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Florence to overcome the diffidence she felt, as truth, there is one person perfectly happy; look she encountered so many inquiring glances, not at Miss Leslie now.' from Lady Melford's resident guests alone, but In the midst of a gay throng Florence was of many proud families in the neighbourhood, who standing, listening, and sometimes joining in the generally passed her with very supercilious notice. merry conversation of Emily Melford and her The benevolent countenance of Lady Edgemere attendant beaux, with such sparkling animation attracted her at once, and so pleased was she with lighting up every feature that it was impossible to that lady's flattering notice and encouraging con- pass her unremarked. Just at the moment that versation, that she was almost sorry when Frederic Lord Edgemere had directed Lady Ida's attention Melford came to claim her.
towards her, one of Strauss's most inspiring “So you will not follow Mary's example, Ida ? waltzes struck up, and several couples were inOn my honour I feel inclined to scold you even stantly formed. now," said Lord Edgemere, in a later part of the “ Come Florence, one turn-only one; have evening, as cavalier after cavalier approached his pity on Alfred, who has been asking you so long; former ward, entreating her to dance, and each and he is no stranger. You may waltz with him," received the same courteous but firm reply. entreated Emily, ere she departed with her part“ All my powers of oratory, Mary's of persuasion, ner, and her brother was not slow to follow up Lady Edgemere's of argument, your uncle's of the hint. satire, your aunt's of irritation, your cousin's of “You really must waltz, Miss Leslie ; it will torment-have all been exhausted in vain. You be a treat to have a genuine lover of dancing to laugh at my lengthy catalogue—how unfeeling, waltz with. You say you love dancing, and yet triumphing over this waste of breath! Ida, what not waltz; indeed you do not know what dancing a report I will write Edmund! Now, there is the is-ask Emily-ask Lady Mary.” smile vanished, as if his very name demanded the
“ Will she stand firm ?” whispered Lord Edgebanishment of joy. You little incomprehensible mere to his companion, as Florence, shrinking enigma, when shall I solve you ?”
back, entreated to be excused, resisting even “ Will not his name solve my reason for not
Emily's declaration, that she did not know how dancing ?” inquired Lady Ida, in a voice so low ridiculous she appeared refusing to do what every and quivering, that Lord Edgmere, even while he body else did. answered jestingly, pressed the delicate hand
“ You know you can waltz, Florence,” she which rested on his arm.
persisted, “ and much better than I do." “Truly it will not, for Edmund loved to watch deed you have no excuse. Is not that music
“ Then it is not incapacity, Miss Leslie ; inyour graceful movements in the dance, even when enough to inspire you— he could not join in it himself."
1-even were you fainting
with fatigue ?" “And while I am dancing, listening, perhaps, “ Indeed it is ; and I assure you I am not in to a dozen unmeaning speeches, attracting the at the least fatigued. I own I have waltzed in sport tention of every eye, because, of course, as Lady very often, but not here-not now indeed—indeed Ida Villiers, I might not hope to go through a Mr. Melford you must excuse me.”
—he , 1.
“ But why, Florence ? I assure you it is quite and in lonely sorrow, the void in his faithful heart an English dance now. There is not the least unfilled, even by his most-loved studies, dreaming shadow of harm in it," interposed Lady Mary. of me, and my promise to be his alone! And But Florence was firm, and carried her point, should I be fulfilling this promise, attracting the although Alfred Melford declared he would leave notice, the applause of a crowd ? Oh, Lord
her alone as a punishment, as a post for the Edgemere, is it strange that I cannot dance ?" waltzers, instead of taking her to a chaperon ; and She spoke with strong, though suppressed emo- he knew she would not have courage to go by tion, and Lord Edgemere at once entered into her herself. feelings. Quickly recovering, she said cheerfully, “ You will do no such thing, Alfred; for Flo“You will ask me, with these feelings, why I rence is my charge, and I am here to redeem gave the ball at all? Because I could not bear to it," interposed Lady Ida, coming forward ; and be so selfish as to refuse Emily such a trifle; and Florence clung lo her arm with such an ex. those who paid me such continued attention, cer- pression
relief that young,
Melford laughed tainly demanded some return."
