Love After Marriage
by Caroline Lee Hentz
A stranger was ushered into the parlour, where two young
ladies were seated, one bonneted and shawled, evidently a
morning visiter, the other in a fashionable undress, as evidently
a daughter or inmate of the mansion. The latter rose with a
slight inclination of the head, and requested the gentleman to
take a chair. "Was Mr. Temple at home?" "No! but he
was expected in directly." The young ladies exchanged mirthful
glances, as the stranger drew nearer, and certainly his extraordinary
figure might justify a passing sensation of mirth,
if politeness and good feeling had restrained its expression.
His extreme spareness and the livid hue of his complexion
indicated recent illness, and as he was apparently young, the
almost total baldness of his head was probably owing to the
same cause. His lofty forehead was above the green shade
that covered his eyes in unshadowed majesty, unrelieved by a
single lock of hair, and the lower part of his face assumed a
still more cadaverous hue, from the reflection of the green
colour above. There was something inexpressibly forlorn and
piteous in his whole appearance, notwithstanding an air of
gentlemanly dignity pervaded his melancholy person. He
drew forth his pocket-book, and taking out a folded paper,
was about to present it to Miss Temple, who, drawing back
with a suppressed laugh, said—"A petition, sir, I suppose?"—then
added in a low whisper to her companion—"the poor
fellow is perhaps getting up a subscription for a wig." The
whisper was very low, but the stranger's shaded though penetrating
eyes were fixed upon her face, and the motion of her
lips assisted him in a knowledge of their sound; he replaced
the paper in his pocket-book—"I am no petitioner for your
bounty, madam," said he, in a voice, whose sweetness fell
like a reproach on her ear, "nor have I any claims on your
compassion, save being a stranger and an invalid. I am the
bearer of a letter to your father, from a friend of his youth,
who, even on his death-bed, remembered him with gratitude
and affection; will you have the goodness to present to him
my name and direction?"
Then laying his card upon the table, he made a low bow
and retreated, before Miss Temple had time to apologize, if
indeed any apology could be offered for her levity and rudeness.
She approached the table and took up the card—"Gracious
Heavens!" she exclaimed—"it cannot be possible?—Sydney
Allison—that bald, yellow, horrid-looking
creature—Sydney Allison! they described him as the perfection
of manly beauty—I never will believe it—he is an
The young lady who was with her, beheld with astonishment,
the passion that lighted up Miss Temple's face, and
her looks besought an explanation. "Have you not heard,"
said Miss Temple, "since you came to this city, that I was
betrothed; that I had been so from a child, to a young gentleman
residing in Cuba, whose uncle was the bosom friend of
my father? You must have heard it, for my father has
always taken pains to circulate the report, so that no one
might presume upon my favour. And this is the delectable
bridegroom! the one who has been represented as clothed in
every grace calculated to fascinate a female heart—and I,
fool that I was, I believed it, and looked forward with rapture
to the hour of our first meeting." Here she paused, and
throwing herself back in her chair, burst into a passion of
Mary Manning, her more rational companion, endeavoured
to soothe the excited feelings of her friend, and suggested to
her, that whatever disappointment she might feel with regard
to his personal appearance, his character might be such as to
awaken a very ardent attachment. "Indeed," added Mary,
"I thought there was something quite interesting in his
address, and his voice was remarkably persuasive in its tones.
He has evidently been very ill, and his bad looks are owing
to this circumstance. He will become handsomer by and by.
Besides, my dear Augusta, what is mere beauty in a man?
It is the prerogative of a woman, and you are so highly gifted
in that respect yourself, you should be willing that your husband
should excel in those qualities which men generally arrogate
"Husband!" repeated Augusta; "I would as soon take a
death's-head for my husband. I care nothing about mere
beauty, provided there is intelligence and spirit. But with
such a bald, livid-looking wretch at my side, such a living
memento of mortality, I should sink into my grave in a fortnight.
I never will marry him, unless I am dragged to the
altar." Here Mr Temple entered the room, and interrupted
her rash speech. Miss Manning too retired, feeling that her
presence might be an intrusion. He looked astonished at
the agitation of his daughter, who handed him the card, and
turning away leaned against the mantel-piece, the image of
"Sydney Allison arrived!" exclaimed Mr. Temple; "where
is he? when was he here? and why is he gone?—why—what
is the matter with you, Augusta? The first wish of my heart
seems accomplished, and I find you weeping. Tell me the
meaning of all this?"
"Oh! father," sobbed Augusta, covering her face with her
handkerchief, "he is so ugly, and you told me he was so very
Mr. Temple could not forbear laughing at the piteous tone
in which Augusta uttered this melancholy truth, though he
immediately resumed, in an accent of displeasure, "I am
ashamed of your folly—I have always given you credit for
being a girl of sense, but you talk like a little fool;—ugly!
if a man is not ugly enough to frighten his horse, he is handsome
enough. Besides, it is nothing but a whim; I saw him
when a child, and he was an uncommonly beautiful boy. I
hope you did not behave in this manner before him—why did
you suffer him to go away?"
"Why, I did not know him," said Augusta, in considerable
trepidation, for she feared her father's anger; "and he looked
so thin and woe-begone, I thought he was some foreigner asking
charity, and when he took out a paper I thought it a petition,
and said something about one—so he was angry, I believe,
and went away, saying he had letters for you, from a friend,
who was dead."
"And is he dead!—the good old man!—the best, the
earliest friend I ever had in the world—dead and gone!"
Mr. Temple leaned his face over on his hands, and sat in
silence several moments, as if struggling with powerful emotions.
