Anne Wales] [Abbot.

Autumn leaves. Original pieces in prose and verse .. online

. (page 9 of 9)
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mind came yesterday, positive happiness to-day,
neither of which I can analyze. I only know
I have not been so thoroughly content since the
acquisition of my first jackknife, nor so proud
since the day when I first sported a shining
beaver. I have conquered Etty's distrust; she



RATCLIFFE PAPERS. 193

has actually promised me her friendship. I am
rather surprised that I am so enchanted at this
triumph over a prejudice. I am hugely delight-
ed. Not because it is a triumph, however; —
vanity has nothing to do with it. It is a wor-
thier feeling, one in which humihty mingles with
a more cordial self-respect than I have hitherto
been conscious of. I can, and I will, deserve
Etty's good opinion. She is an uncompromis-
ing judge, but I will surprise her by going be-
yond what she believes me capable of. I never
had a sister; I shall adopt Etty, and when I go
home, we will write every week, if not every
day.

But how came it all about ? By what blessed
sunbeams can the ice have been softened, till
now, as I hope, it is broken up for ever ? Peo-
ple under the same roof cannot long mistake
each other, it seems, else Etty and I should
never have become friends.

As we left the door of Captain Black's house,
and turned into the field path to avoid the dust,
Etty said, " I do not know whether you care
much about it, but you have given pleasure to
these good old people, who have but little vari-
ety in their daily routine, being poor, and infirm,

13



194 EXTRACTS FROM THE

and lonely. It is really a duty to cheer them
up, if we can." I felt that it warmed my heart
to have shared that duty with her, and I said so.
I thought she looked doubtful and surprised.
It was a good opening for egotism, and I im-
proved it. I saw that she was no uninterested
listener, but all along rather suspicious and in-
credulous, as if what I was claiming for myself
was inconsistent with her previous notions of
my disposition. I believe I had made some
little impression Saturday night, but her old
distrust had come back by Sunday morning.
Now she was again shaken.

At last, looking up with the air of one who
has taken a mighty resolve, she said, " I presume
such a keen observer as yourself must have no-
ticed that the most reserved people are, on some
occasions, the most frank and direct. I am go-
ing to tell you that I feel some apology due to
you, if my first impressions of your character are
really incorrect. I am puzzled what to think."

" I am to suppose that your first impressions
were not as favorable as those of Mrs. Black,
whom I heard remark that I was an amiable
youth, with an uncommonly pleasant smile."

" Just the opposite, in fact, — pardon me ! To



RATCLIFFE PAPERS. 195

^y eye, you had a mocking, ironical cast of
countenance. I felt sure at once you were the
sort of person I never could make a friend of,
and acquaintances I leave to Flora, who wants
to know every body. I thought the less I had
to do with you the better."

I felt hurt, and almost insulted. I had not
been mistaken, then ; she had disliked me, and
perhaps disliked me yet.

" It w^as not that I stood in fear of your sat-
ire," she continued ; " I am indifferent to ridi-
cule or censure in general ; no one but a friend
has power to wound me."

A flattering emphasis, truly ! I felt my tem-
per a little stirred by Miss Etty's frankness. I
was sulkily silent.

"/had no claim to any forbearance, any con-
sideration for peculiarities of any sort. I am
perfectly resigned to being the theme of your
wit in any circle, if you can find aught in mi/
country-bred ways to amuse you."

Zounds I I must speak.

" My conduct to Flora must have confirmed
the charming impression produced by my un-
lucky phiz, I imagine. But don't bear malice
against me in her behalf ; you must have seen
that she w^as perfectly able to revenge herself."



196 EXTRACTS FROM THE

Etty's light-hearted laugh rung out, and re-
minded me of my once baffled curiosity when
it reached my ear from Norah's domain. But
though this unsuppressed mirth of hers revealed
the prettiest row of teeth in the world, and
made the whole face decidedly beautiful, some-
how or other it gave me no pleasure, but rather
a feeling of depression. My joining in it was
pure pretence.

Presently the brightness faded, and I found
myself gazing at the cold countenance of Little
Ugly again.

" No, I did not refer to Flora," said she. " As
you say, she can avenge her own quarrel, and
we both were quite as ready to laugh at you,
as you could be to laugh at us, I assure you."

" No doubt of it," said I, with some pique.

