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MONTHLY BELLE ASSEMBLÉE.
BY GRACE AGUILAR.
ORIGINAL COMMUNICATIONS, but Florence answered with a mournful shake of
the head, CONSISTING OP TALES, ROMANCES, ANECDOTES, " Oh no, I do not think of it. If mamma is
well enough to admit even the possibility of my coming, it will be quite happiness enough. Be
sides,” she added, with a deep blush, but unable FLORENCE; or, WOMAN'S FRIENDSHIP.
to control her own ingenuousness, “ I am not like
you, Lady Ida; I am my own sempstress on such (A Domestic Tale.)
occasions; and I have neither time nor inclination to give to such things now.”
Lady Ida kissed her blushing cheek, and simply saying, “ you are a dear truthful girl, Flo
rence, and need not blush so prettily about it," “ To show us how divine a thing
departed. A woman may be made.”
Days passed, and Mrs. Leslie slowly rallied ; WORDSWORTH.
but Florence remained true to her own unselfish nature. She nursed her mother, cheered her father;
wrote all the letters to Walter, that he might not CHAP. VII.
be anxious; and superintended Minie's studies ;
so that the economy of their small, but happy The invitations for Lady Ida's ball were dis- household, should go on the same. And often patched, giving full four weeks' notice ; and no did her father press her to his bosom, and declare little amusement did Alfred and Emily Melford she was indeed a comfort to them all. There was promise themselves, in quizzing the heterogeneous at such times that peculiar expression of sweet, mass of quality, real and affected, whom they though mournful, satisfaction on Mrs. Leslie's should succeed in mustering together. In vain features which we have before noticed ; and Flodid Lady. Ida remonstrate against this flippancy, rence would have wondered had she witnessed the declaring that all whom they had invited should agitation of her mother as Mr. Leslie, on her receive the same courtesy as titled guests. Her leaving the room, bent over the invalid's couch, cousins would bave their joke.
and whispered fondly, “ I have indeed secured á About a week after the invitations had been treasure in listening to your request, my best beissued, Lady Ida received a note from Florence, loved. Oh that our own Minie may walk in her stating that her mother had had an unusually paths, and give us equal comfort." serere allack of illness, and though she trusted all Mrs. Leslie only pressed his hand convulsively, danger would pass away, as it had often done be- and seemed implorin him by her looks not to fore, she dared not hope to take any part in the give utterance to the thought, however precious it intended amusements. Trusting that Florence's might be. natural anxiety had magnified her fears, Lady Ida “ Nay, you are too morbidly sensitive on this answered this note in person; and though she point, love,” he replied. “I wish I could uncould not succeed in making the young girl hope- derstand your fear, and so soothe and remove it." ful as herself, her kindly sympathy so far roused “You cannot, Edward," was the agitated reply; her drooping energies as to check the indulgence " it is peculiarly a woman's. You think of our of sorrow to which she was perhaps too naturally sweet Florence as she is to us, to Walter, to prone, and made her feel no longer incapacitated Minie; to all with whom, as a child, she assofrom serving as well as watching the beloved ciates; but my fears look beyond. She must love; invalid.
she may be loved, sought, asked for; and can we, “ Your mother will do so well, dearest Florence, dare we, permit her to enter the solemn engageI shall still have you to dance at my ball,” was ment of marriage without revealing Lady Ida's playful farewell, after no short visit ; “Wait till the evil comes," interrupted her hus,
band, affectionately kissing her. “I have no such | kiss him; then bounding from the room to conceal fearful apprehensions; and, even in such an alter that, in spite of all her assurances, in spite of even native, would act as I do now, conscientiously the still small voice of conscience sounding again believing there would be more virtue in so doing and again “You have done your duty, be happy than in condemning one so pure and good to Florence ;" still, child as she was in feeling, in suffering and misery, which the truth, however enjoyment (perhaps we should not say child, for softened, must produce."