immoderately, a laugh in which he was joined “You have done very wisely, my dear Ida. as gaily by herself. To conciliate is so infinitely more agreeable than to « Oh, if Ida upholds you in your perverseness, offend, that it is worth some sacrifice of indivi- Miss Florence, there is no hope ; so I will make dual will. You have gratified many; soothed, my parting bow, and vanish," he said, and darted perhaps offended pride; given scope to kindly off to join the waltzers with some less scrupulous feelings~"
partner. " I fear to unamiable ones too,” interposed “I give you joy of your conquest, Miss Leslie," Lady Ida.
said Lord Edgemere, smiling kindly. “ If in“ Perhaps so; for when was there a ball whose capacity and subsequent real disinclination, had ordeal every one could pass unscathed? Yet still incited your firmnesss, you would have achieved there appears to me a larger share of happiness in no conquest at all; but when principle triumphs these rooms than in some of our crowded assem- over inclination, I honour it, even in such a small blies in London, I am sure, if ever face spoke thing as a waltz."
Florence blushed deeply, but not with pain ; | from weak repining, or fretful regret. Early in wondering how Lord Edgemere could so exactly May, Lord Melford's family were to quit St. have divined the truth-for no true lover of dancing John's. This, though a privation (for Florence (if such a person in these days of art can be found) liked Emily, in spite of the wide dissimilarity ever yet listened to an inspiring waltz, without the of their characters and tastes), was one easily longing desire to join in it.
borne compared to the severer trial awaiting her in “Do you waltz, Lady Ida ?" she asked. the departure of Lord Edgemere's party towards
“Not very often; I have done so when it would the end of April, taking Lady Ida Villiers with have seemed greater affectation to refuse, than them. love of display to do so. But I am not very fond “ Remember, Florence, if it should happen that of it; it is an exercise too exciting, too absorbing, in anything you need me, if my friendship or inever to be a favourite amongst genuine English Auence can be of any service to you, write to me women; and with your passionate love of dancing, without scruple," had been Lady Ida's parting Florence, you are right to resist all persuasions, and address, in a tone of sincerity which Florence not waltz. All Emily's sage resolutions to that never forgot. “You are very young, but with effect have, I perceive, melted into air. I am glad such a mother your character will not change; and you are firmer.”
if I meet again the Florence Leslie whom I leave, Florence was satisfied.
trust me you will find me still the same, however To enter into all the delights of the ball would the kind 'world may tell you that our respective be impossible. Suffice it that to far the greater ranks place an insuperable barrier between us." number within those halls, it was perfect enjoy- Florence had tried to smile, but found the effort ment. Nothing seemed wanting; even the most vain. exacting were satisfied, nay charmed with the atten- Lady Ida departed—and oh! how sad and lonely tion they received from their distinguished hostess did every pursuit and pleasure, for a brief while, and Lady Ida.
seem. But she had gone to happiness; and though Lady Ida left her memory as a bright star in when Florence received a few hurried lines from the hearts of every one present, various as were her, telling her she was on the eve of quitting their dispositions, their characters, and feelings. England, and in a very few weeks expected to join "What availed such golden opinions' from those Mr. St. Maur, who was already at Nice, the conshe might never meet again ?" the sceptic and the ciousness of the many miles of sea and land selfish may demand. Little in actual deed; but dividing them, pressed heavily on her affectionate much, much in that account where the smallest heart, she could and did rejoice that the time of act of kindness and benevolence is registered for probation was at an end, and Lady Ida might ever.
indeed be happy with him whom she so faithfully Pleasures, however transporting, unhappily can- and devotedly loved. not last. No chain—be it of gold, or pearl, or From Emily Melford, who was her constant flowers can bind the stubborn wings of time, and correspondent, she heard all further particulars of bid him loiter on his way. He spurns the fetter, the happy termination of the voyage and journey; darkly, sternly, rushing on; and bright indeed and next of her marriage, for St. Maur was so must be the joys which fade not beneath his step. wonderfully recovered there was no occasion for The festive scene at length closed. Not indeed till further delay; and then, by degrees, of their fixing the blue light of morning struggled to regain their residence for some few years in a beautiful dominion over the earth. Carriage after carriage villa in the neighbourhood of Rome, and that they rolled from the gates, bearing with them for the were as happy as mortals might be. most part memories of pleasure often recalled with Not long after Lady Ida left Devonshire, some a sigh; until at last, Lord Melford's family and changes took place in Florence Leslie's domestic their resident guests remained sole occupants of life, which must not be passed unnoticed. We St. John's.
