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“ And for that very reason, my child, I have the joy of the one feeling for fear of the suffering wished you to find some friend, whose affection of the other.” and personal character might sometimes give you There was an indefinable expression of sadness more cheerful matters of meditation, and a happy on the countenance of Mrs. Leslie as her mild eye change of scene. You are only too prone to think rested on the beaming features of her child. It and feel, and might become morbidly sensitive was an expression which others might often have before either of us had imagined the danger. I remarked, but when observed by Florence she know, too, that there is an age when the young believed it natural to those beloved features, markrequire more than their natural relatives whom to ing perhaps greater suffering of body than usual, respect and love; they fancy it no credit to be loved and in consequence calling forth increased tendermerely in their domestic circle; they need an in. ness on her part. terchange of sentiment and pursuit, and all their “ It is too late to wish the present pleasure reinnocent recreations and graver duties acquire called, my child; continue to love Lady Ida, only double zest from being shared by another. Sym- remember there must be a cloud in your horizon pathy is the magic charm of life; and a friend of joy, that this intimacy cannot last, even if she will both give it and feel it, and never shrink return to England. Your respective stations canfrom speaking truth, however painful, kindly in- not permit ihe confidence of perfect friendship, deed, but faithfully, and will infuse and receive and my Florence has too much of her mother's strength by the mutual confidence of high and re-pride to seek to be a humble friend." ligious principle. Trust me, there are such friends, “ I could never be such to Lady Ida,” replied my Florence, friends that will cling to each other Florence, “ for she would cease to love me, or at through weal and through woe, who will never least to feel the same interest in me, if I were. permit coldness or distrust to creep in, and dull No, mother, no; I am not ashamed to stand in a their truth; aye, and who will stand by, protecting lower grade than hers. I shall never become one and comforting, should sorrow or even sin be the of those despicable characters who, attempting to lot of the one, and that of the other be happiness rise above, sink lower than their natural station, complete."
and thus expose themselves to laughter and conMrs. Leslie ceased, her voice becoming almost
Tempt. inaudible from emotion or exhaustion. Florence imagined the latter cause, for there was a deep flush on her mother's usually pallid cheek which alarmed
Cuap. II. and pained her, and throwing her arms round her neck she begged her not to talk too much, dearly
The family, of whom the animated speaker of as she loved to hear her, adding somewhat mourn the preceding chapter formed so engaging a part, fully, “ You have indeed pictured true friendship, consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie and their three mother, and that which I yearn for; Lady Ida may children. They had resided for several years in be all this to me, but I am too lowly in station and the lovely little village of Babbicombe, situated on in merit to be such to her; though I do feel I could the south coast of Devonshire. Occasional visits go to the world's end to make her happier than had indeed been made to the metropolis, and other she is. Oh, mother, if you did but know her parts of England; but their home was Devonshire, as I do."
and there had the affections of Florence taken “Without that pleasure, my dear child, I have root, with all the enthusiasm of her nature. Lonseen enough of her to know that, were her rank don she abhorred; she fancied its denizens were less high, I could not wish a dearer, truer friend cold and heartless, and her mind had not yet for Florence. A character like yours, almost too received the magic touch which could awaken it to clinging, too affectionate, needs the support of those treasures of art and science which the emfirmness and self-control, qualities I have never porium of England's glory so richly contains. seen possessed in a more powerful degree than by As yet, the music of the birds and streams, and Lady Ida. But remember, my Florence, it is not the deeper base and varied tones of Ocean, were only the disparity of rank which must eventually sweeter' harmonies than the rarest talent of the separate you. Lady Ida is about to leave England capital. The opening flowers, the diversified scene to reside in Italy for an indefinite time.”
of hill and dale, the groups of village children, of “And with my whole heart I wish she could sturdy peasants and rustic girls, amid the fields set off directly, lonely as I should feel,” exclaimed and orchards, presented to her fancy lovelier picFlorence eagerly.
tures and more perfect forms than the finest gal“ No doubt you do; for there never was any leries of art. selfishness in true affection, be it friendship or love. The feelings and mysteries of her own loving Yet still I wish there had been no occasion for heart and simple mind presented enough variety; this self-renunciation, and that your first friendship she needed not change of society to develope her in. had not been with one from whom you will so soon luitive perception of character. Reading with be called upon to part.”