youth is far more susceptible of the pleasure of The day before the eventful Thursday Mr. life than childhood), Florence was disappointed, Leslie observed to his daughter, as he was going and very painfully. out after breakfast, “ Your mother is so much When under the first excitement of conquering better, my dear girl. You will go with me to Lady inclination, that duty should triumph, there is an
infused strength even in trifles such as these; but “ I cannot, dear papa.”
there never yet was any such self-conquest which “ But I am sure your mother would prefer was wholly joy, as some good but cold-hearted having only Minie for a companion for a few hours people declare.' There is generally a revulsion of than that you should lose so great a pleasure.” feeling, occasioning a doubt as to whether or not
“ I know she would, papa. Mine is quite a we need have acted as we have done; and then, feminine reason, so pray do not laugh at me. I as all excitement overstrains the nervous system, have no proper dress, and I could not be so the blood flows less equally, and affects us mendisrespectful to Lady Ída as to appear plainly tally, so that depression and dissatisfaction for attired."
a while 100 often follow even a duty done. And “ But, my dear child, why have you not a so it was with our young heroine; she felt all she dress ?"
had told her father, but now the tormenting thought “ Because I was too premature in my prepara- would come, that perhaps she could have attended tions, and so am punished for my vanity. 'I knew to her duties and gone to the ball also; and that of this ball a full' fortnight before the invitations she had made a sacrifice, and rejoiced in her were given, and to be quite ready I destroyed a strength to do so, when there was really no necesdress, that might in an extremity have done, to sity for it. She was weary too; for her mother's make use of the beautiful lace which was on it for illness, and her own multiplied duties, had preanother. That other I have not had time to make, vented her customary daily walks and mental reand so you see, dear papa, I am compelled to stay creation; and her head ached—that gnawing, at home."
nervous pain, so difficult to bear because it is not “But why not get it made, my Florence ? bad enough to complain of, or do anything to Surely you do not imagine could grudge you relieve. And so our poor Florence was weak such an indulgence.”
enough, when quite alone, to indulge in a hearty “ No, papa. If I had thought so perhaps I fit of tears; but this was not of long continuance; would have been tempted to think only of myself; she very soon conquered what she felt was selfish but I knew I had but to ask and have, and so it folly, and hastened down to their little study to was easy not to ask. And then, the first fortnight | attend to her sister's impatient call, and superinI really did not think at all about it; and I was tend her morning lessons. still much too anxious when I saw mamma getting. But Florence was not to be steadily employed better. I own I did wish it were possible to have that day; Lady Ida came to inquire after Mrs. my dress ready, but then I knew I could not make Leslie as usual, to introduce her particular friend it without neglecting Minie and Walter, and per- Lady Mary Villiers to the pretty cottage and its haps even mamma; and I would not expose myself interesting inmates, and to carry off Florence for a to such a temptation. No, dear papa, I shall be drive. The pure fresh air, the beautiful country, much happier at home on Thursday night than the freedom from care, and above all the intelgoing to St. John's, with the recollection of so lectual rest and enjoyment springing from the many duties unperformed."
society of refined and accomplished minds; all “ I quite believe you, my sweet child; but did the young girl good, and caused her to constill I griere you did not come to me.
verse with her natural liveliness and animation. never think of such a thing ?”
“You are right, Ida; Miss Leslie is worthy of “ Oh yes, more than once; but how could I your interest; even I allow it,” said Lady Mary, teaze you with such a trifle when you were so
when Florence left them; “ but I am sorry you anxious about mamma; and I know Walter's have made her love you ; widely separated as you being from home increases your expenses very must be in so short a time.” materially; and you look so careworn sometimes. “ I am not going to remain in Italy for ever, Why, the ball were not worth the pain it would Mary; so why should not my interest in Florence have been for you to fancy your Florence regard continue ?" less of these things.”