have said or hinted, that Mr. Leslie was not a rich man. Nay, for the rank which his birth and
education entitled him to fill, he was decidedly CHAP. X.
poor. Some few months before Lady Ida came to
Devonshire, a friend had brought to his recollection Believing with the wise personage, who wrote, a long-neglected law-suit
, which had been comsaid, or left as legacy, the sage adage that
menced by the grandfather of Mr. Leslie for the “Trifles make the sum of human life;" recovery of an estate, which it was generally sup
posed had been alienated from the family by some and also, that it is in trifles, infinitely clearer than chicanery of the supposed heir and his lawyer, in great deeds, that the actual character is dis- William Leslie, the person then concerned, died, played, we have lingered, perhaps too long, on the before much more than preliminaries had been first part of our narrative, hoping that our readers arranged. His son, an easy country gentleman, may feel some interest in, and judge somewhat of satisfied with the moderate fortune he possessed, the character of, our youthful heroine; destined ere never even examined the papers left to his charge, the sober grey of life came on, to figure in widely leaving his son, at his death, if not affluent, at different scenes.
least a comfortable competence. With the present The perfect happiness of Florence, she herself Mr. Leslie, however, business had been unfortuknew, must very soon be clouded; and she roused nate; and he retired to Devonshire, in compliance every unselfish feeling of her nature to save her with the wishes of his wife, to economize, till
Walter's dawning manhood might require their sufficient to authorize his claims, and in his hands home to be in London.
accordingly the suit was placed. He had sometimes heard his father speak of an We must pass lightly over the next few years in estate which ought to be their own, but regarded it the life of our heroine, mentioning only those cirliule, until just before the opening of our tale. cumstances necessary for the clear elucidation of The estate became again without a master, and our narrative. many old friends of Mr. Leslie urged his putting Florence Leslie was not a character to fall from forth his claiins, as well as those of the supposed the promise of high and noble virtue which the heir-at-law. Mr. Leslie was so far ambitious, early age of seventeen had appeared 10 give. The that for the interest of his children he would have impression of Lady Ida's faultless qualities and done and risked much; and eagerly seeking the most endearing character could not fade from an long forgotten papers, he employed himself actively imagination ardent as her own. It was continually in looking for a lawyer, of sufficient skill and before her eyes, inciting her to many of those probity, io undertake the delicate business. In trilling acts of self-denial and moral strength, which vain Mrs. Leslie, far more clear-sighted than him- might otherwise have been unperformed. self, entreated bim to forego his claims. It appeared At seventeen a girl's character is seldom fully to lier, from the papers of the former lawsuit, formed. It is the first opening of lise; its first which she had attentively perused, that their claims susceptibility of enjoyment; its first consciousness were not merely remote but unfounded; or at least, of power, of feeling, of perfect happiness, unalloyed not so well authenticated and proved as to ensure even by those whisperings of our innale corruption,
She reminded him of the expense which to which we only awake by degrees. All things the carrying on the suit must occasion ; she seem as bright, as fond, as innocent, as our own entreated him, with all the eloquence of affection, minds : love! love breathes around us in nature as to remain contented with their present mode of in man: we see nothing of the universal curse, but lise. They were not like others, absolutely depend all of the universal love! We inay hear of sin and ent on exertion or some lucky chance for 'suffi- suffering, but they are things afar off, and of little ciency. They needed economy for a few years, moment. Some deem childhood the happiest seacertainly; but they had capital, which, if not son of life; but oh! surely it is youth. drained by unnecessary calls, would amply pro- Childhood is but a dream, containing, indeed, vide for their daughters, and settle Walter in busi- the germs of after being, not the flowers themselves. ness, where he might carve out his own fortune ; a It is the threshold of spring, but not spring itself. far happier lot than awaited those to whom fortune No! spring, like youth,'comes in the sudden food descended without exertion or ambition of their of sunshine-kindles with magic touch the sense
