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lously. " Did you hear anything about the
young lady herself?"

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'' Oh, I heard that she was an angel, of
course," said Mrs. Hartley. "That, one
takes for ^nted, and -he gave me her pho-
tograph ; It is lying about somewhere. Look
on my Uttle table under the newspaper, or
imder my work. Pretty enough ; but you
never can tell from a photograph. What is
the matter with you, Aime ?"

" I only tripped against the stool," said
Anne, hastily tinning her back to the hght, '
and catching a glimpse of herself in the glass,
which frightened her.

She was thankful to go with the photo-
graph to the window after she had found it,
^e waning light being an excuse for her.
The photograph was like a hundred others,
such as every one has seen. A pretty young
£ace, with the usual elaborate hair-cfressing,
and the usual elaborate costume. As for
such things as expression or character, there
were none in the so-called portrait, which
might of course be the fault of the orig-
inal ; but this no one would dare to make
sure of. It seemed to Anne, looking at it
with her hot eyes, to swell and magnify, and
smile disdainfully at her, as she gazed at
it. She was still stupid with the blow, and,
at the same time, was making so desperate
an effort to restrain herself, that between the
stunned sensation of that shock, and the self-
restraint which she exercised, she seemed to
herself to be like marble or iron, rigid and
cold. The photograph fell out of her stiff
fingers, and she had to grope for it on the
floor, scarcely seeing it. All this occupied
her so long that Mrs. Hartley became im-

" Well, have you nothing to say about it,
now that you have seen it ?" she asked.

" She is very pretty," said Anne, slowly.
" I hope Francis will be very happy withfeer.
Did he seem very much "

" Oh, he seemed all a young man ought
to be, as foolish as you please," said Mrs.
Hartley ; " but he is coming home to dinner
this evening, so you can question him to
your heart's content. Give me a cup of
tea, Anne. I think I shall go to my room
and rest a htde before dinner. Ihere is
nothing tires one like excitement," said the
placid old lady ; and she continued to talk
about and about this great subject while she
drank her afternoon cup of tea.

How glad Anne was when she left the
room to take that nap before dinner j how
thankful that she had a moment's breathing-
time, and could, so to speak, look herself in
the face. This was precisely the first thing
she did when she was left to herself She

went up to the mantel-piece and leaned her
arms upon it, and contemplated in the
mingled light, half twiHght, half ruddy
gleams from the fire, the strange, forlorn,
woebegone face, that seemed to look back
at her mournfully out of that rose-tinted
gloom. The giddiness was begiimmg to go
off a little, and the singing in her ears was
less than it had been ; the strange whirl and
revolution of earth and heaven had ceased,
and the things were setding down into their
places. Wlmt was it that had happened to
her ? " Nothing, nothing," she said to her-
self, vehemently, the red blood of shame
rushing to her 4ce in a painful and tingling
glow. Poor pretense; nothing was changed,
but everything was different. The whole
world and her Ufe, and everything she was
acquainted with, or had any experiepce of,
seemed suddenly to have been snatched
from her and thrown into the past. The
very path she was treading seemed cut away
under her feet She had stopped short,
startled, feeling deadly faint and sick when
the sudden precipice opened at her feet;
but there it was, and there did not seem
another step for her to^take anywhere upon
solid ground. This sudden, wild conscious-
ness of the difference, however, though it
was bad enough, was not all. Bitter and
terrible shame that it should be so, scorched
up poor Anne. Shame flamed upon her in-
nocent cheeks. Her eyes fell before her
own gaze, ashamed to meiet it A man
feels no such shame to have given his love
to a woman who loves him not. He may
be angry, jealous, mortified, and vindictive;
but he is not abashed. But the woman
who has given her heart unsought is more
than abashed. She feels herself smitten to
the earth as with a positive stain. Shame
embitters and impoisons all her suffering. It
is almost worse than a crime — ^it is a dis-
grace to her and to all womankind-— or at
least so the girl feels in the first agony of
such a discovery, though her love may be
as pure and devoted and unselfish as any-
thing known in this world.