" Because I have no faith in an interest such as “You are careful of every one, everything but this continuing through time and separation. It yourself, my child. Would I had thought of this is not absence which severs friends, but changes before, for I cannot bear you should lose such a in heart, and mind, and position. You cannot repleasure. Is it too late now ?”
turn to England as you leave it; you will have “ Quite, quite too late, papa; so do not be so new ties, new interests, which must weaken former cruel as to turn tempter, replied Florence, ones." smiling and throwing her arms round his neck to “ You believe, then, that absence is really what
some poet, I think, called it, the grave of love?'”, chamber, and resumed her couch in the sitting
“ No; but ibat it is very often the grave of room, an event inexpressibly cheering to Florence, sympathy—not with those whose spheres of action who always declared the house was desolate when and position are the same, as ours are; but fancy her mother was up-stairs. Once more the sweet you and Florence both in London a few years hence carol of Minie's voice enlivened the evening hours; - with interests, duties, occupations, each as dis- song after song poured forth from the child's lips, tinct as one planet from another. What can you with a sweetness, a richness, a purity absolutely be to her bui a source of yearning and of pain ?” thrilling. It was eight o'clock when they closed
“ I cannot tell you at this moment, Mary, but the pianoforte, and Florence, petitioning á longer time will show. You know I have many strange vigil for Minie, opened Miss Austin's entertaining fancies, and one is that women do not do half as “ Mansfield Park," and began, at her mother's much as they might do for each other; they are wish, to read it aloud. 100 often influenced by such petty jealousies, de- They had been thus employed about half-antraction, envy-things I abhor.' I may still be hour, when a carriage drove up to the gate, and a Florence's friend, even in London, and widely respectable old dame who had been Minie's nurse, severed in position, as you say we shall be. Now and continued the humble friend of the family, do not look so solemnly incredulous; all things bustled into the apartment, with a comical look of are possible if we would but think so, and exert pleasant intelligence, which excited the curiosity, some degree of energy in bringing them about." not only of the two girls but of Mrs. Leslie herself.
No answer to the varied queries, however, would
nurse Wilmot vouchsafe, but she deliberately drew CHAP. VIII.
forth a note and presented it to Florence, who,
with an exclamation of astonishment, tore it open The eventful night at length arrived. Mr. Leslie, and read as follows:who had received an invitation from Lord Melford to dine with some other gentlemen at St. John's, “ Your father tells me, my dear Florence, that went; but all his intended enjoyment was clouded your mother is quite well enough for you 10 leave because Florence could not join him. Mrs. Leslie her to-night, and I have therefore sent my carriage was yet more grieved, reproaching herself for never for you, and must insist on your donning bonnet having thought what Florence might need; for- and shawl, and coming just as you are.
William getting, now that she was almost as well as usual, has orders to bring you to the side entrance, where all the deeply anxious thoughts which had en- you know a private staircase leads to my rooms. grossed her, when she anticipated death-anxiety, Do not be frightened at the string of carriages not for herself
, for her trust was fixed on the Rock which may throng the front door ; your path will of ages. But she was a wife and mother; she be quite invisible. Go directly into my dressingknew her husband's causes of anxiety almost room, where you will find Alice with all the better than he did himself; and there was one necessaries for your toilette, and I will come for care, peculiarly her own, which rendered the idea you when it is completed. I send your dear old of death one of intense suffering ; for Minie and nurse, Mrs. Wilmot, who will remain with your Walter it was simply the thought of separation ; mother till to-morrow evening, that you may leave but for Florence, the most incongruous, the most her without any apprehension, for of course you mysterious emotions were concentrated in one sleep at the hall. Now do not stay 10 hesitate; I feeling of anxious anguish, which none but her will never forgive you if you disobey me. God could penetrate and soothe.