Mr. Leslie might have been convinced, less seed into the fragrant Power-converts the had there not been those troublesome meddlers, laughter of the moment into the deeper smile of misnamed friends, who spoke of henpecked hus- the heart—the weary toil of task and restraint into bands, and the egregious folly of having compe- the springy freedom, the buoyant hope, the bright tence and wealth and distinction awaiting them, unfading glory of life — awakened, beautiful exyet failing in the mental courage and independent istence ! spirit for the exertion necessary to obtain them. But even as it is the season of guilelessness, of
These arguments had a powerful advocate in joy, of good that thinketh no evil, so is it of imMr. Leslie's own inclination. There was much, pression. The heart and mind, like wax, are he felt convinced, in his son beyond what met the moulded to whatever form the band of affection common eye, and he shrunk from binding him to points; and happy is it for those whose first friendmere mechanical employment; for him, beyond ships, whose early associations, are with those caeven the interests of his daughters, he longed for pable of impressing there nothing but the good. wealth, that Walter's uncommonly gifted mind | We are writing generally; but perbaps it is only might have scope to develop itself, and that those to those peculiarly ardent and clinging dispositions higher spheres of employment to which his inclina- of which Florence Leslie was one, to whom these tion prompted might be pursued, without the cold remarks are applicable. There are girls, even of and 'sordid calculations which inevitably attend seventeen, so wrapt in self, that the material of the mere competence.
heart is of stone instead of flesh; and others again There was much in these considerations nearly are content to futter through the briet period of and sadly to affect Mrs. Leslie. Yet she urged existence, with neither strength of impulse nor that, economically as they at present lived, this power of imagination, and consequently laugh at same end might still be accomplished ; entreating all things which speak of thought or feeling. him to recollect that Walter's interests might be far Gradually the character of Florence deepened more irretrievably wrecked by the loss of the suit, her intellect expanded ; and as the girl merged into and its attendant heavy drains on their little capi- the woman if her wild and joyous spirits were in til. But Mr. Leslie never dreamed of loss. He part subdued, there was a truth, a firmness of prinfelt so convinced in his own mind of the justice of ciple, a powerful sense of religion, a yet deeper his claims, so fully persuaded, that all the necessary capability of suffering and enduring, which, to expenses would be but as dust in the balance com- those capable of appreciating, or even of underpared to the possession of a rich and unencumbered standing her, would have rendered her at twenty estate, that he laughed aside a'l her sears, declar still more deserving of love. But Emily Melford ing that the papers had been examined by an ex- was right. It did, indeed, appear as if by the enceedingly clever lawyer, and pronounced as quite couragement of these lofty and glowing feelings, lier
doom was to stand alune, to meet with none to
CHAP. XI. whom she could lay bare her whole heart; with few who did not smile at aught of sentiment or We ought, perhaps, to have mentioned in its action higher than was common; and so at length proper place, that Mr. Leslie's desire to be on the it was only within her own circle that Florence spot to superintend the proceeding of his lawsuit, Leslie was really known.
urged him to give up his beautiful little retreat in There was one person, however, who, though a Devonshire, and reside in the metropolis ; thus stern, forbidding aspect, prevented many from materially increasing his expenditure, though the thinking aloud before her, could yet (strange to family lived as economically as possible, and as say), afford to love, and had sense to appreciate materially decreasing their domestic comforts and our youthful heroine. This was a Mrs. Rivers, a enjoyments. Mr. Leslie was far too honourable to distant relation of Mr. Leslie, with whom inter- live beyond his present means, because he conficourse had been continually kept up, which was dently trusted his future would bring wealth ; more intimately renewed some liule time after and when economy must be cousulied, and obLady Ida's departure.
