Frances Milton Trollope.

The young heiress: a novel online

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my friend Helen Beauchamp. Education has had very little to
do, I think, in making her what she is."

The name of Helen Beauchamp being at that moment per-
fectly unexpected, it made the young man start so vehemently
that Agnes felt as if the question she was so anxious to ask was
already answered. And this was fortunate, for it did not appear
that she was likely to get any other answer, for they walked
on for several minutes in very perfect silence. But Agnes was
not quite satisfied, and renewed the attack by saying, " Why do
you not answer me, George? Do you think that education
could have made Helen what she is ? T don't mean in beauty,
but in intellect."

" I hardly remember what I said, Agnes," he replied, gravely;
"I was half jesting, I believe; but if you must have a serious
answer to your strange question, I must certainly confess, then,
in the instance you have named, Nature has had more to do
than education."

"I thought you could not deny that," rejoined his sister;
" Helen is an extraordinary sort of girl, isn't she ? "

" Yes, very," he replied, and again became silent,

"How can you be so very disagreeable, George?" said his
sister. " You must know how very much I love and admire her,
and unless you have some particularly good reason for it, I
really think it rather unkind that you will not indulge me by
hearing 3'ou talk a little about her. You must know perfectly
well that your opinion has great weight with me, and I should
not wish to select any one as my particular friend of whom you
had not a good opinion."

" I have not at all a bad opinion of Miss Beauchamp," replied
the young man, thrusting his hand into his coat-pocket, and
drawing forth his iDOcket-handkerchief, in consequence of which
manoeuvre his sister's arm, which rested upon his, fell unsup-
ported by her side,


" A bad opinion ! You liave not at all a bad opinion of Helen
Beaudiamp ! " repeated Agnes, very slowly.

" It is impossible to misunderstand such a phrase as that,
George ! " she added, after the pause of a moment, " and I am
very glad that we have had this conversation together before I
put in practice the thousand and one little schemes which I had
in my head for enabling us to see a great deal more of her. As
to your having a bad opinion of lier, I should not suppose there
was much chance of that, because it would be so difficult to fix
upon any thing upon which a bad opinion could be founded, and
you are not a person to found either a bad or a good opinion
upon nothing. But that may not be enough to prevent your
disliking her. Liking and disliking are almost ahvays invol-
untary, I believe, and have very little to do with the judg-

" And what have I said, Agnes, to make you suppose I dislike
her? " said her brother, speaking as distinctly as the necessity
of blowing his nose enabled him to do.

"Oh, quite enough," she replied, rather petulantly. "How-
ever it is quite right that you should make yourself understood,
because, Heaven knows, that we have not too much of your
company as it is, and I suppose we should have less still if we
were to gratify our own predilections by perpetually bringing
into your society a person you do not like. Jane likes Helen
Beauchamp quite as well as I do, but you may depend upon it,
dear George, we will neither of us indulge our liking at your
expense. You shall not be bored, when you are with us, by
meeting our favourites, instead of your own."

The wily young lady's device answered perfectly. This
promise of clearing the premises from the approach of Miss
Beauchamp, for the especial purpose of gratifying him, was
more than he could stand, and his next speech, beginning

"Oh, Agnes, Agnes! How can you torture me so!" was
not brought to a conclusion till the well pleased sister had
received the agreeable assurance that if he did not marry
Helen Beauchamp, he should never marry at all.

The rest of their walk was exceedingly agreeable to them
both, for their conversation was wholly and solely on the subject
of Helen, her perfections, and their hopes; these delightful
hopes, being uttered with very comfortable confidence by the
sister, and with grateful diffidence by the brother, sufficed to
make them utterly forget the flight of time, nor might they


Imve either of them recollected such grovelling occnpatioiis as
dininof and dressins", had not the warmnof note of Helen's own
sonorous turret clock given them a hint that they had better
tarn round and walk home.