“ Ida." With such reflections, united to intense bodily pain and prostrating weakness, it was no matter “ Necessaries for my toilet! What can she of wonder that Lady Ida's ball and the necessary mean? I have not a single dress at St. John's," arrangements for Florence should have entirely was the bewildered speech of Florence, as she escaped her memory till it was too late for the concluded; and then, as the real truth seemed 10 evil to be remedied. The disappointment itself Aash upon her through Mrs. Leslie's fond, rejoicing she knew was of no real consequence; but Mrs. look, she threw her arms round her mother's neck, Leslie was not one of those harshly-nurtured and burst into tears. But the wild delight of spirits who trample on the sweet flowers of youth Minie, who, clapping her hands and jumping ful life without one remorseful pang ; she knew about the room, insisted that Florence was very how soon, how very soon the lovely buds fade of foolish to cry, and make her eyes red, when she themselves; and she trembled lest barsher duties ought only to be glad, and Mrs. Leslie's caressing should demand in Florence the crushing of youth sympathy, soon removed all trace of these incomand all its dreams years before their time. And prehensible tears; and hastily shawled and bonso full of regret was her caressing manner that neted by the active care of Mrs. Wilmot, who evening that Florence, even had she felt any re- gossiped all the time of the beautiful things she maining depression, would have effectually con- had seen at St. John's, where she had been since cealed it; but the sweet reward of duty was once six o'clock, and the kind care of Alice, and the more her own, and, animated and gay, she speedily affability of Lady Ida, and how kindly she had proved that the sacrifice was absolutely nothing- spoken of Miss Florence, with an endless &c., when compared to her mother's comfort and en- Florence was soon ensconced in the carriage, and joyment.
rolling rapidly to St. John's. It seemed a shorter It was the first evening Mrs. Leslie had left her ride than usual, for her thoughts were very busy,
and excessive timidity struggled with pleasure. you are as awe-struck at my diamonds and satin Alice, with provident kindness, had stationed her- robe, as you were when I first came down because self ready to receive and conduct her with all I was an earl's daughter. You little simpleton; speed to her lady's dressing room.
rank may be somewhat higher, but what do I True dignity was never yet attended by inso- exact then-only obedience in all things even to lence or presumption. Alice had been an inmate the keeping and wearing that chain and cross for of the late Lord Edgemere's family for above eight- my sake, without any pride in that haughty little and-twenty years, and every year increased her spirit rising up against it." devotion for ihe gentle being whose birth she had “ Haughty! dear Lady Ida ? Do not say so." witnessed, and whom she had tended from her “ Indeed"I will, for you know it to be truth; youth. All whom Lady Ida honoured with her but come, for I must not be missed from the ballregard became objects of interest to herself. room. Emily's last note told you, did it not? that
Florence was speedily attired in the graceful the idea of tableaur was given up till another robe of India muslin, so transparent in its delicate night, as being incompatible with my uncle's texture as to display the pure white satin folds dinner and the ball; so you see you must play beneath; the tiny slippers to correspond ; the de- your part still, notwithstanding you thought 10 Jicate white glove; and every article fitting so ad- eschew it so nicely." mirably, and made so simply, in such persect Re-assured, happy beyond all expression, even accordance with her age and station, that Florence's her timidity soothed by Lady Ida's caressing peculiarly sensitive mind could only feel relieved. manner, Florence laughingly replied; and they Her beautiful hair received a new grace and polish proceeded to the splendidly lighted suite of rooms from the skilful hand of Alice; a single while whence the alternate quadrille and waltz were camellia, with its drooping bud, plucked fresh for most inspiritingly sounding. It was the surpassing the occasion, gleamed like a star amid those jetty loveliness, the peculiarly quiet air of real aristotresses so purely, so freshly beautiful, it seemed cratic dignity, the absence of all, even the faintest fit emblem of the gentle girl whom it adorned. approach to affectation or display in Lady Ida, A chain of beautiful workmanship, with its Sevigné which had struck the eager heart of the young and suspended Maltese cross, the centre of which, Florence with even more than usual respect, imas the Sevigné, was simply yet elegantly set with pressing her—as Ida's quick penetration had disvaluable emeralds, was her only ornament; and covered, even at such a moment of pleasure--with even from this Florence sensitively shrunk, asking the sorrowful conviction how widely they must be kindly if Lady Ida particularly wished her to eventually separated by their respective stations. wear it. She need pot, Alice said, if she did not like; but, as it was intended as a keepsake from her lady 10 Miss Leslie, she thought Lady Ida
CHAP. IX. would be disappointed if it were not worn; and, touching a spring in the cross as she spoke, a As Lady Ida and her companion entered the locket was disclosed, containing a braid of dark ante-chamber, into which the ball-room opened, a chesnut hair, with the letters F. L. from 1. V. young man, or rather lad, for his open collar and delicately engraved upon it. The eyes of Florence round jacket permitted him no bigher title, though again glistened, but she made no further objection an elegant figure and remarkably handsome face to having it secured round her throat, playfully rendered him a general object of attraction, hastily answering Alice's unchecked admiration of her pressed forward. appearance by the assurance that it must be all her u Frank !” said Lady Ida, greally surprised, care, and Lady Ida's kindness, which had caused “ why, where have you dropped from? I am her 10 look well, that her own proper self had really glad to see you, and to-night particularly." nothing to do with it whatever.