servers of that economy are of birth and education, The peculiarly chilling character of this lady had London does not possess one quarter of the hapbeen formed by a most extraordinary train of deceit piness or the true enjoyment of the country. There, and falsehood in persons whom she had loved and pleasures the inost innocent, the most healthful, trusted. From having been one of the most affec- | the most reviving, await the economist at every tionate and most confiding beings, she became the turn, without the smallest tax upon his finances. coldest and most forbidding—from trusting all, Not thus is it in the metropolis. It has indeed she trusted none; not at least in appearance, for many avenues of improvement, of pleasure, of it was shrewdly suspected that a young girl whom true enjoyment; but ihey are for those to whom she had adopted, and to whom it was supposed money is no object, time of little value; not for that she would leave all her property, which was con- noble set of economists, who, rather than indulge in siderable, possessed her affections in the warmest the expense allendant on pleasure, would forego it degree. "This orphan, hy name Flora Leslie, was altogether. the only remaining relative of Mr. Leslie who bore Mrs. Leslie's delicate health had prevented their his name : relative, indeed, she could hardly be keeping much society even in Devonshire. In called, as their cousinship was five or six degrees London they kept still less; for in the environs of removed, though the similarity of name often this great city, as in the city itself, people may live caused the supposition of a much nearer consan
next door to each other for years, and never know guinity.
more than their respective names; and, therefore, The residence of Mrs. Rivers was near Win- though in a populous neighbourhood, ihe Leslies chester, and thither Florence was repeatedly invited lived in comparative solitude. as a companion to Flora, with whom, however, she It so happened that neither Mr. nor Mrs. speedily found she had not a thought in common ; Leslie had any near relation, or even connections, finding much more to excite her interest and affec- both having been only children, and the latter, in tion in Mrs. Rivers herself. To her she was so in- fact, an orphan from her earliest years. variably attentive and respectful, that the lady All these things considered, it was no very great might have descended from her pedestal of cold wonder that London to Florence Leslie was in ness and pride, and trusted once again, had she truth a prison, compared with the joys, the freenot still feared to find those endearing qualities dom, and, above all, the associations of the country. deceitful as before. That Flora Leslie was of a Yet she was happy, for her mind could create its most unamiable temper, possessing a remarkable own resources, and outward excitement she needed scarcity of attractive or endearing qualities, was her not,
Her domestic circle was sufficient to call safeguard in the opinion of Mrs. Rivers, particu- forth all the affection, the animation of her nature. larly as the young lady had hypocrisy enough ever The opening mind,' the bird-like joyousness of to bewail these faults, and to pretend to correct Minie; the far higher character of Walter, even them; and thus, by the most consummale art, she the anxiety his delicate bealth occasioned, bound deceived by a completely contrary process to her her closer, and closer to them both; till with the predecessors. Florence speedily penetrated this, vivid memories of Lady Ida, and the lively corresand turned from her with loathing; but how might pondence of Emily Melford, which, marvellous to her lips warn Mrs. Rivers of the precipice on which relate, continued the length of two full years, her last attachment seemed to stand. How descend Florence's simple nature needed no more. She to so mean a deed as lo poison her mind against did sometimes think it strange, that during the an orphan dependant on her for support. She three months which the Melfords passed in town, neither could nor would act thus; contenting her- Emily should never make any exertion to see her, self rather with continuing her simple true-hearted or renew the intercourse between the families ; but kindness towards Mrs. Rivers ; often sacrificing for the first few years, Florence was too happy her own inclinations and favourite duties to com
in herself to feel it as neglect. She had no partiply with her request, and make some stay at cular need of their kindness, so did not miss it. Woodlands.
Alas! it is only in the time of sorrow, only when we most need kindness, that we awake to the bitter consciousness of coldness and neglect.
Meanwhile time passed. Two, and nearly three years, and Mr. Leslie's law-suit appeared making no progress whatever towards a favourable com- she had never deemed anything more than the courpletion; calling, indeed, for multplied expenses, tesy of the hour. Mr. Leslie was unusually urgent which he met willingly, because unalterably cono in forwarding young Sedley's suit, more so ihan vinced that success would attend him at last; a Florence could at all comprehend. It needed all conviction shared with all the buoyant anticipation her firmness, all her eloquence, all her caresses, to of youth by his son, to whom, much against Mrs. win him over to her views, and obtain his consent Leslie's consent, his hopes and expectations had for the decided dismissal of her admirer. been imparted.