" I wish," said George Harrington, as he threw a tender
glance towards the splendid abode of his beloved, " I wish that
Helen was not such a rich heiress. Girls with small portions,
or with none at all, must look upon a declaration of love, and
an offer of marriage, in a very different light from an heiress.
There is no great compliment in a man's expressing a wish to
marr}'- a girl possessed of a magnificent mansion, and lots of
thousands a year — is there, Agnes ? "

" When a poor man expresses such a wish I grant that your
observation may have some weight," she replied, "nay, so truly
do I think so, that if j^ou were a poor man, George, instead of a
rich one, I should not desire to see this marriage take place as
ardentl}^ as I do now."

" I truly believe it, Agnes," said he. " But cannot 5"ou
fancy," he added, musingly, " how much more delightful it
would be for me to propose to Helen if she had not a farthing ?
She could not doubt the sincerity of my love, then, you know."

" Nor is she at all more likely to doubt it now," said his sister. '
"The owner of Speedhurst Abbey, and its acres, is as little
likely to sell himself to a wife he does not like as a rich girl is
likely to accept him if he is disagreeable to her. In a well-
assorted marriage, brother George, a tolerable equality of con-
dition precludes the fear of interested motives on either side."

" True, dearest ! Most true ! " he gaily replied. " I should
be sorry to spend my good uncle's property in the purchase of a
wife, so if I get her, my Agnes, I will promise to take the good
the gods provide without grumbling."

But although George Harrington had thus candidly confessed
his tender passion to his sister Agnes, it was still some months
before he ventured to confess it to the fair Helen herself. She
was still very young, too young for it to be right for him to
make her a proposal, without having first obtained her uncle's
permission to do so ; and George Harrington preferred waiting
and watching with doubtful joy for occasional sj^mptoms of
partiality on her part, to the ofTeiing her his hand with the
formal sanction of her guardian, which at her age would seem
almost like a command to her to accept it. Moreover, as yet,
George Harrington had no home of his own to offer her, and
though nothing could be more convenient and proper than that


if he married a woman who was mistress of a splendid residence,
he should occupy it till he was in possession of his own, he still
felt a repugnance to asking for the immediate use of her pro-
perty while she was still so young- as to render her granting it
more the act of her guardian than of herself.

Meanwhile, the hours and days they passed together were
becoming more and more delightful to them both, and not even
the lover himself could feel an interval to be long which was
passed with so much hopeful happiness.

Daring the whole of this time, however, it must be remem-
bered that Miss Beauchamp had received no offer of marriage
from Mr. George Harrington. But she was in no way sur-
prised at this ; she felt very perfectly sure that he was not only
devotedly attached to her, but also that it was his intention to
offer her his hand as soon as he considered her old enough to
become his wife. And most thankful and happy did she feel as
she silently meditated on the destiny which awaited her.

It is certain that the early years of Helen had passed in a
manner to make her prematurely thoughtful, and it was v/ith
no light childish transitory feeling that she contemplated the
happy prospects which now seemed opening before her.

She still clung with devoted love and admiration to the
remembrance of what her brother was, before the last dreaded
scene which preceded her father's death ; but even while in the
very act of recalling all the high ability and all the noble
qualities he had manifested before the atrocious conduct and
base reproaches of his father had lashed him into the terrible
state of mind which she had witnessed, even while thinking of
all he had been to her then, she could not help feeling conscious
that the dreadful manner in which they had been separated
formed an epoch in her early history which it would be painful
to relate to George Harrington.

Nevertheless, she was fully determined that nothing should
be concealed from him, and that she never would become his
wife till every particular of her early position, so widely different
from that in which he now saw her, should have been made
known to him.

It would have been a pleasure, or, at least, a comfort, to
Helen, could this disclosure have been made immediately; but
she fancied that her volunteering this confidential narrative,
before he had given her any positive right to believe that it was
her duty to make it, would be exactly the reverse of the line
of conduct which she wished to pursue towards him; for it


would at once sliow liim tliafc she coiislclerccl liim as licr future
liusbanci, though he had never yet formally declared his hope of
being so.

She might have spared herself a good deal of suffering had
she decided otherwise.


It chanced one fine summer evening, when Helen, her friend
Agnes, and young Harrington were sitting together on a garden
bench in Mr. Harrington's garden, that Agnes took it into her
head to amuse herself by relating to Helen the conversation, or
rather a part of the conversation, which she had held with her
brother about a year before, concerning the great drawback
which a large fortune, on the part of a young lady, offered to
the perfect happines of a love match.