After a while, Mr. Temple lifted his hands, and fixed
his darkened eyes upon his daughter. He took her hand
with affection and solemnity. "Augusta, you are the child
of affluence as well as of indulgence; you are my only child,
and all the wealth, which now surrounds you with luxury,
will be at your disposal after my death."
"Oh! father, do not speak of such a thing."
"Do not interrupt me. Mr. Allison, the uncle of this
young man, was my benefactor and friend, when all the world
looked dark upon me. He extricated me from difficulties
which it is unnecessary to explain—gave me the means of
making an ample fortune, and asked no recompense, but a
knowledge of my success. It was through his influence I was
united to your now angel mother—yes! I owe everything to
him—wealth, reputation, and a brief, but rare portion of
domestic bliss. This dear, benevolent, romantic old man, had
one nephew, the orphan child of his adoption, whom he most
tenderly loved. When commercial affairs carried me to Cuba,
about ten years ago, Sydney was a charming boy,"—here
Augusta groaned—"a charming boy; and when I spoke with
a father's pride of my own little girl whom I had left behind,
my friend gladdened at the thought, that the union which
had bound our hearts together would be perpetuated in our
children; we pledged our solemn promise to each other, that
this union should take place at a fitting age; you have long
been aware of this betrothal, and I have seen with great
pleasure, that you seemed to enter into my views, and to look
forward with hope and animation to the fulfilment of this contract.
The engagement is now doubly binding, since death
has set his awful seal upon it. It must be fulfilled. Do not,
by your unprecedented folly, make me unhappy at a moment
"Forgive me, my dear father, but indeed when you see
him, you will not wonder at the shock I have received. After
all you had said of him, after reading his uncle's letters so
full of glowing descriptions, after dwelling so long on the
graceful image my fancy drew, to find such a dreadful contrast."
"Dreadful contrast! why surely he cannot be transformed
into such a monster."
"You have not seen him yet," said she mournfully.
"No! you remind me of my negligence. After the strange
reception you have given him, it is doubly urgent that I should
hasten to him. Have a care, Augusta, you have always found
me a very indulgent father, but in this instance I shall enforce
implicit obedience. I have only one fear, that you have
already so disgusted him with your levity, that he may refuse,
himself, the honour of the alliance."
"He refuse me!" murmured Augusta, in a low voice, as
she glanced at herself in a mirror that shone above the mantelpiece.
As the nature of her reflections may be well imagined,
it may be interesting to follow the young man, whose figure
had made so unfortunate an impression on his intended bride,
and learn something of the feelings that are passing through
Sydney Allison returned to his lonely apartment at the
hotel with a chilled and aching heart. The bright day-dream,
whose beauty had cheered and gilded him, even while mourning
over the death-bed of his uncle, while languishing himself
on the bed of sickness, and while, a sea-sick mariner, he was
tossed upon the boisterous waves—this dream was fled. She,
who had always risen upon his imagination as the morning
star of his destiny—this being he had met, after years of
romantic anticipation—what a meeting! He was well aware
of the sad ravages one of the violent fevers of a tropical clime
had made upon his beauty, but, never attaching much value
to his own personal attractions, he could not believe that the
marks of a divine visitation would expose him to ridicule, or
unkindness; of an extremely sensitive disposition, he was
peculiarly alive to the stings of satire, and the sarcastic whisper
of Miss Temple wounded him to the quick.
"What!" said he, to himself, as he folded his arms in
melancholy abstraction, in the solitude of his chamber, "what,
if the dark luxuriance of waving hair which once shadowed
my temples, is now gone, is not thought and intelligence still
lingering on my brow? Are there no warm and animated
veins of feeling in my heart, because the tide of health no
longer colours my wan and faded cheek? These enfeebled
eyes, which I must now shelter from the too dazzling light,
can they not still emit the rays of tenderness, and the beams
of soul? This proud beauty! May she live to know what a
heart she has wounded!"
He rose and walked slowly across the floor, pausing before
a large looking glass, which fully reflected his person. He
could not forbear a smile, in the midst of his melancholy, at
the ludicrous contrast to his former self, and acknowledge it
was preposterous to expect to charm at first sight, under the
present disastrous eclipse. He almost excused the covert
ridicule of which he had been the object, and began to pity
the beautiful Augusta for the disappointment she must have
endured. It was under the influence of these feelings Mr.
Temple found him.
"My dear fellow," said the latter, warmly grasping his
hand, and gazing earnestly at him—"My poor boy! how ill
you must have been!—your uncle, too"—the warm-hearted
man was incapable of uttering another syllable, not more
moved at that moment, by the recollection of his friend, than
affected by the transformation of the blooming boy, whose
waving locks were once so singularly beautiful.
His sympathy was so unaffected, his welcome so warm, and
his affection expressed in so heartfelt a manner, that Sydney,
who had just been arming himself with proud philosophy
against the indifference and neglect of the world, melted into
woman's softness. He had been so long among strangers,
and those of rougher natures—had experienced so cold a disappointment
in his warmest hopes—he had felt so blighted, so
alone—the reaction was too powerful, it unmanned him. Mr.
Temple was a remarkable instance of a man who retained a
youthful enthusiasm and frankness of character, after a long
and prosperous intercourse with the world of business. The
rapid accumulation of wealth, instead of narrowing, as it too
often does, enlarged his benevolent heart. When, in a long
and confidential conversation with Sydney, he learned that
Mr. Allison had left but a small fortune for his support, instead
of the immense one he had been led to expect, he was
more than ever anxious to promote his union with his daughter.