avidity all that she could obtain-history, poetry, “But I would not lose the pleasure of the pre- romance, all that could delineate nature according sent to escape the pain of the future. You know, to the responses of her own beart--she needed no dear mother, I always say I feel that pleasure and other recreation. The gentle councils of Mrs. pain are twins; I never feel one without the other, Leslie preserved her from all that mawkish senand I should be a poor miserable being, without a timent and undue prominence of romance which particle of spirit or animation, if I were to give up in some dispositions might have resulted from such
indiscriminate reading at an age so early. But evening society, for which Minie was too young, Florence Leslie was no heroine, to take a volume and which were for Mrs. Leslie too painful an of Byron or Moore, and wander alone amid the exertion, that she was conscious she might be rocks, and fells, and woods of Babbicombe, and happier still. weep in secret, imagining herself to be some love- There was an ardent longing in Florence Leslie's lorn damsel, and pining for all the fascinating heart from her earliest years, which most people heroes of whom she read. That she was often seen imagined but romantic folly engendered by indistripping lightly, on an early summer morning, or a criminate reading, and a consequent love of advencool fresh evening, down the hill, to a favourite ture, but which (strange to say) always appeared cleft in a rock almost hidden by luxuriant brush- to cause Mrs. Leslie some uneasiness. All that wood which covered it, and within hearing of the concerned Italy, from the dryest history, the deepest sonorous voice of old Ocean, and seen 100 with antiquarian research, to the lightest poem, were a book in her hand, we pretend not to deny. But pored over with a pertinacity, a constancy, which look not aghast, ye votaries of Byron and Moore, no one but Mr. and Mrs. Leslie, perhaps, could that volume was generally one of Felicia Hemans, comprehend. Rogers's poem she committed to or Mary Howitt; or, if of deeper lore, Words- memory page after page, simply for recreation ; worth, Coleridge, the stirring scenes of Scott, or and she learned to draw, chiefly in order to copy the domestic pictures of Edgeworth, Mitford, or every print of Italy, modern or ancient, which Austin. Florence was not yet old enough, or per- came before her, chance wise enough, to appreciate the true poetic “What would I not give to have some claim on beauties of Lord Byron's thrilling lays, or the that lovely land ?" she had said one day, when sweeter, softer music of Moore. She was as yet only twelve years old. “ It is so foolish merely only sensible of that which pleased her fancy and to love. Now, if I had by some strange chance touched her heart; and therefore to these poeis her been born there, I might love Italy as much as I gentle spirit echoed no reply.
pleased. By the way, papa, where was I born ? But Florence was not so wedded to her books, I have asked mamma several times, and there seems and shrubs, and flowers, as to eschew those plea- a fatalily attending her answer, for I do not know sures which might perhaps appear somewhat irre- yet.” levant to such a quiet life. No one loved a ball Mr. Leslie's face was shaded by his hand, and so well, no one was so lightly gay in all festivity it was twilight, or Florence must have discovered and mirth. The morning hour might see her in that his countenance was slightly troubled ; but he tears over a favourite book, the evening find her answered quietly, “ If you so much wish to forswear the life and centre of a happy group of children, poor old England as your birthplace, my dear child, laughing, dancing, like the youngest there. you have my permission so to do. For, in truth, if to
Such she was at the age of fifteen ; seventeen be born in a country makes you a child of the soil, years found this internal and external bappiness you are Italian, having first seen the light, about somewhat clouded. She became more awake to twenty miles from the fair town whose name you outward things; to the consciousness of, and bear.” sympathy with, the sufferings of a mother whom “ Italian ! really, truly, Italian! Oh! you she loved with no common love. For the last five dear, good father, to tell me so. Now I may love it years, Mrs. Leslie had been labouring under an as much as I please. Italy, dear, beautiful Italy ! incurable disease, which not only always debili- I am your own child ! Mamma, naughty mamma!" tated her frame, producing a languor and depres- she continued, bounding to Mrs. Leslie, as she sion under which many a mind would have sunk, entered the room, “ why did you never tell me but exposed her at intervals to the most ex- I was Italian? I must go and tell Walter and cruciating suffering, which she would yet bear so nurse;" and away she flew, utterly unconscious of uncomplainingly, so heroically, that very often the the agitation her words had produced in Mrs. damp drops on her brow, or a fainting fit, would Leslie, who, as the door closed behind her, sank on be the first sign that she was enduring pain. A a chair by her husband's side, faintly exclaiming, sudden and violent disease would have alarmed, “ Edward, dearest Edward! what have you told and thus excited the attention even of a child ; her ?" but Mrs. Leslie's complaint had crept on so silently “Nothing, dearest, trust me, nothing that can and unsuspectedly, her languor and weakness were in any way disturb her serenity or happiness, or so successfully combatted, that it was not strange excité the least suspicion in herself or others, that Florence should have failed to observe them inimical to her present or future peace. I did but at first, and that when she did so, the fact should tell her she was born in Italy, which, did she ever have dashed her glowing visions with a saddening mingle with my family, she would find many to shade. She felt the pleasures of gaiety were confirm; and you know it is but the truth, dearest alloyed, for she could never join in them with her wife. mother.