Then her thoughts all rushed to the ques-
tion of self-defense. She must not make a
show of herself and her emotions. She
must smile and congratulate and gossip as
if the event were one of the happiest which
could have occurred, as she had done with
a light heart when Letty and Susan were
married. Their weddings had been the
greatest gala-days she had ever known. She
had been bridesmaid to both, with a fresh
dress, and an important position, and much

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attention from everybody. She had taken
the most genuine interest in everything that
was done and said. Her life seemed to
date indeed from these great occasions.
And now must she go over all this, and
probably be bridesmaid again to Francis's
wife? Her very heart grew sick at the
thought ; but she must do it, must keep up,
and give no one any reason to think — no
one — that her heart was broken.

She was still standing thus, when the door
opened, and Francis himself came into the
room. Anne's heart gave a wild bound,
and then seemed to stand still ; but perhaps
it was best that it should happen so, for she
must have met him soon, and the room was
dark, and he could not see how she looked.
He came up to her where she stood, and
took her hand, as he had a way of doing.

« WeU, Anne," he said.

" Well, Francis," she returned faintly, as
by some mechanical action, and withdrew
her hand. She looked down into the fire,
which threw a ruddy reflection on her face
and disguised her paleness. She did not
fed able to look at him.

"What's the matter?" said Francis,
jauntily; "not displeased, are you? Of
course my mother has told you," and he
took her hand again. She dared not with-
draw it that time, but had to leave it in his
hold, Uiough the poor little fingers tingled
to their tips with the misery and bitterness
and shame in her heart. All that he meant,
of course, was fiiendliness, cousinship—
while she — she, a woman, had allowed other
thoughts to get entrance into her mind !

"I am not displeased," she said, sum-
moning all her courage, " except that you
did not give us any warning, Francis. You
might have told me something about her ;
I was rather hurt at that."

"Were you, dear?" he said, with a ten-
derness that was unusual, and he put his
other arm round her waist, as if somehow
this new change had increased instead of
diminishing his privileges. And Anne, poor
Anne, dared not resent it — dared not break
from him, as probably, laughing and blush-
ing, she would have done yesterday. She
had to stand still, making herself as stiff and
cold as she could, endiuing the half em-
brace. " If I had thoufl;ht that, you should
have known everything fi-om the beginning ;
but it has not been a ver^ long business ;
and, until I knew her sentiments, I saw no
need to betray mine. It might have come
to nothing, and a man does not care to
make a fool of himseUl"

"Then tell me about her now," said
Anne, holding firmly by the mantel-piece,
and desperately plunging to the center of
the misery at once.

Francis laughed.

" I don't Imow what I can say. I left
her photograph somewhere, and I suppose
my mother told you."

" Only that it was an excellent marriage,
nothing about A^."

Once more Francis laughed. He shrugged
his shoulders, and bent down to look into
her face.

"I suppose Letty and Susan raved of
him to your S3rmpathetic ears, did they ?
But men don't go in for that sort of thing.
No ; I want you to tell me, Anne, my dear
little girl — ^look up, that I may see your face
— are you pleased ? "

" Francis ! of course I am pleased if you
are happy," feltered poor Anne; "but how
can I tell otherwise, when I don't know
her, and you won't tell me anything about

" Give me a kiss then and wish me joy,"
he said.

Anne felt his cheek touch hers. There
seemed to ensue a moment in which every-
thing whirled round her — the fire-light, the
pale evening sky through the window, the
glimmer in the glass. Whether she should
faint in his arms, or break away firom them,
seemed to hang upon a hair. But that hair-
breadth of strength still remained to her.
She escaped firom his hold. She flew out
of the room and upstairs Uke a hunted
creature and dropped down upon her knees
in her own little chamber, hiding her. face
on her bed. Had he suspected? Could
he know ? But in the passion that swept
ov^ her, Anne was beyond entering very
closely into these questions, ^e dared not
cry aloud or even sob, though nature seemed
to rend her bosom ; but the darkness fell on
her mercifiiUy, hidmg her even from herselfl

Mr. Francis Hartley remained behind and
contemplated himself in the glass as Anne
had done. He caressed his whiskers and
drew his fingers through his hair, and said
"Poor little Annel" to himself with the
ghost of a smile about the comers of his
mouth. Yes, Anne was piqued, there was
no doubt of it. Her little heart had been
touched. Poor, dear litde thing 1 it was
not his fault ; he had never given her any
encouragement, and it was hard if a man
could not be kind to his littie cousin with-
out raising hopes of that sort in her mind.
But he liked Anne none the worse for her

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weakness, and resolved to "be very kind"
to her stiU. He could be kind with perfect
safety now that he was going to be married,
and he had always been fond of Anne.


