrs Bertram ? Of course he is a proper person, otherwise I should not think of encouraging him to address one of my daughters. Really, Mrs Bertram, you surprise me. You might have a little dependence on my judgment, I think. No doubt it is vastly inferior to your own; still, madam, I would have you know I am not an absolute fool.' Mrs Bertram returned no answer, but bent her head over her plate.
Susan said in a kind tone to her mother : ‘He is not very handsome, mamma, and not very young either ; but so very agreeable, and scientific, and all that; and everybody speaks well of him.'
* But oh,' cried Ellen, 'there was such a charming young man there! a cousin of Mr Hartley's—and they are both staying at the Grange—a Mr Clavering, a London barrister, exquisitely good-looking, and amazingly clever, they say. I hope he may dance with me to-night ; and, by the by, that reminds me I have the pink flowers to fasten in
The Bertrams were, as usual, among the first in the ball-room : they were all, with the exception of Marianne, who had a cold, looking uncommonly well to - night. Susan's complexion looked, by gaslight, dazzlingly fair, while excitement had lent a glow to her cheek and a light
She danced the first dance with Mr Hartley. Harriette,
to her eyes.
'not having an interesting partner, and being a little tired, sat down as soon as the dance was over. The seat she had chosen was under the musicgallery, which was supported by pillars. Seated near one of those, she was completely concealed by it from the observation of two gentlemen on the other side, whose conversation she was thus unintentionally obliged to overhear. One of them inquired who her sister Susan was. The other, who was Harriette's rejected suitor, replied : 'One of the Bertrams of Ternielee—the greatest husband-hunters in the country.'
· Ah! I have heard of them since I came to the Grange. They are quite notorious, I suppose ?'
"Oh, quite! So you had better take care of yourself. Your friend Hartley seems quite captivated.' The gentleman laughed.
Oh, but I am not very easily caught.' 'I should recommend you, however, to beware of Mr Bertram's traps.' The speakers then walked away.
Harriette remained with flushed cheeks and a mortified spirit; for while she despised Mr Johnstone and the petty revenge to which he had condescended, she was deeply annoyed by what she had heard of the reputation of her family, and all the more that she felt it was not undeserved. She was yet brooding over the disagreeable idea, when a partner was introduced to her as Mr Clavering. The name she recognised as that of the London gentleman of whom her sisters had been speaking in the morning; while the tone of his voice, as he invited her to dance, convinced her at once that he was Mr Johnstone's companion behind the pillar. In the present state of her feelings she would have declined dancing with him, if it had been possible; but it was not. The dance was a quadrille, and Mr Clavering exerted himself to be agreeable, or rather he was agreeable without exertion. By degrees Harriette's uncomfortable feelings began to vanish under the influence of his conversation. -evident, at all events, that he was not afraid of her society, for he danced several times with her, and engaged her as his partner at the supper-table. In her limited circle and secluded nook of the world, Harriette had certainly never before met so agreeable a person, and the time seemed to fly during their animated conversation..
Mr Clavering was a young man not much above thirty, whose talents had already opened for him at the bar a career full of promise. In person he was about the middle height, gentlemanly and unobtrusive, rather than strikingly elegant in manner. His, features were good, though rather large, more especially the mouth, which was, however, well-shaped, and expressed at once firmness and good temper. His eyes were gray, but large, and full of thought and animation; while his light-brown hair was smoothly parted over a square, solid, open forehead. His countenance altogether was manly and intelligent; while his manner and bearing were characterised by that air of ease and decision which is bestowed by extensive intercourse with the world, mingled with an indescribable something which, without being conceit, yet seemed to denote the consciousness of superior abilities; and, in fact, such was Mr Clavering's real character. A younger son, he was the cleverest of his own family. He had been successful at school and college, and professional prosperity already seemed to smile upon him ; consequently, he could hardly fail to be aware of his
own talents and attractions, while at the same time he had too much good sense and good feeling to be guilty of the folly and presumption of conceit. He was rather conscious of ability than vain of it: his manner, though bespeaking confidence in himself, was perfectly free from assumption, and possessed all that respect towards those whom he addressed without which no manner can be agreeable. He had been attracted by Harriette's beauty, which was of a style to charm a mind of an intellectual cast. On inquiring her name, he had been disappointed to find that she was one of the husband-hunting Miss Bertrams. Notwithstanding, however, he requested to be introduced to her, and was agreeably surprised to find her quite free from the manners of the class to which she was said to belong. He was surprised not only by the vivacity of her conversation, but by the uncommon amount of intellectual cultivation which, without any effort, any appearance of the littleness and vulgarity of shewing off, it displayed. In truth, Harriette had never before found herself in society so congenial. Never had she been more charming; never had she looked more beautiful. As Mr Clavering handed her to the carriage, she was mortified to hear her father, in obsequious terms, invite him to join their party at dinner the following day, adding as an inducement: 'And you shall hear my daughter · Harriette sing. She is allowed to have a fine voice, and I am sure will be delighted to exert it for you.'