"As how ? " demanded Helen, slightly colouring.

"Oh! for a deeply romantic reason," replied her friend.
" George says," continued Agnes, " that no man who falls in
love with a girl of large fortune can ever have the delight of
proving to her beyond the reach of doubt that he loves her for
herself alone."

" I do not agree with him," said Helen. " If indeed the
lover were in a station of life so much below that of his beloved
as to render a marriage between them incongruous, or in any
way degrading to the lady, I should then think that the best
and most honourable thing he could do would be to conquer his
tender passion as speedily as possible, for I do not think that
jiersons in different situations of life, or disproportioned and ill-
matched in any way, are at all likely to do well together as
man and wife."

" You are wrong, fair lady ! You are wrong ! " returned
George, very earnestly, " I can conceive nothing on eartli so
delightful — so perfectly enviable — as the situation of a j^oung
man possessed of a large fortune, falling in love with an adorable
girl who has none. There must be something- so very delight-
ful in giving this unquestionable proof of love — this indisputable
assurance that she is dearer than all the world beside ! I can


imngiiie no happiness superior to that. No man asking a rich
woman to many him can feel it ! "

" Oh yes ! I comprehend you perfectly," returned Helen, the
" celestial rosy red " still deepening on her cheek. " It is clear
that you are longing to enact the classic drama of the king and
the beggar girl, or the dairy-maid, or whatever she was. But
I think your theory very unphilosophical, Mr. Harrington.
Tliere is more of discord than of harmon}'' in your notion."

" You would not say so if you perfectly understood me, Miss
Beauchamp," returned George, eagerl}'. " My portionless angel
may have all the advantages your imagination can heap upon
her, save money. So far am I, indeed, from differing from you
as to the absolute necessity that there should be no strikino-
incongruity of position in marriage, that T don't believe there is
a man in the world who would shrink from forming a really
unsuitable connection more than I should do. I would far rather
remain single all my life than give my children a mother who
should in any way disgrace them. My theory, Miss Beauchamp,
about wishing for poverty in a wife may, perhaps, have some-
thing fanciful in it, and I certainly can imagine the possibility of
my getting over it. But Heaven keep me from falling in love
with a woman who should bring dishonour with her. I really
believe that if I were the hero of a romance, having a discovery
of that sort as its catastrophe, I should lose my senses."

This tirade being uttered to the lineal descendant of the fine
old race of Beauchamps, and the heir of its wide-spreadin"-
acres, as well as of its ancient name, was uttered as fearlessl/,
as it was vehemently ; and when Helen got up and walked away
with the air of a person who had listened to a discussion till it
had become wearisome, he might, perhaps, feel a little vexed at
himself for riding one of his hobbies to death ; but he little
guessed that he had sent a poisoned arrow to the heart of one
whom he would have died to protect from injury.

And yet a poisoned arrow could scarcely have given a sharper
pang to the heart of the unfortunate Helen than the words he
had spoken.

That the brother she so dearly loved was the offspring of
shame, would have, of itself, sufficed to make the words she°had
listened to, sound like a note of warning, giving her notice to
beware before she permitted herself to love too well one who
might shrink from all affinity with the being who, with the ex-
ception of her mother, she hud hitherto loved better than any
other in the world. Bat, nlaa ! this was uofc all. Perhaps it


was, now, as &he hung over a rose-bush, appearing to admire its
redundant blossoms, that Helen felfc, for the first time, all the
horror of believing it possible that this dear — this most fondly-
loved — brother had been guilty of a crime more terrible, if it
were possible, than that of the first murder.

Poor George Harrington, blushing like a school-boy at the
idea of having wearied his lady love by his prosing, approached
her, laughingly, and seizing playfully upon her hand, which she
had extended as if to gather a flower, he exclaimed, " No,
Helen! no! Point cle rose sans epines ; that is an established
fact, we all know. But you have already had your share of
epines while listening to my confession of faith about matri-
nionj'-, and now j^ou shall have a rose without any. All the
other thorns shall be for me."