Miss Parker turned out to be very like
her photograph — a pretty person, with a
very daborate coifiiire, and a very handsome
dr^; thorou^y trained in London so-
ciety, full of references to dear Lady Julia
and the parties at Stafford House. She
asked Anne whether she was going to Lady
Uppingham's that night, and told her that
she understood it was to be the first of a
series of parties, and wasn't it ddightful ?
Everjrthing was so charmingly managed at
dear Lady Uppingham's. She had such
taste. Now, Uie Hartleys had never been
in the way of such supreme delight as Lady
Uppingham's parties, and poor little Cin-
derella-Anne did not know what answer to
Bnake. Fortunately for her, a little sense
of fun came in to help her while she was
imdo^ing these interrogations — invaluable
auxiliary for which those who possess it
cannot be too thankful The humor of the
situation saved her. But Mrs. Hartley was
much impressed by the aspect of her new

**11iey are evidently in the very first
society, Anne," she said, " as, of course, was
to be expected in their position. What a
dung for Francis to be among people who
will appreciate him. There is only one
diing that troublesome."

"What is that, aunt?"

** Her health, my dear," said Mrs. Hart-
ley, solemnly shakmg her head.

*« Oh, her health 1 " said Anne, with some-
Aing of the contempt of youth and strength.
"What danger could there be about any
one's health at twenty ?"

And she paid no attention to her aunf s
mannderings (as I am afiaid she thought
them) about the character of Miss Parker's
complexion, its variableness, and delicacy
of tint Indeed, poor Anne had enough to
think of without that She had to conceal
her own feelings and master her own heart
And she had to endure the affectionateness
of Francis, who was more " kind" than he
had ever been before, and would indeed be
tender to her when he saw her alone, until,
between despite and bitterness, and proud
sense of injury, and a still prouder determi-
nation not to show her sufferings, Anne felt
often as if her heart would break. Fcnrtu-

nately, he was not often at home in the
evenings, and at other times she could keep
herself out of his way.

And then came the marriage, an event of
which Anne was almost glad, as it ended
this painful interval, and carried Francis
away to another house, where he could no
longer gall her by his kindness, or touch her
heart by old tones and looks, such as she
had loved unawares all her life. Poor Anne
— she played her part so well, that no one
suspected her; or rather, better still, the
sisters who had suspected her decided that
they had been mistaken. Mrs. Hartley had
never taken any notice at all ; and if any
one in the house had a lingering conscious-
ness that Anne was not quite as she was
before, it was John, the second son, a very
quiet fellow, who communicated his ideas to
no one, and never gave to Anne herself the
least reason to believe that he had found
her out After the wedding, however, when
all the excitement was over, Anne fell ill
No, she was not ill, but she was pale and
languid, and listless, and easily tired, and so
fiightened Mrs. Hartley, that she sent for
the doctor, who looked wise, and ordered
quinine, and hinted something about cod-
Uver oU. As Mrs. Hartley, however, was
able to assure him, which she did with much
vivacity and some pride, that disease of the
lungs had never been known in her fiunily,
Anne was delivered fix>m that terrible rem-
edy. No, ^e was not ill, whatever the
doctor might say. She was, as all highly
strung and delicate organizations are, whom
sheer ^' pluck " and spirit have carried through
a mental or bodily fatigue which is quite
beyond their powers. The moment that the
heart fails, the strength goes ; and when the
great necessity fc»r strain and exertion was
over, Anne's heart did fail her. Life seemed
to stop short somehow. It grew fade^
monotonous, a seemingly endless stretch of
blank routine, with no further motive for
exertion in it All was flat and blank, which
a htde while before had been so bright She
made no outcry against Providence nor did
she envy Miss Parker, now Mrs. Francis
Hartley, or bemoan her own different fate.
Anne was too sensible and too genuine for
any of these theatrical expedients. She
cursed nobody; she blamed nobody; but
her heart failed her: it was all that could be
said. Her occupations and amusements had
been of the simplest kind ; nothing in them
at all, indeed, but the spirit and force of joy-
ous, youthful life, with which she threw her-
self into everything ; and now that ^irit was