However mysterious it seemed that Mr. Allison's property
should be so diminished, or have been so much overrated, he
rather rejoiced at the circumstance, as it gave him an opportunity
of showing his gratitude and disinterestedness. But
Sydney was proud. He felt the circumstance of his altered
fortunes, and, though not a poor man, was no longer the heir
of that wealth which was his in reversion when Mr. Temple
had plighted his daughter to him. In his short interview
with her he had gained such an insight into her character,
that he recoiled from the idea of appearing before her as her
"Receive me as a friend," said he to Mr. Temple; "let
your daughter learn to look upon me as such, and I ask no
more; unless I could win her affections, nothing would induce
me to accept of her hand—under existing circumstances, I
believe that impossible. Much as I feel your kindness, and
sacred as I hold the wishes of the dead, I hold your daughter's
happiness paramount to every other consideration. This must
not be sacrificed for me. Promise me, sir, that it shall not. I
should be more wretched than words can express, if I thought
the slightest force were imposed upon her sentiments."
"Be satisfied on that score; say nothing about it; only let
her get fully acquainted with you, and there will be no occasion
to employ force. You must forget the mistake of the
morning. This yellow fever makes sad work of a man when
it gets hold of him, but you will soon revive from its effects."
Sydney Allison became a daily visiter at Mr. Temple's.
Had he assumed the privileges of a lover, Augusta would
have probably manifested, in a wounding manner, the aversion
she felt for him in that character; but it was impossible to
treat with disdain one who never presumed to offer any attentions
beyond the civilities of friendship. Though rendered
vain from adulation, and selfish from indulgence, and though
her thoughtless vivacity often made her forgetful of the feelings
of others, Augusta Temple was not destitute of redeeming
virtues. Nature had gifted her with very ardent affections,
and opened but few channels in which those affections could
flow. She had the great misfortune to be the only child of a
rich, widowed, and doting parent, and from infancy had been
accustomed to see every one around her subservient to her
will. She had reached the age of womanhood without knowing
one real sorrow, or meeting with a being who had excited
in any degree the affections of her heart. Her warm and
undisciplined imagination had dwelt for years on one image.
She had clothed it in the most splendid hues that fancy ever
spread upon her palette; and had poor Sydney appeared before
her in his original brightness, the reality would probably
have been dim, to the visions of ideal beauty by which she
had been so long haunted. In the greatness of her disappointment,
she became unjust and unreasonable, violent in her prejudices,
and extravagant in the manifestations of them. But
after the first ebullition of her grief, she grew more guarded,
from the dread of her father's anger; and as Sydney continued
the same reserved and dignified deportment, she began to think
her father's prediction was fulfilled, and that their aversion
was mutual. She did not derive as much comfort from this
supposition as might be anticipated. She had dreaded his importunity,
but she could not endure his indifference. It was
in vain Mr. Temple urged his young friend to a different course
of conduct; he always answered, "Let her cease to dread me
as a lover, then she may learn to prize me as a friend."
One evening, there was a concert at Mr. Temple's. Sydney,
who was passionately fond of music, forgot every cause of inquietude,
while abandoned to its heavenly influence. He stood
near the fair songstress of the hour, keeping time to the harmony,
while in a pier-glass opposite, he had a full view of the
groups behind. Augusta was a little in the rear, leaning on
the arm of Miss Manning. He could gaze on her image thus
reflected, without her being conscious of the act, and he sighed
as he paid involuntary homage to her brilliant beauty. Her
figure was of superb proportions, her features formed on the
model of oriental symmetry, while her eyes glittered through
their dark sweeping lashes, like sunbeams through the forest
foliage. She stood with her head a little averted, and her profile
presented the softened outline of the lineaments ascribed
to the beautiful daughters of Judah. He forgot himself
entirely, in the contemplation of her loveliness, when he saw
her turn, with an arch smile, and hold up her hands in a
whimsical attitude in the direction of his head, as if in the
act of warming them; for the full blaze of the chandeliers
seemed concentrated in that point, and all eyes, lured by Augusta's
gesture, were turned upon his illuminated skull. For
one moment Sydney lost his self-possession, and the angry
spot was seen distinctly burning on his sallow cheek. The
next, he smiled superior to such weakness, and retreating a
few steps, bowed for her to pass forward. She had relied on
the shade that covered his eyes, for security from detection,
unconscious of the piercing glances that were darting beneath.
Her conscience now upbraided her for her folly, and she felt
with bitterness how low she must be in the opinion of the
man whose admiration she secretly coveted, notwithstanding
the ridicule she dared to throw upon his person. After the
company dispersed, she remained alone in the drawing-room,
dissatisfied with herself and sickening at the pleasure that
surrounded her. The door softly opened. It was Sydney,
who had returned for his gloves, which he had left on the
mantel-piece. It was the first time she had found herself
alone with him, and she felt excessively embarrassed. In
that tone, which even she acknowledged to be irresistibly
sweet, he apologized for his intrusion, and taking his gloves,
was retiring, when she, ever impulsive, arrested his motions.
"Stay one moment, Mr. Allison—you have great reason to
despise me—I have treated you with unpardonable levity and
rudeness. Though I can hardly hope your forgiveness, I cannot
withhold this acknowledgment of my errors; your calm
forbearance has done more for my reformation, than a thousand
Surprised and softened by this unexpected avowal from
the cold sarcastic Augusta, whose fluctuating complexion and
agitated voice bore witness to her sincerity, Allison was at
first incapable of replying.