And so saying, he gathered one or two of the very loveliest
buds he could find, and having at the imminent risk of excori-
ating his fingers, ran them resolutely up and down every stem,
he presented them to her.

She received them mechanically, and mechanically, too, turned
towards him as she did so.

Helen was not aware of the ghastly paleness of her own
cheek as she did this, but the sudden start he gave, and the
frightened expression of his eye as he looked at her, made her
at once feel conscious that her looks were betraying a portion of
the misery she was feeling at her heart.

" Helen ! you are suffering ! you are ill ! " he exclaimed, in an
agony of alarm. " You must sit down, Helen. You must let
me place you on the sofa. And without waiting for an answer,
which in truth she Avas in no state to give, he threw his arm
round her and almost carried her through the open window by
which they had passed from the drawing-room to the lawn.

Agnes, who had remained sitting on the garden-bench when
the unfortunate conversation had beg'an, plainly perceiving thnt
her brother was supporting Helen in a manner which he would
not have done had she been able to support herself, rushed into
the room after them, and was as much shocked as surprised at
finding her friend alarmingly pale, and evidently suffering,
though protesting, in a not very audible voice, that she was now
quite well again.

" No, Helen ! you are not well," exclaimed Agnes, as she
pressed the cl.'U'-cold hand of her friend. " And yet a few, a
very few minutes ago I thought I had never seen you looking
so well. You must have beeu very near fainting, dearest, or


you could not liave looked so gliastly pale as yon did when I
entered the room. Are you subject to fainting, Helen ? You
never told me of it."

" No, no, I am not subject to it," replied Helen, attempting
to smile, " but I certainly did feel very unwell just now. It is
quite gone off, however, and I sliall be perfectly well when I
get into the open carriage again, for my drive home. Will you
have the kindness to order it for me ?"

" What ! won't you stay till the evening with us, Helen, as
you promised ? " said her friend Agnes, looking greatly disap-
pointed. " Oh ! I had so much to say to you, and about such a
multitude of things ! Why should you not stay and get well
here, dearest?"

'" Oblige me, my deai'est Agnes," said Helen, languidly. " I
know so perfectly well how to manage my little nervous In-
firmities ! I had a very bad nervous fever once, and though I
have been getting better and stronger every year since I came
to the Park, I am not yet quite so strong a person as I hope to
be when I am older. But you must trust me to my own
management, Agnes. And if you will come and see me to-
morrow, you may depend upon it you will find me quite v/ell."

George Harrington had stood anxiously looking at her while
this discussion was taking place, and notwithstanding her pallid
cheek and shaking hand, he felt strongly tempted to think that
the malady which had seized upon her, was not caused by any
physical ailment, but was the result of some painful feeling
occasioned by the conversation in which they had been engaged.

It might be difQcult to say whether this idea lessened or
increased his anxiety.

His first object, however, was to indulge her in her wish of
returning home, and that without harassing her by any explana-
tions. The result of this feeling was his immediately leaving'
the room into which they had entered, for the purpose of causing
her carriage to drive to the door with as little delay as possible.

Helen was, in truth, very much in earnest in her wish to get
home, and she blessed the kindness and the sympathy which so
promptly enabled her to do so ; but the first hour that she
passed in the undisturbed solitude of her own chamber was a
very dreadful one.

It may very often happen, without any harshness on the part
of the commentator, that the first love of a young- lady under
twenty may be treated as a whim, a fancy that is not likely to
produce any very important consequence upon her future life.


But it was not so with Helen Beanciiamp. Slie loved Gorge
llari'ington, and she knew she loved liira ; and, moreover, young
as she was, she knew herself too well to believe, to think, or to
hope, that she should ever live to conquer the feeling, or to sub-
stitute any other in the place of it.