“ Your ladyship honours me," was the buoyant Unconsciously, she remained standing opposite reply, with a very graceful bow. " I only arrived the large pier-glass wben Alice had departed, two hours ago, and found all the hotel in commothinking far more of the kindness she had received tion and excitement, because of the Lady Ida than of her own graceful figure and sweetly ex- Villiers's ball. I ventured, on the plea of old acpressive face, of whose real charm she was in truth quaintance, both with Lady Melford and yourself, iotally ignorant, for she knew she was not beautiful; to come without invitation. Am I excused ?" and ibat she possessed intellect and sensibility “ Excused and welcome, Frank, as you well enough to make a far plainer face attractive, was know. Where is your father?" equally unknown.
“ In Paris still; but as it is the season of merry " Well, Florence, have 1 done for you as well Easter in my grave quarters, I vowed I would as you could have done for yourself ?” was the turn truant, and visit my friends in England, playful address which roused her from her reverie; After a struggle I gained my point, and finding and, springing forward, Florence could only ex- most of my best friends in Devonshire, followed claim, “Oh, Lady Ida, why are you so kind ?" them, and here I am."
“Why, dearest, because it is a real pleasure to “ And as you have come in a time of festivity, think for those who never think of theniselves; we shall all be doubly glad to see you. Florence, and just now, that my pleasures are so limited, will you honour this friend of mine for the next you must not grudge me this. Now do not look quadrille? But I forget you do not know each at me half sorrowfully when I inean you 10 be the other-Miss Leslie, Mr. Francis Howard. That very happiest person in the ball-room 10-night; is etiquette, is it not ? Now be as agreeable as Do you
you can be, Frank, in return for Miss Leslie's | Ida playfully, laying her hand on that gentleman's condescension,"
arm, as he stood talking with her uncle, and other The young man laughed gaily, seeming not at gentlemen, at some distance from the dancers. all ill pleased with the introduction, his eyes having “Willingly," he replied, observing, as lo oflingered admiringly on Florence all the time he fered her his arm, that he thought the conserveatory spoke to Lady Ida.
lay in an opposite direction. “ Lady Melford ?” whispered Florence. “Will “ So it does, my dear sir ; but it is not your it not be rude if I do not seek her first ?"
love of Aowers I am going to gratify just now; “I will make your excuse. It will be easier unless you can find any charm in a white camellia for you to find a place in the quadrille than my wreathed in a fair maiden's hair! The flower I aunt at present," was the reply.“ Frank, bring mean has just accepted Frederic's arm. Miss Leslie to me when your dance has been ac- know her? Or shall I introduce you ?" complished."