"Your present candour," at length he said, "would indemnify
me for much greater suffering than you have ever
inflicted on me. Allow me, Miss Temple, to take advantage
of this first moment of confidence, to disarm you of all fear
on my account. The relative situation in which we have been
placed by others, has given us both much embarrassment;
but be assured my only wish is to be looked upon as your
friend. Consider yourself as entirely unshackled. In brighter
hours I might have aspired to the distinction our parents designed
for me; but, worn down by sickness, the shadow of my
former self, I feel but too sensibly, that the only sentiment I
can now inspire in the female heart, is that of compassion."
Augusta was so much impressed by his delicacy and generosity,
she began to hate herself for not having more justly
appreciated his worth. She raised her eyes to his face and
sighed—"Ah!" said she to herself, "I must respect and
esteem, but I can never love him." Mr. Temple, who had
been absent the whole evening, returned at this moment, and
his countenance expressed his pleasure in finding them thus
alone, in apparently confidential conversation with each other.
"Do not go, Allison," said he; "I have been oppressed
with business to-night, and I want a little social enjoyment
before I sleep. Besides, I do not feel quite well."
They now observed that he looked unusually pale, and
pressed his hand upon his head, as if in pain.
"Father," said Augusta, "you do indeed look ill; you
have fatigued yourself too much. A glass of wine will revive
She brought him the glass, but just as he took it from her
hand with a smile, a sudden spasm came over him, and he
fell back in his chair, speechless and convulsed. Augusta's
piercing shriek alarmed the servants, who, rushing in, beheld
their master supported in the arms of Allison, gasping for
breath, while Augusta was trying to loosen his cravat with
hands nerveless from terror. A physician was directly summoned,
who bled him profusely, and after a few hours consciousness
was restored. He was removed to his chamber,
and Allison remained with him during the remainder of the
night. Augusta sat by her father's bedside holding his hand,
almost stunned by the suddenness of the calamity. Never,
since her recollection, had her father known an hour's sickness;
and now to be prostrated at once, in the midst of florid
health, it was awful. She dared not ask the physician if
there was danger, lest he should confirm her worst fears.
She looked at Allison, and, in his pale and anxious countenance,
she saw a reflection of her own anxiety and sorrow.
Towards morning Mr. Temple opened his eyes, and looked
earnestly round him.
"My children," said he, "come near me—both—both."
"Father," cried Augusta, "we are near thee—oh! my
father, say that you are better—only say that you will live."
As she uttered the last word she bowed her head upon the
bed cover, and sobbed as if her heart were breaking.
"My child," said Mr. Temple, faintly, "you must call upon
God to sustain you, for there is need. I feel that the hand
of death is on me. Sudden and awful is the summons—but
it must be obeyed. Doctor, I would see my minister. Not
to give peace to my parting soul—for all is peace here," said
he, laying his hand feebly on his heart, "peace with God and
man—but there is one thing I would witness before I die."
Sydney, who stood at the bed's head, trembled at the import
of these words; Augusta in her agony comprehended
"Sydney, my son, give me your hand; Augusta, is this
your hand I hold? My children, if you would bless my last
hour, you must let my dying eyes behold your union. It
will gladden my friend, when I meet him in another world,
to tell him his last wishes are consummated. Do you consent,
He looked up to Sydney, with that earnest expression which
is never seen except in the eye of the dying, and pressed their
hands together in his, already cold and dewy with the damps
of death. Sydney sunk upon his knees, unutterably affected.
All the happiness of his future life was at stake, but it seemed
as nothing at that moment.
"Your daughter, sir?" was all he could utter.
"Augusta," repeated Mr. Temple, in a voice fearfully hollow,
"will you not speak?"
"Oh! my father," she murmured, "do with me as you
will, only take me with you."
The reverend figure of the minister was now added to the
group that surrounded that bed of death. Strange and awful
was the bridal ceremony, performed at such a moment, and
attended by such solemnities. Sydney felt that he was mysteriously
and irresistibly impelled on to the fulfilment of his
destiny, without any volition of his own; and he supported,
with a firm arm, the sinking form of her he was now to call
his own. It was with bloodless lips and deadened perceptions
Augusta repeated her vows; but low as they were, they fell
like music on the ear that was so shortly to close to all earthly
"There is a blessing above, mingling with mine," faintly
articulated the dying man. "I bless you, my dear children,
and ye will be blessed."
These were the last words he ever uttered. Augusta fell
almost lifeless on her father's bosom, but what was a moment
before the temple of an immortal spirit, was now but dust and
ashes. At the same moment an orphan and a bride, she was
incapable of comprehending the startling realities of her situation.
The images that flitted through her mind, were like the
phantasmagoria of a dream—a vague impression of something
awful and indescribable having occurred, a wild fear of something
more awful still impending, filled her imagination and
paralyzed her frame. But Allison had a full and aching sense
of the responsibilities so unexpectedly imposed upon him.
He mourned for the venerated and generous friend so suddenly
snatched away; but he grieved most of all, that his last
act had placed in his keeping that to which he felt he had no
legitimate right. No selfish repinings filled his heart—but to
find himself married, joined irrevocably to a woman who had
given him so many proofs of personal aversion; who never,
till that evening, had evinced towards him the slightest sensibility—a
woman whom he did not love, and whose superior
fortune burdened him with a painful sense of obligation—there
was something inexpressibly galling and humbling in
these circumstances, to the sensitive and high-minded Allison.
Tenderness, however, mingled with the bitterness of his reflections;
and even then, he could have taken her to his heart,
and wept over her tears of sympathy and sorrow, had he not
dreaded that she would recoil from his embraces. He did not
intrude on the sacredness of her grief, and for days she buried
herself in the solitude of her chamber. She admitted no one
but her chosen friend, Miss Manning, who represented her as
inconsolable, either sunk in a torpor, from which nothing could
arouse her, or in a state of nervous excitement still more distressing.