" Bat what I cannot forgive you, cannot think
of with any toleration, is "

" What ? " cried I, astonished. " How have
I offended ? "

" A man of any right feeling at all could not
make game of an aged woman, his own rela-
tive, at the same time that he was receiving her
hearty and affectionate hospitality."

" Neither have I done so," cried I, in a tower-



RATCLIFFE PAPERS. 197

ing passion. " You do me a great wrong in
accusing me of it. I would knock any man
down who should treat my aunt with any dis-
respect. And if I have sometimes allowed Flora
to do it unrebukedj you well know that she
might once have pulled my hair, or cuffed my
ears, and I should have thought it a becoming
thing for a young lady to do. I have played
the fool under your eye, and submit that you
should entertain no high opinion of my wisdom.
But you have no right to judge so unfavorably
of my heart. If I have spoken to my aunt with
boyish petulance when she vexed me, at least it
was to her face, and regretted and atoned for to
her satisfaction. I am incapable of deceiving
her, much less of ridiculing her either behind her
back or before her face. I respond to her love
for me with sincere gratitude, and the sister of
my grandmother shall never want any attention
that an own grandson could render while I live.
I shall find it hard to forgive you this accusa-
tion. Miss Etty," I said, haughtily, and shut my
mouth as if I would never speak to her again.

She made no answer, but looked up into my
face with one of those wondrous smiles. It
went as straight to my heart as a pistol bullet



198 EXTRACTS .FROM THE

could do, my high indignation proving no de-
fence against it. I was instantly vanquished,
and as I heartily shook the hand she held out
to me, I was just able to refrain from pressing
it to my lips, which, now I think of it, would
have been a most absurd thing for me to do.
I wonder what could have made me think of
doing it !

After Dinner. I hear Flora's musical laugh
in the mysterious boudoir, and a low, congratu-
latory little murmur of good humor on Etty's
part. I believe she is afraid to laugh loud, lest
I should hear her do it, and rush to the spot.
The door is ajar ; I '11 storm the castle.

Flora admitted me with a shout of welcome,
the instant I tapped. Etty pushed a rocking-
chair toward me, but said nothing. The little
room was almost lined with books. Drawings,
paintings, shell's, corals, and, in the sunny win-
dow, plants, met my exploring gaze, but the
great basket was nowhere to be seen. It was
got up for the nonce, I imagine. Etty a rogue I

" This is the pleasantest nook in the house.
It is a shame you have not been let in before,"
said Flora, zealously. " You shall see Etty's
drawings." Neither of us opened the portfolio



RATCLIFFE PAPERS. 199

she seized, however, but watched Etty's eyes.
They were cast down with a diffident blush
which gave me pain ; I was indeed an intruder.
She gave us the permission we waited for, how-
ever. There were many good copies of lessons :
those I did not dwell upon. But the sketches,
spirited though imperfect, I studied as if they
had been those of an Allston. Etty was evi-
dently in a fidget at this preference of the small-
est line of original talent over the corrected per-
formances which are like those of every body else.
I drew out a full-length figure done in black chalk
on brown paper. It chained Flora's wondering
attention as quite new. It was a young man
with his chair tipped back ; his feet rested on a
table, with a slipper perched on each toe. His
hands were clasped upon the back of his head.
The face — really, I was angry at the diabolical
expression given it by eyes looking askance, and
lips pressed into an arch by a contemptuous
smile. It was a corner of this very brown sheet
that I saw under her arm, when she vanished
from the kitchen as I entered; the vociferous
mirth which attracted me was at my expense.
Before Flora could recognize my portrait. Little
Ugly pounced upon it; it fell in a crumpled



200 RATCLIFFE PAPERS.

lump into the bright little wood fire, and ceased
to exist.

" I had totally forgotten it," said she, with a
blash which avenged my wounded self-love.
Ironical pleasure at having been the subject of
her pencil I could not indulge myself in ex-
pressing, as I did not care to enlighten Little
Handsome. Any lurking pique was banished
when Etty showed me, with a smile, the twilight
view by the pond.

" Do you draw ? " she asked ; and Flora cried,
" He makes caricatures of his friends with pen
and ink ; let him deny it if he can I "

I was silent.



THE END.



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Online LibraryAnne Wales] [AbbotAutumn leaves. Original pieces in prose and verse .. → online text (page 9 of 9)