“ Florence!" exclaimed the delighted father, “How am I to find your ladyship?-by a in a lone that gratified all Lady Ida's benevolent treble file of cavaliers dévoués, sueing your hand intentions most completely. “ And looking so for all the quadrilles of the evening ?”
well—so happy! What niagic has your lady“ No, you foolish boy. I am a staid, sober ship used ?" matron for this evening, not intending to dance "Wait till I give you Florence back again : I at all."
intend to tell you nothing, now, nor will I permit “ Not dance !” exclaimed young Howard and her. It is enough you are satisfied that my power Florence in such genuine surprise as lo excite Lady is more efficient than you thought. You may greet Ida's mirth.
your father Florence, but that is all I permit “ Not dance, iny young friends. Now away now," she added gaily, as, escorted both by with you both, for my will is like an ocean rock, Frederic Melford and Frank Howard, Florence not to be shaken."
hastily approachod. Lady Ida stood a moment, silently watching “ Ida ! what can you want with Miss Leslie ? the effect that Florence Leslie's unexpected ap- If you are so determined not to dance, at least lay pearance would produce; not a little pleased that no prohibition on her; but here is Frankthe purse-proud Oakland family were standing so troublesome fellow-will not give her up to me near as not only to have seen Florence's début, till he has given her back to you; and she says leaning familiarly on her arm, but to hear all that she cannot till she has spoken with my mother. had passed, even her final command to young “ Well, I promise you I will noi delain her Howard to bring Florence to her after the dance. long. Go, and pay your devoirs to some other
you hear that ?" whispered Miss Maria lady, and come back for ber after the next dance. to Miss "Elizabeth. “Well to be sure !-titled There is a waltz, fortunately for you; so since ladies are easily pleased. Who could have thought Florence does not waltz, you can spare her.” of that poor proud Florence getting into such “ The next, then, remember, Miss Leslie ?" favour?"
Florence laughingly assented. “ And look what a beautiful chain and cross she “ And after Melford and his brother, may I bas," was Miss Elizabeth's reply. “I did not claim again ?" asked young Howard earnestly. think her worth such a thing; but her dress, who “ I believe I am engaged.” ever heard of any one coming to such a ball as this “ The next, then ?" in plain wbite muslin? But of course, poor thing, Florence assented with a bright smile. Howshe could not afford any thing better !" And she ard bowed and retreated. looked with yet greater satisfaction on her own “ What! you will have such compassion on amber-coloured satin, Aounced and furbelowed 10 Frank's round jacket and open collar, as to the knee.
honour him twice, when so many dress-coats are An irresistible smile stole to Lady Ida's lip as round you, Florence ? You really are a novice. these whispered remarks reached her ear, half Emily would abuse your bad taste," laughingly longing for them to know that it was her own observed Lady Ida. much vaunted taste they were decrying; and, “Oh, he is so agreeable; he knows so much scarcely able to meet with her wonted courtesy about Paris and Italy-dear Italy! Besides, inthe eager cringing speeches with which, as she deed, I scarcely think about my partners ; dancing passed them, they saluted her.
is so delightful in itself : though cei tainly, when Some, however, there were who were really glad they are so pleasant as Mr. Howard and your to see Florence, and amiable enough to forgive the cousins, it is more delightful still.”. favour sbe enjoyed; nay more, to remark how well “ And so you forgive the round jacket?” she looked, and to witness without envy Emily Mel. “Because it is the only part of the boy about ford's joyous greeting, and to see the young men
him." of the Hall approach with eagerly extended hand, “I admire your discrimination; he is much and claim her successively as their partner; while more worth talking to than many double his age. others lost half the pleasure, the triumph of being His father, Lord Glenvylle, is a strange, stern invited by Lady Ida Villiers to a ball because man, and í often pity Frank's domestic trials; Florence Leslie was there too, and evidently in but his gay spirit carries him through them all, high favour. Alas! for poor human nature. and he is happy in spite of them.”
“Will you come with me, Mr. Leslie? I have Lady Melford received her most kindly, making a lovely Power I want to show you,” said Lady many inquiries after her mother, which enabled