He waited, hoping that time would restore her to
comparative composure, and that she would be willing to receive
from him the consolations of friendship. Finding, at
length, that she persevered in her system of solitary grief,
and that time, while it must, according to its immutable laws,
soften her anguish for her father's death, probably increased
her dread of the shackles that bound her, his resolution was
taken. In a short time everything was arranged for his departure
to a foreign land. The ship, in which he was bound
a passenger, was ready to sail, when he requested a parting
interview with Augusta. A parting interview!—Augusta was
roused at that sound, from the selfishness of her grief. He
was going into banishment, and she was the cause. For the
first time since the bridal ceremony, the thought forced itself
into her mind, that he too might have cause for sorrow, and
that his happiness might be sacrificed as well as her own.
Allison was greatly shocked, to see the change wrought in her
radiant face. He was so much agitated, he forgot everything
he purposed to say, and remembered only the strangeness of
their situation. He endeavoured to repress his own emotion,
that he might not increase hers; while she, unused to self-control,
abandoned herself to a passion of tears. He approached
her with tenderness and solemnity, and entreated her to listen
to him, as a friend, as one willing to promote her happiness
by any sacrifice she might require. "I go," said he, "Augusta,
to another clime, whose genial influence may restore
me again some portion of my former vigour. I go, too, in the
hope, that in my absence you will learn submission to a destiny
which my presence renders insupportable. If you knew the
anguish that fills my heart, when I think of myself as the
involuntary cause of your wretchedness, you would pity me,
even as much as you abhor. Hear me, Augusta, while I repeat
with all the solemnity of the vows that bound us to each
other, that I will never claim the name of husband, till your
own free affections hallow the sacred title. In the mean time
I leave you with one who will be to you as a loving sister, in
whose father you will find a faithful and affectionate guardian—will
you not part from me, at least in kindness?"
Augusta sat, with her arms thrown around Miss Manning,
weeping, yet subdued. All the best impulses of her nature
were wakened and active. She would have given worlds to
say something expressive of her remorse and regret for her
selfishness and waywardness. Clasping her hands together
she exclaimed, "Oh! forgive me, Sydney, that I cannot love
you;" then, conscious that she was only wounding more deeply
when she wished to heal, she only uttered, "what an unfortunate
wretch I am!"
"We are both unfortunate," said he, moved beyond his
power of control—"but we may not be always miserable.
Something whispers me, that we shall meet again with
chastened feelings, capable of appreciating all that is excellent
in each other, and both earnest in the endeavour to merit
the blessing that hallowed our nuptial tie. I leave you that
you may be restored to tranquillity—I may never return—I
pray to God, that he may find me a grave in that ocean to
whose bosom I am about to commit myself, if I am only to
live for the misery of others."
"No, no," cried Augusta, "this must not be, you must not
become an exile for me."
"Listen to her," said Miss Manning, earnestly, her whole
soul wrought up into the most painful excitement, at the sight
of their mutual distress—"indeed, sir, you are doing what is
rash and uncalled for—oh! why, with so much to bind you
together, with qualities capable of inspiring the strongest
attachment in each other, will ye close up your hearts in this
manner, and resolve to be miserable?"
"I cannot now remain if I would, as I have taken steps
which cannot well be recalled—your father, Miss Manning,
knows and approves my intention. He is the delegated guardian
and protector of Augusta. I will not, I cannot prolong
the pain of these moments. Farewell, Augusta! think of me,
if possible, with kindness—should I live to return, I will be
to you friend, brother, or husband, as your own heart shall
He pressed her cold and passive hand in his—turned, and
was gone. Augusta would have spoken, but she seemed as
if under the influence of a nightmare. Her faculties were
spell-bound; she would have returned the parting pressure of
his hand, but her fingers seemed icicles. She shuddered with
superstitious dread. Her father's upbraiding spirit appeared
to her imagination, armed with the terrors of the grave, and
threatening her with the retribution of heaven. Poor Augusta!
her mind required the stern, but salutary discipline of
adversity, and that discipline was preparing. How she profited
by the teachings of this monitress, whose lessons, however
hard, have such high and celestial bearings, the events of after
years may show.
Augusta and her friend are once more presented to the
view of the reader, but the destiny of the former is changed.
They are seated in a parlour side by side, but it is not the
same, rich in all the adornments of wealth and fashion, that
Augusta once occupied. It is in a neat rural cottage, in the
very heart of the country, embosomed in trees and flowers.
A few words will explain the past. Mr. Temple's open,
generous, uncalculating disposition had exposed him to the
designs of the mercenary and treacherous. He never could
refuse to endorse a note for a friend, or to loan money when
it was asked with a look of distress. He believed his resources
as exhaustless as his benevolence; but by the failure of several
houses with which he was largely connected, his estate was
involved in ruin, and his daughter left destitute of fortune.
Mr. Manning suffered so much himself in the general loss, he
was obliged to sell all that he still possessed in the city and
retire into the country, with limited means of subsistence.
But, though limited, he had sufficient for all the comforts of
life, and what he deemed its luxuries—books, music, the
socialities of friendship, and the exercise of the kindly charities.