Mrs. Leslie breathed more freely. True the yearning for something more to love “ I am very weak, and very foolish,” she said, was not strong enough to affect her happiness ; after a pause; “ but the slightest reference to for, when by Mrs. Leslie's side, listening to her her birth utterly unnerves me.
Dearest Edward, loved councils, or caressing her young and joyous there come to me at times such horrible foresister Mary (or Minie, as she was always called), bodings, as if we had scaicely done right to act as she felt it not. It was only when taking a ramble we have done ; and, yet it was my own request, too long for Minie, or joining in the pleasures of my first weighty boon, and not granted by you without a painful struggle; if there be fault-if “ It is not likely I shall ever have the happiness evil come of il-I have brought it on myself.” of seeing them ; so let me love on, at least," re
“Do not speak thus, my noble Mary," was her joined Florence, in a sorrowful tone. husband's instant reply, pressing her as he spoke to bis bosom. “ What fault can there be in acting as you did ? What evil can come from it to dash
CHAP. III. your noble deed with woe?”
“ If she should ever learn" faintly murmured Among the many visitors to the mild and beauMrs. Leslie; “ever know the truth-"
tiful sea-port of Torquay, was the family of Lord “ It is not likely she ever will, nor can there be Melford, a nobleman, with whom Mr. Leslie, during any need she should. Loved, cherished, ay, and his casual visits to the metropolis, had become acdutiful and affectionate as she is, God grant that quainted, from having done him some essential she may never leave our home till she quits it for service in the way of business. The climate of a happier one."
Devonshire having been recommended for the “ Amen!” fervently responded Mrs. Leslie; health of one of his daughters, two successive and what further might have passed between them winters found the family comfortably domiciled in was checked by the re-entrance of their child. a noble residence near the town, acknowledged to
As Florence outgrew the period of childhood, be second only to Tor Abbey in importance, both and merged into opeving womanhood, there was for interior arrangements, and exierior beauty ; something in the intense blackness of her large, its picturesque localities possessing all the varied lustrous eye, the glossy tresses of her long, jet-black charms of hill and dale, wood and water, peculiar and'rendered peculiarly'delicate from the effects to Lady Melford and her daughters made it a point of an English climate, was certainly more brunette to return Mr. Leslie's services by attentions 10 than blonde, that seemed in truth to mark her of that genileman's family. Florence was not a being more southern origin than her mother and little to be passed unnoticed. Her animation, her grace, sister, between whom and herself there was no her cultivated mind, and intuitive refinement, were affinity of feature whatever. Minie was a lovely acknowledged even by those accustomed to the English child, exquisitely fair, with deep blue eyes, most fashionable society; and, consequently, she and clustering curls of gold, and a voice that, even was invited to St. John's, made much of by at twelve years old, was something so extraordinary the Misses Melford, dignified by the title of the in its compass, its flexibility, that many a professor honourable Emily Melford's “intimate friend,” might have envied her ihe gist.