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gone, how tedious and unmeaning they all

At this dreary time, however, Anne had
oxit distraction which often answers very
well in the circumstances, and, indeed, has
been known to turn evil into good in a man-
ner wonderful to behold. She had a lover.
This lover was the Rector of the parish, a
good man, who was one of Mrs. Hartleys
most frequent visitors, and a very eligible
person indeed. Everybody felt that had it
been a luckless curate widiout a penny, it
would have been much more in Anne's way,
who had not a penny herself. And prob-
bably had it been so, Letty and Susan said,
with justifiable vexation, Anne would have
fancied him out of pure perversity. For the
first moment, indeed, she seemed disposed
to "fancy" the Rector. Here would be the
change she longed for. She would escape
at least from what was intolerable aroimd
her. But after a while there seized upon
Anne a visionary disgust for the life within
her reach, which was almost stronger than
the weariness she had felt with her actual
existence. And she dismissed, almost with
impatience, the good man who might have
made her happy. Perhaps, however, Mr.
Herbert was not altogether discouraged ; he
begged to be considered a fiiend still; he
came to the house as before. He was of
use to Anne, though she would not have
acknowledged it ; and perhaps in the natural
course of af&irs, had nothing supervened, a
pleasant termination might have come to
the Htde romance, and aU would have been

" The Francis Hartleys " came back after
a while and settled in their new house amid
all the splendors of bridal finery. They
" went out " a great deal, and happily had
not much time to devote to "old Mrs.
Hartley," who liked that title as little as
most people do. Mrs. Francis was a very
fine and a very pretty bride. She was a
spoiled child, accustomed to all manner of
indulgences, and trained in that supreme
self-regard which is of all dispositions of the
mind the most inhuman, the least pardon-
able by others. It was not her fault, Anne
would sometimes say with perhaps some-
thing of the toleration of contempt. She
had been brought up to it; from her earliest
years she had been the monarch of all she
surveyed ; her comfort, the highest necessity
on earth; her pleasure, the law of everybody
about her. Sometimes even this worst of
all possible trainings does a generous spirit
no harm ; but poor htde Mrs. Francis had

neither a generous spirit nor those qualities
of imagination and humor which keep peo-
ple often fix>m making themselves odious or
ridiculous. She had fi^nkly adopted the
pleasant doctrine of her own importance,
and saw nothing that was not reasonable
and natural in it. Further, the fact crept
out by degrees that Mrs. Francis had a tem-
per: undisciplined in everything, she was
also undisciplined in this, and even in pres-
ence of his ftimily would burst into little ex-
plosions of wrath against her husband, which
filled the well-bred Hartiejrs with incredu-
lous dismay. At these moments her pink
color would flush into scarlet, her bosom
would pant, her breath come short, and
circles of excitement would form round her
eyes. The pretty white of her forehead and
neck became stamed with patches of furious
red, and the pretty littie creature herself
blazed into a small fury out of the smooth
conventional being she generally appeared.
That Francis soon became afraid of these
ebullitions, and that Mrs. Francis was often
ill pfter them, was very soon evident to his
family. He came more to his mother as
time went on, and though he did not speak
of domestic discomfort, there was a tone in
his voice, an under-cmrent of bitterness in
what he said, that did not escape even less
keen observers than Anne. She, poor girl,
had managed with infinite trouble to with-
draw herself fix)m the dangerous intimacy
which her cousin had tried to thrust upon
her. It was better, she felt, to allow him to
draw conclusions favorable to his vanity than
to permit him to hold het hand, to show her
a tenderness which was fetal to her, and
unbecoming in him. She gained her point,
though not without diflSculty, and it would
be impossible to describe tfie mixture of
softening compassion, sympathy, pain and
contempt, with which Anne came to regard
the man whom she had loved unawares all
her life. Yes, even contempt — ^though per-
haps it was not his fault, poor fellow, that
he was under that contemptible sway of
weakness, which even the strong have to
bow to, when an ungovemed temper is con-
joined with a delicate fiame and precarious
health. But it was his fault that he had
married a woman for whom he had no real
love, no feeling strong enough to give him
influence with her, or power over her; and
it was his fault that he came back and made
bitter speeches at his mother's fire-side in-
stead of making some effort worthy of a man
to get his own Ufe in tune. These were the
reflections of an inexperienced girl, one of


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the hardest judges to whose sentence weak
human nature can be expos^. Anne began
to look on pitying, to feel herself disentangled
from the melancholy imbroglio, regarding it
with keen and somewhat bitter interest, but
no personal feeling. The position was pain-
ful to her, but yet buoyed her up with a
certain sense of superiority to the man who
had wronged her.