A cherished member of this charming family, Augusta
no longer the spoiled child of fortune, but the chastened disciple
of sorrow, learned to estimate the purposes of her
being, and to mourn over her former perversity. With such
ennobled views of life and its enjoyments, she began to think
she might be happy with a husband, with such irreproachable
worth and exalted attributes as Sydney Allison, even though
he had the misfortune to be bald and sallow. But him she
had banished, and when would he return? He had written
to her once or twice, in the most affectionate manner, as a
brother would write; he had spoken of amended health and
reviving spirits, but he spoke of his return as of something
indefinite and even remote. She too had written, and her
letters were transcripts of the progressive elevation of her
character, and expressed with candour and warmth the just
appreciation she now had of his own. She was uncertain
whether they had ever reached him. It was long since she
had received any tidings, and she felt at times that sickness
of the heart, which suspense unfed by hope creates.
"I bring you a messenger, who I trust is the bearer of glad
tidings," said Mr. Manning, entering, with a benevolent smile,
and ushering in a young gentleman, whom he introduced by
the name of Clarence. "Augusta, you will greet him with
joy, for he comes with letters from Mr. Allison, your husband."
Augusta sprang forward, scarcely waiting to go through the
customary form of introduction, and took the letter with a
trembling hand. "Tell me, sir, do you know him, and is he
well?" The stranger bent his dark and lustrous eyes upon
her face, with a look of undisguised admiration.
"I know him intimately, madam; when I last saw him,
he was in perfect health, and animated by the prospect of a
Augusta waited to hear no more, but retired to her own
chamber, to peruse the epistle she had so anxiously anticipated.
It was in answer to her last, and breathed the language
of hope and confidence. There was a warmth, a fervour
of sentiment, far different from his former cold, but kind communications.
He rejoiced in the knowledge of her altered
fortune, for he could prove his disinterestedness, and show
her that he loved her for herself alone, by returning and devoting
himself to the task of winning her affections. "Say
not, my Augusta," said he in conclusion, "that I cannot win
the prize. All the energies of my heart and soul are enlisted
for the contest. I could look on your beauty, all dazzling as
it is, without much emotion; but the humility, the trust, the
gentleness and feeling expressed in your letter has melted me
into tenderness. Dare I indulge in the blissful dream, that
even now gilds this page with the hues of heaven? Augusta,
the sad, reluctant bride, transformed into the fond and faithful
wife, cherished in my yearning bosom, and diffusing there
the life, the warmth, the fragrance of love!"
Augusta's tears rained over the paper. "Oh! Allison,"
she cried, "the task shall not be in vain; I will love thee for
thy virtues, and the blessing my dying father called down,
may yet rest upon us." She was about to fold the letter,
when a postscript on the envelope met her eye. "Receive
Clarence," it said, "as my friend—he knows all my history,
and the peculiarity of our situation—he is interested in you,
for my sake—as a stranger and my especial friend, may I ask
for him the hospitable attentions of Mr. Manning's family?"
When she descended into the room, where Clarence was
seated, she could not repress a painful blush, from the consciousness
that he was familiar with her singular history.
"He must despise me," thought she; but the deference, and
respect of his manner forbade such an impression. Gradually
recovering from her embarrassment, and finding him directing
his conversation principally to Mr. Manning, she had leisure
to observe one who possessed strong interest in her eyes, as
the friend of Allison. And seldom does the eye of woman
rest upon a more graceful or interesting figure, or a more
expressive and glowing countenance. There was a lambent
brightness in his eyes, a mantling bloom upon his cheek, that
indicated indwelling light and conscious youth. His hair
clustered in soft waves round his temples, relieving by its
darkness the unsunned whiteness of his forehead. Yet the
prevailing charm was manner, that indescribable charm, that,
like sunshine in the summer landscape, gilded and vivified
the whole. The acquisition of such a guest gave life and animation
to the domestic circle. Mr. Manning was a man of
varied information, and the society of this accomplished traveller
recalled the classic enthusiasm of his earlier days. Mary,
though usually reserved to strangers, seemed fascinated into
a forgetfulness of herself, and found herself a partaker of a
conversation to which at first she was only a timid listener.
Augusta, while she acknowledged the stranger's uncommon
power to please, was preoccupied by the contents of her husband's
letter, and longed to be alone with Mary, whose sympathy
was always as spontaneous as it was sincere. She was
not disappointed in the readiness of Mary's sympathy; but
after having listened again and again, and expressed her hope
and joy that all would yet be for the happiest and the best,
she returned to the subject next in interest, the bearer of this
precious document. "Ah! my dear Augusta," said she, "if
Allison's noble spirit had been enshrined in such a temple,
you had not been parted now." Augusta felt the comparison
odious. It brought before her the person of Allison in too
melancholy a contrast with the engaging stranger. "I thought
it was Mary Manning," answered she in a grave tone, "who
once reproved me for attaching too much importance to manly
beauty—I never thought you foolish or unkind till this moment."
"Forgive me," cried Mary, with irresistible frankness;
"foolish I may be, indeed I know I am; but intentionally
unkind to you—never—never." It did not require the recollection
of all Mary's tried friendship and sincerity, for Augusta
to accord her forgiveness. Mary was more guarded afterwards
in the expression of her admiration, but Augusta, in her
imagination, had drawn the horoscope of Mary's destiny, and
Clarence shone there, as the star that was to give it radiance.
A constant guest of her father's, she thought it impossible
for him to witness Mary's mild, yet energetic virtues, without
feeling their influence. She was interesting without being
beautiful, and Clarence evidently delighted in her conversation.
To her, he was always more reserved, yet there was a
deference, an interest, a constant reference to her wishes and
opinions, that was as delicate as it was flattering. He was
the companion of their walks, and nature, never more lovely
than in this delightful season, acquired new charms from the
enthusiasm with which he sought out and expatiated on its
beauties. Mr. Manning was passionately fond of music, and
every evening Mary and Augusta were called upon for his
favourite songs. Now the music was finer than ever, for
Clarence accompanied them with his flute, and sometimes
with his voice, which was uncommonly sweet and melodious.