caressed by the viscountess herself, and though not Florence was no regular beauty, but very grace- yel“out,"admitted to all their domestic festivities. ful, with a modest and winning manner, and an Still Florence retained her independent spirit, ever varying expression of feature, which rendered her love of her own more humble home, untinged her a most loveable creature. Flattery, Florence in- by a wish to exchange ber unpretending sphere for stinctively abhorred; but if any one told her her that of her noble friends. Notwithstanding ikat eyes and complexion were more Italian than Eng- she became an object of envy to many a young Jish, she would be as innocently delighted as a lady in the vicinity who thought her pretensions child with a new toy.
to the notice of Lady Melford were quite as good as The other child of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie was a Miss Leslie's, not one in the whole neighbourhood delicate boy, two years the junior of Florence, be- could be found 10 say that this distinction bad tween whom and himself many an animated discuss changed one tittle of her character. She was heard sion was wont to take place, on what they termed 10 declare that it was worth while to mix with the respective merits of their respective countries. grandeur and be petted by strangers a little wbile, On one of these occasions, Florence met the glance as it only made her feel how mucli dearer was her of her mother, full of that sorrowful meaning which home, how much more precious the love of its inshe had only lately learned to remark, and she mates than they had ever seemed before. hastened towards her to cover her with caresses, Though the refinement of high rank and well and ask if she could do anything 10 alleviate her cultivated minds, mingled with lighter accomplish, pain.
ments, rendered the honourable Misses Melford “ Mamma does not like to bear you abuse old far more congenial companions 10 our young England,” was Walter's laughing rejoinder, as heroine than any she had yet met with, there was her inother assured her she was not suffering. still something wanting; the mystery of sympathy,
“I do not abuse it; I love it, Walter; bui I love that curious power which links us with kindred Italy more, and mamma loves it too."
minds, which bids us feel long before the lights “Not better than England, Florence; not so and shadows of character can be distinguished, well : look at her eyes."
that we have met with the rich blessing of a heart Florence did look, and seemed disappointed; which can understand us, and on which our Mrs. Leslie smiled.
own may lean. A fashionable education, and, “I have passed many happy, but more sorrow- in the two elder, the gaieties of four or five ful, days in Italy, my dear children; and, as we London seasons, had been productive of their generally love a country froin association, I can- natural consequences, coldness and heartlessness, didly own it would give me more pain than which could not assimilate with the ardent templeasure to visit those classic shores again. perament of Florence. She knew not their extent,
“There !" exclaimed Walter, triumphantly. for they were always kind to her, and she did not
feel any restraint before then ; but she intuitively reflective minds. The late Lord Elgmere had felt that all her high aspirations, her exalted feelings known the worth of both mother and son, and had had belter not be spoken, for they would not be cherished and encouraged the intimacy between understood ; even Émily Melford, though but just them and his child. Whether he ever ihought of eighteen, had not passed through the ordeal of danger arising from it, or really would not have fashionable training entirely unscathed; perhaps, objected to the union of Lady Ida with the poor too, nature was as much in fault as education, for but high-minded Edmund St. Maur, could never she was naturally cold, though so independent be ascertained, as he died before Ida herself was both in thought and action, as often 10. starile aware of the engaged state of her affections; and Florence.
St. Maur, whatever might have been his privale The first winter, S:. John's had only been feelings, knew his position too well to think of honoured by the presence of Lady Melford and her their betrayal. daughters, occasionally varied_by visits from the Lady Ida had not however, been a year an orphan, Viscount, and the honourable Frederick and Alfred before the fading form and pallid cheek of EdMelford, true specimens of joke-loving, amuse- mund startled her into perfect consciousness as to ment-seeking young men of fashion, whose gaiety the state of her own heart ; and with all the refineand good feeling excited the mirth and ready enjoyment and delicacy of a high and pure mind, she ment of Florence, but nothing more. The second recalled all that had ever passed between them, all that winter brought an addition to the family; Emily she knew of his characier, and felt that gold, deshad alluded to a cousin, her mother's niece, the picable gold had caused this change. His too Lady Ida Villiers, eight years her senior, and sensitive mind imagined fortune had for ever spoken so rapturously of her exceeding grace and divided them, that he dared not aspire to her hand. beauty, and richly gifted mind, that Florence She knew his pride, and felt that did she not thought these all-sufficient food for fancy ; but the advance more forward than was, perhaps, quite tale connected with Lady Ida was such as 10 consistent with maidenly propriety, not only her interest much colder hearts than hers.