The threads of Fate which tangle roimd
unwary feet and bring them by all kinds of
anthought-of paths to fall into some tragic
net, are only now spoken of in melodrama —
in the primitive and artless exhibitions of dra-
matic art which please the vulgar ; and when
we speak more piously of ^evidence, we
attribute to that benign power those plans
which bring happiness and well-being, and
not those diarker evils of circumstance which
lead to misery or death. And yet it is still
true that at the most unguarded moment
die darkest cloud may rise on a blameless
life — that innocence may be made to bear
the guise of guilt, and heart and soul may
be petrified, and all bright prospects and
happy hopes come to nothing by an uncon-
sid^ed momentary act. So long as this
dread possibility remains, tragedy cannot be
fer from the most commonplace existence.
And thus it was that the innocent days of
Anne Maturih, most commonplace, most
ordinary as they were, were suddenly swept
into a destroying current, which ravaged the
best part of her existence before it finally
left her exhausted on the strand to snatch a
late and shadowed peace.

Francis had been for some time married,
and all the evils attending his marriage had
become known to his family, as well as the
sodal success and advancement which made
a large counterpoise in favor of his wife,
when one day he arrived at his mother's
house breathless and excited.

** I want you to come to Maria directly,
BM^er," he said. "I want you or Anne.
Sie has had a worse attack than usual, and
is really ill. Her mother is in Ireland,
heavens be praised! I don't want Lady
Barker in my house. I have sent for the
doctor, and there is no one but the maids to
be with her. She won't have me."

" Won't have you, Francis ? Why ? "

" Oh, it is needless entering into particu-
lars," he said, with rising color. " The past
b enough. But, in the meantime, if you
would go to her,— or Anne."

"Anne can go. As for me, I am too old

to be of much use in a sick-room, and you
know how it knocks me up," said Mrs.
Hartley, who could sit up night after night
with Letty or Susan without thinking of
fatigue. "But Anne will go. Anne, my
dear, put on your bonnet at once." *

"Will Mrs. Francis like to have me?"
said Anne, hesitating. It was no very
pleasant" office for her, but she no more
thought of resisting Mrs. Hartle/s disposal
of her, than did that lady of recommending
that she should go directly. Letty or Susan
would have been consulted — ^would have
been allowed their own opinion on the sub-
ject; but on Anne all such pimctilios would
have been thrown away.

"Of course she will like to have you,"
said the old lady, and Anne obeyed without
further struggle.

She walked with her cousin to his house,
checking the confidence which he seemed
to wish to bestow upon her.

" Never mind the cause," she said. " If
your wife is ill I will be of what use I can,
Francis. What does it matter how it came

"Perhaps you are right," said Francis
sullenly. He was excited, angry, and yet
fiightened. "She has never been crossed
all her Hfe," he said, with a half apologetic,
half-resentful air. "I don't know what is
to come of it, for ray part. When a woman
is married, how is it possible to keep up all
those pretty fictions about her ? She must
get to understand the necessities of life."

Anne made no reply. How strange was
it that this man, for whom she herself would
have imdergone anything, should thus mur-
mur to her over the difficulties of the lot he
had chosen I Her heart swelled with a cer-
tain proud indignation, but with that came a
feeling of natural repulsion, almost of dis-
gust. Had she made a similar failure, how
proudly, with what desperation, would she
have concealed it firom him ! But he, if she
would have permitted him, would have be-
moaned himself to her. Was this another
of the characteristic differences between men
and women, or was it individual feebleness,
cowardice on the part of Francis? She
tinned firom him, feeling herself expelled and
alienated. She had never felt her individ-
uality more distinct, or her independence
more dear to her. She had nothing to do
with him or his house or his troubles, thank
Heaven ! She would help* if she could, but
she had neither part nor lot with them. Her
life might be dismal enough, but yet it would

Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 10 of 163)