One evening Augusta was seated at the piano; she was not
an excelling performer, but she played with taste and feeling,
and she had endeavoured to cultivate her talent, for she remembered
that Allison was a lover of music. She had played all
Mr. Manning's songs, and turned over the leaves, without
thinking of any particular tune, when Clarence arrested her
at one, which he said was Allison's favourite air. "Let us
play and sing that," said he, repeating the words, "your husband
loves it, we were together when he first heard it; it was
sung by an Italian songstress, whom you have often struck
me as resembling. The manner in which your hair is now
parted in front, with those falling curls behind, increases the
resemblance; it is very striking at this moment."
Augusta felt a strange pang penetrate her heart, when he
asked her for her husband's favourite. There was something,
too, in his allusion to her personal appearance that embarrassed
her. He had paid her no compliment, yet she blushed
as if guilty of receiving one. "I cannot play it," answered
she, looking up, "but I will try to learn it for his sake." She
could not prevent her voice from faltering; there was an expression
in his eyes, when they met hers, that bowed them
down, in shame and apprehension. It was so intense and
thrilling—she had never met such a glance before, and she
feared to interpret it.
"Shall I sing it for you?" asked he; and leaning over the
instrument, he sang in a low, mellow voice, one of those impassioned
strains, which the fervid genius of Italy alone can
produce. The words were eloquent of love and passion, and
Augusta, charmed, melted by their influence, could not divest
herself of a feeling of guilt as she listened. A new and
powerful light was breaking upon her; truth held up its
blazing torch, flashing its rays into the darkest corners of her
heart; and conscience, discovering passions, of whose very
existence she had been previously unconscious. She saw revealed
in prophetic vision, the misery of her future existence,
the misery she was entailing on herself, on others, and a cold
shudder ran through her frame. Mary, alarmed at her excessive
paleness, brought her a glass of water, and asked her if
she were ill. Grateful for an excuse to retire, she rose and
took Mary's arm to leave the room; but as she passed through
the door, which Clarence opened and held, she could not avoid
encountering again a glance so tender and impassioned, she
could not veil to herself the language it conveyed. Augusta
had thought herself miserable before, but never had she shed
such bitter tears as bathed her pillow that night. Just as
she had schooled herself to submission; just as she was
cherishing the most tender and grateful feelings towards her
husband, resolving to make her future life one long task of
expiation, a being crossed her path, who realized all her early
visions of romance, and who gently and insidiously had entwined
himself into the very chords of her existence; and
now, when she felt the fold, and struggled to free herself from
the enthralment, she found herself bound as with fetters of
iron and clasps of steel. That Clarence loved her, she could
not doubt. Enlightened as to the state of her own heart, she
now recollected a thousand covert marks of tenderness and
regard. He had been admitted to the most unreserved intercourse
with her, as the friend of her husband. Like herself,
he had been cherishing sentiments of whose strength he was
unaware, and which, when revealed in their full force, would
make him tremble. She now constantly avoided his society.
Her manners were cold and constrained, and her conscious
eyes sought the ground. But Clarence, though he saw the
change, and could not be ignorant of the cause, was not rebuked
or chilled by her coldness. He seemed to call forth,
with more animation, the rich resources of his mind, his enthusiasm
was more glowing, his voice had more music, and
his smile more brightness. It was evident she alone was unhappy;
whatever were his feelings, they inspired no remorse.
She began to believe her own vanity had misled her, and that
he only looked upon her as the wife of his friend. She had
mistaken the luminousness of his eyes for the fire of passion.
Her credulity abased her in her own estimation.
One afternoon Clarence found her alone. She had declined
accompanying Mary and her father in a walk, because she
thought Clarence was to be with them. "I did not expect
to find you alone," said he, taking a seat by her side—"but
since I have gained such a privilege, may I ask, without
increasing your displeasure, in what I have offended?
You shun my society—your averted looks, your altered mien"—he
paused, for her embarrassment was contagious, and the
sentence remained unfinished. The appeal was a bold one,
but as a friend he had a right to make it.
"You have not offended me," at length she answered, "but
you know the peculiar circumstances of my life, and cannot
wonder if my spirits sometimes droop, when reflecting on the
misery of the past, and the uncertainty of the future."
"If," said he, "the uncertainty of the future makes you
unhappy as it regards yourself, you may perhaps have cause
of uneasiness, but as it respects Allison, as far as I know his
sentiments, he has the fullest confidence, and the brightest
hopes of felicity. I once looked upon him as the most unfortunate,
but I now view him as the most blessed of men.
When he told me the circumstances of his exile, how lone
and hopeless seemed his lot! Now, when I see all that woos
him to return, angels might covet his destiny."
"You forget yourself," cried Augusta, not daring to take
in the full meaning of his words—"it is not the office of a
friend to flatter—Allison never flattered—I always revered
him for his truth."
"Yes!" exclaimed Clarence, "he has truth and integrity.
They call him upright, and honourable, and just; but is he
not cold and senseless to remain in banishment so long,
leaving his beautiful wife in widowhood and sorrow! and was
he not worse than mad to send me here the herald of himself,
to expose me to the influence of your loveliness, knowing that
to see you, to be near you, must be to love, nay, even to worship."
"You have driven me from you for ever!" cried Augusta,
rising in indignant astonishment, at the audacity of this
avowal. "Allison shall learn in what a friend he has confided."