own happiness, but his would be sacrificed for She had lost her father seven years previously ; Her first measures were sufficiently unsucher mother some time before ; and Lady Ida, the cessful to rob her own cheek of its glow, her own last of an ancient line, was left under the guardian- form of its roundness; the more kind, the more ship of Lord Melford, until the age of twenty-four, gracious her manner, nay, the more she thought to when full liberty became her own. The title of draw liim to her side, the more he shunned her. her father, the ancient earldom of Edgemere, had But how did she ever discover his senti:nents? indeed gone to a distant branch, but his posses- how ever conquer his pride?" was Florence Leslie's sions, with little diminution, passed to his daughter, ardent exclamation, aware of the sequel, yet not leaving her, in consequence, a wealthy heiress. imagining how these difficulties could be overShe had certainly charms enough, both of person come; and Emily Melford, as eager to speak as and mind, to remove all idea that she could be her companion to listen, continued :sought inerely for fortune; but whatever the cause, Simply, because he chanced to have a mother, the richest and proudest bowed before her, ac- in whom he could confide a tale of love. knowledged her surpassing loveliness, and besought, It was easy for Lady Helen to penetrate Ida's in all the varieties of passion, the honour of her secret, and the betrayal of Edmund's sentiments of hand. But the heart of the Lady Ida Villiers had course followed. Once assured that she was beappeared to be as cold as ice; her majesty of de- loved, neither her own maiden modesty nor natural meanour had never descended to encouragement, pride could be in aught impugned. All reserve in even the passing courtesy of the moment. All was at an end ; they understood each other, and were rejected, some with winning kindness, some never were three happier persons, I believe, than with contemptuous scorn, according as her quick Ida and Edmund, and not least, Lady Helen." and penetrative mind discovered the true feeling, or “ She must have been happy, for it was greatly worldly seeking pretence of her respective suitors. her doing, observed Florence. “But why are In vain her guardians expostulated, and Lord Mel. they not married yet? why only engaged ?" ford, remembering he was an uncle also, took upon “ For a very weighly reason; Ida had to bear himself to threaten. The young lady was in- the brunt of all sorts of persecution-my honouraexorable, and, at length, the truth was discovered. ble family at their head; every one who could The heart, which had appeared impregnable, bad, claim the most distant relationship chose to declare in fact, been carried by storm already; and Lady she should not so throw herself away, that it was Ida scrupled neither to deny nor to conceal if, worse than folly; she was wedding herself not for its love was returned; she knew this in spite alone with poverty, but with death, for every one of the hopelessness with which it was accompanied. must see Edmund St. Maur had not five years
Edmund St. Maur was the youngest branch of more to live.” the noble family whose name he bore. There was “How cruel!” indignantly exclaimed Florence. a chance of the barony becoming his, but a chance “Cruel, in truth; and not content with this, invecfar too remote for speculation. Moreover, he and tives nearly approaching to insult were thrown at bis widowed mother were poor; poor, at least, for her by all, not excepting my own family.” the sphere in which their relationship to rank “Not Lady Melford ?-impossible !" imperatively called them to move; and Edmund “ No, not mamma; she had rather more regard was of that delicate frame and constitution, which for her sister's daughter, though she disapproved of are too often attendant on studious habits and the match quite as much as others. If the good
folks had ever misunderstood my cousin before, it surrendered the reputation of superior talents to was impossible to misunderstand her then. She another woman, and, certainly not to a younger. bore the storm firmly, and, in appearance, uncon- Then Sophia once dreamed she was a beauty; and cernedly. Papa once went the length of saying, though ihree successive crowded seasons passed, he would prohibit the marriage. She told him and no reward of that beauty made its appearance very calmly that she understood his legal au- in any thing like an offer of marriage, she chose to thority ended when she was four-and-lwenty, and imagine Ida's faultless face and form a decided she did not intend to marry till then. When the affront to her, and so disliked her accordingly.” important day arrived, and, becoming her own “How can you speak so of your sisters ?” inmistress, there seemed no farther obstable to her quired Florence, balflaughingly, half reproachfully. happiness, St. Maur was suddenly taken seriously “How can I ? very easily, for I hate such littleill, as the medical men declared, from