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Such was the position of affairs for one month ; but by the end of that time, every day added to the influence which the virtues and congenial disposition of the elder of his fair friends had gained over his feelings; though as yet, as far as was possible, he had avoided manifesting any marked preference for either of them; and it was with a view to a strict scrutiny of his own feelings, as well as to ascertain the probability of any reciprocal emotion existing in the bosom of his inamorata, that he had spent the entire morning in a solitary ramble through the park. Having at length arrived at a conclusion, satisfactory, at least to himself, on both the said points, he determined at once to declare his attachment; he had just added an 0 to the R he had previously carved, when accidentally turning round, he fancied that he was observed by his two gentle friends, who were sauntering down a shaded path at no great distance, and who seemed to have noticed his proceeding. There was nothing unusual in two young ladies walking in their uncle's park; but no sooner did our hero gain a sight of them, than hastily leaving his labour of love, he struck into a retired path, and gained the house by a circuitous route.
“ Don't laugh so, Rosalie,” said the elder of the sisters, as she strove in vain to repress the joyous spirit of the damsel by her side; “indeed, I am in earnest -very seriously in earnest.”
“Nay, sister, let me laugh,” rejoined the merry girl, unable to repress the impulse ; “you do sometimes cherish such odd fancies, dear Rowena,— how ever could you imagine such a thing ?”
“Why, Rosalie, dear, is he not always talking and laughing with you ?”
“Yes, to be sure he is, my good sister ; but only because I laugh and talk with him.”
“And does he not ever seek your society and your smiles ?”
“To be sure he does, and simply because its lightness makes it amusing, whilst you, Rowena, are so very grave and so very wise, that he is half afraid of you :-oh! no -set your mind at rest, my fair monitress — be assured
Among the rest, young Edwin bows,
Rowena smiled at the extreme earnestness with which her sister considered it necessary to accompany this information : as she watched the unrepressed mirth that filled her sparkling eyes, she remembered the time when, her heart untutored by experience, and exulting in its ignorance of sorrow,—in that infancy of feeling, when the mind is open to the deepest impression,-she accidentally became acquainted with William Heathcote. To her young imagination, he seemed to unite in his own person, all that “ high fancy formed or lavish heart could wish” in a hero or a lover: and long before she was aware of the nature of her own sentiments, she had bestowed a mine of tenderness on one, who had not
sought, and who happily was ignorant, of the nature of her regard.
Since Heathcote's arrival at Denham, she feared her sister might yield to impressions which, if disappointed, would inflict upon her that wretchedness which she herself had endured: and frequently had she essayed to caution the simple girl of her danger; but the task was oppressive, and she had shrunk from it. When, however, after a morning's stroll in the shaded avenue before the house, she chanced to discover Heathcote's lover-like occupation, the opportunity seemed too appropriate to be neglected.
“ See, Rosalie, dear! what Heathcote is doing.– Lover-like, I doubt not,-carving your name on that elm.”
“ My name, Rowena!” exclaimed the merry Rosalie.
“Yes, your name. Is there any thing so very extraordinary in the circumstance?”
But the unrepressed laughter of her sister, and the accompanying simplicity of look, staid the further prosecution of her purpose.
“Ah! sister,” said Rosalie, smiling, and looking archly in her face,“whosever name it may be, I know whose you would wish it to be.”
“ No, Rosalie !” exclaimed Rowena, with a forced laugh, intended to hide the agitation which her sister's remark had excited, “I was only anxious on your account: do not, I pray you, draw any inference from my seeming curiosity: it was nothing more than a fancy, and it has passed away.”
There was far too much seriousness in her tone and manner for the good-tempered Rosalie to urge the subject any further, and she became at once silent.
But their curiosity was not extinct; and in despite of their mutually professed indifference to the matter, no sooner had they reached the drawing-room after dinner, than Rosalie proposed a walk in the park. Her sister assented; and without speaking, they mechanically bent their way towards the graven elm. As they approached it, their quickened pace contradicted their professed want of curiosity. That of Rowena was the quick step of fearful anxiety, — Rosalie's, but the light nimbleness of curiosity. Rowena approached the tree-she took a hasty glance, and drawing her sister close to her, pointed to its trunk, and said, in a voice of suppressed emotion, “ There, Rosalie ! - do you believe me now?"
But Rosalie's incredulous smile and artless astonishment seemed almost to refute the certain evidence before her, as, with a side-long look, she glanced at the indisputable characters, and pulled inconsciously to pieces the bouquet which she held in her hand.
When next Heathcote encountered the Misses Littledales, he fancied he perceived an unusual coldness and reserve in their manner. He sought an explanation ; but Rosalie's timidity only increased the mystery by her agitation, and Rowena denied him the opportunity of speaking to her in private.
It was on the following day, that stealing quietly from the house, Rowena sought with melancholy interest, to read once more the fatal announcement of her misery; she had already reached the elm, and was pausing for some moments in earnest scrutiny, lest any obtrusive eye should be watching her; when, whilst listening attentively to assure herself that she was quite alone, she distinctly heard footsteps approaching from behind ;supposing them to be her sister's, she turned round—and who should it be, advancing towards her with agitated steps, but Heathcote himself. .“ Rowena," said he, “I entreat from you one favour
- frankness. What I have suffered from your mysterious coolness, dreadful as it has been to myself, is, I am aware, no consideration of yours; but still the dictates of a heart, so kind and so gentle as I know yours to be, will surely not suffer such misery to be the constant portion of one, whom you have, at least, esteemed, without granting me the small boon I now ask you; tell me then, candidly, has any secret enemy injured me in your estimation ?”
“Certainly not,” replied Rowena calmly.
“Then, for God's sake! what has occasioned this unaccountable change ?”
There was a pause --- Heathcote's agitation seemed beyond his control --- his lips quivered with emotion ; he