He said that she knew not the advantage it would Walter looked not to riches as means of sensual be, almost the necessity there existed for her to enter pleasure and intemperate indulgences. Inheri. early into a respectable matrimonial engagement; ting, unhappily, the sickly constitution of his an argument she could not understand. True, she mother, a severe illness, soon after he was fifteen, said that she knew if the lawsuit were unfortunately deprived him of all taste for boyish pleasures, and lost, his fortune would be materially diminished; but gave him but one great desire to become mentally could he think that she would shrink from aught of great. Tastes and powers suddenly awakened privation shared with her family? rather she would within him never felt before. He had always been remain to work for them, to save their beautiful remarkably intellectual ; but with the sudden and childlike Minie, all necessity to quit her home. conception of poetry, painting, sculpture, all those She could not enter the holy engagement of matrilinks of a higher, more etherial nature, his former mony, without feeling either respect or love for joyous spirits changed to a sensitiveness, an him whom she must solemnly vow to love, honour, almost morbid susceptibility of feeling.
and obey; she could not marry simply for worldly He gave the whole energy of mind and heart advantages. Mr. Leslie said it was not to mere to his studies. It mattered not what subject they worldly views he referred, but then checked himembraced; he mastered them with an ease, a capa- self, agitated to a degree yet more startlingly inbility of comprehension, which caused both his comprehensible to his daughter, more particularly father and himself to laugh at the fancy, that by as her mother shared it. Terrified, she knew not too much application he was injuring his already wherefore, she threw herself on Mrs. Leslie's neck, but too precarious health.
exclaiming in extreme emotion : Mrs. Leslie's anxious spirit often trembled ; “ If your happiness, your interests, my beloved but it was more at his fauliless temper, his confia parents, are in any way concerned in this intended ding and affectionate heart, his extraordinary sense marriage, only tell me, and I will school my spirit of religious trust and dependence. Yet, oh! how till I can make the sacrifice; only tell me, do could a mother, as she looked upon and traced the not deceive me; does this alliance concern your many virtues of her boy, wish it had been other welfare, as well as the supposed advantages to wise ? how breathe the secret dread, that he seemed myself? does it affect you in any way? Tell me but lent to earth?
but the truth-the whole truth-do not terrify me During Lady Ida's intimacy with Florence, by mysteries which I cannot solve; say but the Walter had been at school in London ; but he had word, if indeed it be for you." never been happy there: either the close air did not “ Florence, my child ! it was but for yourself I agree with him, or the regular and somewhat con- spoke," replied her father, for Mrs. Leslie could fined routine of lessons and exercises cramped his but strain the weeping girl to her heart in silence ; energies, permitted no vent to his higher “solemly I pledge my word, I thought but of talents. After his severe illness, he, of course, your interests, your happiness, and welcomed remained at home, studying of his own accord, and this offer as insuring you an independent home with little assistance of masters. At seventeen, the and station, which neither circumstance nor acciair of the north being recommended, Mr. Leslie dent could affect." placed him, to his great delight, with a clergyman “But why should I need these things more than in Westmoreland ; and there it was that all his others, father? why should you banish me from natural endowments in poetry and painting burst your hearth—your name ?" upon him with a flash, a brilliancy, lighting up It was a very simple question, but Mr. Leslie's his whole being with new powers, and new life; answer was, as if it said more to his wife and to banishing all trace of too morbid sensitiveness, or himself than she had meant. He caught her contoo depressing gloom, and bringing in their stead vulsively in his arms, passsionately exclaimingsuch a glowing sense of joy, such a conscious- “ You are right, my blessed child ! quite, quite ness of power, that even the desire of wealth lost all right. Why, indeed, should I banish you from my its strength, for he believed he possessed gifts name and hearth? No-no-you shall never within him, which would make their own way, change them, save for those you may love better. compel a world to acknowlege them, and wreath Florence, darling! forgive your father. I have his humble name with the bright garland of im- been too urgent, but it was for you, my child, only inortal renown. Alas! poor boy, he knew not for you." how much more than to other minds is inde- And hastily releasing her, he quitted the room, pendence necessary for the happiness of genius leaving Florence in a state of such indefinable
Florence had just completed her twentieth year, dread, that her mother compelled herself to calmwhen, to her great astonishment, she received ness to soothe her, assuring her that they had but through her father an offer of marriage, from a spoken for her good; her father's interest were in highly respectable young man whom she had met no ways affected, and that she knew a little thing now and then at Woodlands, but whose attentions disturbed him now. Florence wept away her