over excite mindedness. My dear Florence, London is very ment, and so many dangerous symptoms returned, different from the country. Sisters so often bethat he was peremptorily desired to winter at Madeira come rivals ; there is so little time in the whirl of and then to remain in Italy till bis health was per- gaiety for words and acts of mutual kindness, fectly re-established. They assured Lady Helen that we should laugh at the idea of imagining and my cousin, that if he did this, no danger them better than other people." whatever need be apprehended; but, if he should “ Save me from London, then !” ejaculated remain in England, they could not answer for the Florence, so heartily, that her companion was yet consequences. Imagine poor Ida's anguish : even more amused ; but Florence continued" How at this moment she would have uniied her fale comes it, Emily, that you can afford to speak so with his, that she might be permi!led 10 follow him, enthusiastically of Lady Ida?" and be his nurse and his untiring attendant; but “ Simply, first, because I know I am no beauty; Edmund was far 100 unselfish, even in his love, to secondly, it is too much trouble to attempt rivalling permit this sacrifice on her part; and Lady Helen, her in talent or in wit; and, thirdly, she is eight much as she felt for her, seconded her son. All years older than I am, and, before I make my things were against poor Ida. The medical fra- début, she will have passed all ordeal, by taking ternity put a decided negative on her proposal ; unto herself a partner for better or worse, and so declaring that, in his present state, even the pain she cannot be my rival; so do not give me credit of separation would be better borne than the ex- for any seeming amiability, for if I were a belle, citement of her presence. The opinion of Sir and å would-be blue one, I should be just as Charles Brashleigh at length made her yield ; she envious as others." consented 10 let her lover go without her, though she well knew what a period of anxiety and suffering his absence, and in this precarious state, would be to her. I never saw her so wholly and
CHAP. IV. utterly overcome as she was the first week after Lady Jda Villiers came, and Florence Leslie his departure. She struggled against it till she was found every vision of fancy and anticipation more thrown on a bed of sickness, and I am certain she than realized. It was impossible for such an enwill neither look nor feel like herself till she shall thusiastic, affectionate being as herself to be in rejoin him."
Lady Ida's company, to listen to her varied powers "" And when will that be ?” inquired Florence, of conversation, which she had the rare faculty of her eyes swelling in tears ; “how long have they adapting 10 every character with whom she minbeen parted ?"
gled, still more to find herself, after the first few “ Nearly eighteen months, and it has been a days, an object of notice, even of interest, without period of intense anxiety to Ida. The accounts feeling every ardent affection, based on esteem, have become more and more favourable, but of enlisted in her cause. She found, to her utmost course poor Ida cannot feel happy or secure, till astonishment, that her thoughts were read by her she is by his side. Papa is so angry at her new companion before she had shaped them into resistance to his authority, that he will not allow us words; her tastes drawn forth irresistibly to meet to go to Italy, as we all wished to do; he fancies with sympathy and improvement; her simple separation will do the work for him, and that they pleasures, both in books and nature, appreciated, will forget each other. However, next spring or encouraged, and so delightfully directed higher autumn, Lord Edgemere's family go to Rome, and than she had ever ventured alone, that every hour Ida goes with them."
spent in Lady Ida's society was productive of “Oh, what a blessed time to look forward to !" pleasures which she had never even imagined beexclaimed Florence; who added, “hut you say fore. Nor was it only by words that Lady Ida's she has even encountered persecution from your character opened itself to the admiring and wonown family-surely your sisters must have been dering gaze of Florence. She observed her daily her friends ?”
conduct to those around her. Courteous and kind, “ Surely not, my very simple girl. Geor- 10 her aunt far more affectionate than either of her giana imagined herself one of the greatest wits and own daughters--no stranger could have ever imascholars of the day; and that Ida, without the least gined she was simply returning good for evil; effort, should surpass her, and fascinate not only even to her uncle she never failed in courtesy and the butterflies, but every man of genius and letters gentleness, though his manner towards her was who approached her, was soniewhat 100 mortifying always cold and supercilious. The trials of her to be borne meekly. No woman ever yet quietly own heart, her own anxieties, never passed her