The result of her first hour's meditation, therefore, was a deep
conviction that her destiny was blighted for life. Never before
liad the terrible suspicion which lay half smothered at the
bottom of her own heart appeared to her so fearfully well-
founded as it did during that miserable hour. But, neverthe-
less, in the midst of this misery, she was true to the first
affection of her heart, and could she by a wish have summoned
the unfortunate Willian Rixlev to her side, she would have done
it ; and when she had got him there, neither love, nor fear,
would, for a single moment, have caused her to turn away from

As the consciousness of this rushed warmly to her heart
whilst she thought of him, she thanked God for saving her
from the baseness of loving any other better than she loved

" George Harrington has so much to mnke him happy besides
my love !" thought she. " But what has William got ? He is,
and ever shall be, first, and dearest! But that is not now the
question before me," murmured poor Helen, as she remembered
all the recent scenes of her late happy life. " The worst of my
condition is that I can never a^'ain utter one sincrle word of
truth to poor George Harrington ! And he is so true himself!
So very, very true ! Here is my greatest misery. Were I to
tell him the frightful story exactly as it is, I can easily believe
that he would make light of it, and endeavour to persuade me
that he loves me well enough to wish to become my husband,
despite the sin and shame to which I am so nearly allied. And
so he does!" thought the miserable Helen, as the tears rolled
down her burning cheeks. " But is that a reason for my beguil-
ingf him into close alliance with what his nature shrinks from ?"

The answer which her heart and conscience deliberately gave
to this question, may be easily imagined, but it might not be so
easy for anyone to guess with what admirable self devotion
she finally resolved to lead him by gentle degrees faraway from
the belief, which she could not doubt he now cherished, of one
dav becomini*- her husband.

As to her ever marrying licrself, slie felt that, m her very
heart of hearts, to be impossible; aud the greatest comfort sho


had, was from believing that when he discovered this to be- her
determination respecting all others, he would be more easily
reconciled to his own disappointment.

The continued silence of Mrs. Lambert had suggested to Helen
the real truth, namely, that this faithful servant had actually set
off upon a wildly roving expedition in search of William; and
the length of time that had elapsed since their parting, rather
tended to persuade her that she had not abandoned all hope of
finding him, than that she had given up the search in despair.

But whether this conjecture were correct, or not, the terrible
fact that if George Harrington knew all the circumstances con-
nected with her, he would not select her as his wife, remained
the same, and the poor heiress felt, notwithstanding all the
wealth that had fallen upon her, that her lot was not a happy



No two heads ever plotted together with more perfect S3'm-
pathy, and more perfect success, than those of Helen Beau-
champ, and her friend and counsellor Mr. Phelps. Not only
was the sum of money necessary for the purchase of the com-
mission, which was the object of her cousin's ambition, provided,
and safely lodged where it could be got at, on the shortest
possible notice, but the two plotters contrived between them, to
bring the subject of choosing a profession, on more than one
occasion, before the family conclave ; and it was amusing to
both of them to observe how skilfully the other contrived in the
most easy unpremeditated manner imaginable, to find an oppor-
tunity of remarking on the great advantage in every way,
of a man's beincj able to devote his talents and his enero-ies
in the direction that his inclination pointed out to him.

Mr. Phelps in particular, was exceedingly eloquent on the
subject, so much so, indeed, as to cause good Mr. Rixley to sigh
deeply as he replied, " Very true. Sir ! Very true ! There can
be no doubt of it. But it is unfortunately a point upon which it
but rarely happens, I suspect, that the person most deeply
concerned finds himself in a position which enables him to con-


suit his own inclination, instead of the means and convenience of
those who have to provide for him."

"I nm afraid so," replied Mr. Phelps. "But you agree with
me, Rixley, don't you, that where circumstances permit the
choice, it is a great blessing to the young aspirant for success of
some kind, when the direction in which it is to be sought can be
of his own selection."

" Certainly, certainly," was the cordial reply of Mr. Rixley ;
and it was not forgotten by those who heard him utter it.

And now, the great and important object of Helen's careful
economy being acheived, she very gently and quietly began to
relax in the practice of it. Anne, who from improving health
had grown into a fine, tall, handsome young woman, found her
wardrobe gradually improving from day to day, and what was,
if possible, still more agreeable, the occasions for displaying

Online LibraryFrances Milton TrollopeThe young heiress: a novel → online text (page 22 of 39)