Mr Clavering turned towards Harriette, but the dimness of the light prevented him from seeing her look of annoyance. “May I count on the pleasure Mr Bertram promises me?' he asked.
‘By no means,' she replied. “I am often too much fatigued after a ball to be able to sing, so pray do not count upon me.' She spoke with a smile on her lips but with inward vexation.
He then bade her good-night, saying to himself : ‘If that girl be a husband-hunter, she is the most consummate adept that ever existed !'
As Harriette drove home, she mused over the evening. It had certainly been in one sense the most agreeable she had ever spent : at last she had obtained a glimpse of that mental superiority she had so longed to find; at last she had dared to be herself, with the pleasurable consciousness that she was understood, and was all the more agreeable for being so. But even this delightful evening had had its drawbacks, its moments of mortification-moments, too, which had left a sting behind. What would Mr Clavering think of her father? What might he not even suppose of herself? And again and again, with an interest which surprised her, would these tormenting questions intrude.
Susan meanwhile was in great delight. It was astonishing to perceive the change one day had made in her appearance and spirits. She had danced nearly all night with Mr Hartley, and he had testified very unequivocally his admiration for her. A source of interest had arisen for her. She was no longer without an aim. Susan had not the mental resources of her sister Harriette, neither had she the strength of character which distinguished the latter; and when her early love-affair was terminated by her father, she became the victim of ennui, and consequent low spirits. It was, however, the want of occupation for her thoughts, rather than disappointed affection, which was at the bottom of her melancholy; for though in truth a kind-hearted girl, Susan had not sufficient intensity of character to be capable of feeling a deep or fervent affection. Thus she could very easily persuade herself she was in love, when in fact she was only flattered. In short, Susan belonged to that numerous class of women—a class, however, which is far from containing all, or the best part of the sex-to whom marriage is the sole aim of life. The reason for this over-anxiety respecting marriage-always so deteriorating to the female character—is, we think, to be found chiefly in two causes, both operating in poor Susan's case : the one we have already alluded to-want of mental occupation, and a necessity implanted in human nature for having an object in life to hope for and to strive after; the other, that marriage is often the sole alternative of a life of poverty and neglect. There can be nothing more cruel than to educate women so as to fit them only for a life of ease and luxury, and then leave them destitute of all means of indulging it. Can we wonder that girls thus educated, and seeing in single life only the pinching struggle and the cold neglect, or at best the patronising kindness which is too often the portion of the poor old maid, should eagerly endeavour to avert such a fate, even by rushing perchance into a worse ? No: we cannot wonder, when we consider how dear to human beings is the respect and consideration of their kind, and how comparatively few there are who, through depression and exaltation, through good report and evil report, can alike preserve a calm possession of soul and an unruffled dignity of temper.
“What a charming evening we have had, Harry !-have we not ?' cried Susan, when the two sisters had withdrawn to the apartment they shared between them.
Delightful indeed, in some respects !' "Oh! in every respect. Mr Hartley is an excessively clever man--so scientific, so fond of chemistry, and electricity, and geology, and all these things.
'I thought you did not care for these things.'
'Neither I do; but still I like a man who does. How superior he is, after all, to poor George Maclaren. After all, I daresay papa was right, and George, poor fellow, would not have been a very suitable match for me. How much Mr Clavering seemed to admire you, Harriette! Mr Hartley says he is very clever; so I daresay he would be just the thing for you. How I should like it, my dear Harriette !'
"Like what, Susan?—that Mr Clavering should marry me, do you mean? I have no design on Mr Clavering's heart or hand. On further acquaintance he might turn out very different from what he appears. Oh! my dear sister Susan, let us not degrade ourselves in our own eyes or in the eyes of others by scheming for an establishment. It makes me feel miserable to think that any one should say we do.'
* Dear me, Harriette! I would be above minding what people say; and as to refusing a good offer on that account, it would be very foolish. Not that I would marry anybody that I did not like, I can assure you. You have such odd notions, Harry, that though you are the prettiest, and the cleverest, and the best too, I should not wonder if you were an old maid after all.'
'And if I were, it would not much signify. No: let me keep my selfrespect, let me feel that I have acted with a single purpose, truthfully and uprightly, and I can bear any lot however lowly.'