"I am prepared for your anger," continued he, with increasing
impetuosity, "but I brave it; your husband will
soon return, and I shall leave you. Tell him of all my boldness,
and all my sincerity; tell him too all the emotions that
are struggling in your heart for me, for oh! you cannot deny
it, there is a voice pleading for my pardon, in your bosom
now, and telling you, that, if it is a crime to love, that one
crime is mutual."
"Then I am indeed a wretch!" exclaimed Augusta, sinking
down into a chair, and clasping her hands despairingly over
her face; "but I deserve this humiliation." Clarence drew
nearer to her—she hesitated—he trembled. The triumphant
fire that revelled in his eyes was quenched; compassion, tenderness,
and self-reproach softened their beams. He was in
the very act of kneeling before her, to deprecate her forgiveness,
when the door softly opened, and Mary Manning entered.
Her step was always gentle, and she had approached unheard.
She looked at them first with a smile, but Augusta's countenance
was not one that could reflect a smile; and on Mary's
face, at that moment, it appeared to her as a smile of derision.
Clarence lingered a moment, as if unwilling to depart, yet uncertain
whether to remain or go—then asking Mary for her
father, he hastily retired, leaving Augusta in a state of such
agitation, that Mary, seriously alarmed, entreated her to explain
the cause of her distress.
"Explain!" cried Augusta. "You have witnessed my
humiliation, and yet ask me the cause. I do not claim your
sympathy, the grief I now feel admits of none; I was born
to be unhappy, and whichever way I turn, I am wretched."
"Only tell me one thing, dear Augusta, is all your grief
owing to the discovery of your love for Clarence, and to the
sentiments with which you have inspired him? There is no
humiliation in loving Clarence—for who could know him and
not love him?"
Augusta looked in Mary's face, assured that she was uttering
the language of mockery. Mary, the pure moralist, the
mild, but uncompromising advocate for duty and virtue, thus
to palliate the indulgence of a forbidden passion! It could
only be in derision; yet her eye was so serene, and her smile
so kind, it was impossible to believe that contempt was lurking
beneath. "Then you do love him, Mary, and I am doubly
Mary blushed—"with the affection of a sister, the tenderness
of a friend, do I regard him; I admire his talents, I
venerate his virtues."
"Virtues! oh! Mary, he is a traitor to his friend; what
reliance is there on those virtues, which, having no root in the
heart, are swept away by the first storm of passion?"
"Passion may enter the purest heart," answered Mary;
"guilt consists in yielding to its influence. I would pledge
my life that Clarence would never give himself up to the influence
of a guilty passion."
"Talk not of him, let me forget his existence, if I can; I
think of one, who will return from his long exile, only to find
his hopes deceived, his confidence betrayed, his heart broken."
Here Augusta wept in such anguish, that Mary, finding it
in vain to console her, threw her arms around her, and wept
in sympathy; yet still she smiled through her tears, and again
and again repeated to her, that heaven had long years of happiness
yet in store.
Augusta, in the solitude of her own chamber, recovered an
appearance of outward composure, but there was a deadly
sickness in her soul, that seemed to her like a foretaste of
mortality. The slightest sound made her tremble, and when
Mary returned to her, softly, but hurriedly, and told her her
father wished to see her, she went to him, with a blanched
cheek and trembling step, like a criminal who is about to
hear her sentence of doom.
"I have something to communicate to you," said he, kindly
taking her hand, and leading her to a seat. "But I fear you
will be too much agitated."
"Is he come?" cried she, grasping his arm with sudden
energy; "only tell me, is he come?"
"Your husband is arrived; I have just received tidings
that he is in the city, and will shortly be here."
Augusta gasped for breath, she pressed her hands on her
bosom, there was such a cold, intolerable weight there; she
felt the letter of her husband, which she had constantly worn
as a talisman against the evil she most dreaded. That tender,
confiding letter, which, when she had first received it, she had
hailed as the precursor of the purest felicity.
"It is all over now," sighed she, unconscious of the presence
of Mr. Manning. "Poor unhappy Allison, I will tell
him all, and then I will lie down and die."
"I hear a carriage approaching," said Mr. Manning; "the
gate opens—support yourself, my dear child, and give him the
welcome he merits." Augusta could not move, her limbs
were powerless, but perception and sensibility remained; she
saw Mr. Manning leave the room, heard steps and voices in
the passage, and then the door reopen. The shades of twilight
were beginning to fall, and a mist was over her eyes, but she
distinctly recognised the figure that entered—what was her
astonishment, to behold, instead of the lank form, bald brows,
and green shade, marked in such indelible characters on her
memory—the graceful lineaments, clustering looks, and lustrous
eyes of Clarence? She looked beyond in wild alarm
for her husband. "Leave me," she exclaimed, "leave me,
or you drive me to desperation!"
But Clarence eagerly approached her, as if defying all consequences,
and reckless of her resentment. He clasped her
in his arms, he pressed her to his heart, and imprinted on her
brow, cheek, and lips, unnumbered kisses. "My bride, my
wife, my own beloved Augusta, do you not know me? and
can you forgive me for this trial of your love? I did not mean
to cause you so much suffering, but I could not resist the
temptation of proving whether your love was mine, through
duty or inclination. I have been the rival of myself, and I
have exulted in finding, that love in all its strength has still
been mastered by duty. Augusta, I glory in my wife."
Augusta looked up, in bewildered rapture, hardly knowing
in what world she existed. She had never dreamed of such a
transformation. Even now it seemed incredible—it could not
be true—her present felicity was too great to be real—"Can
Allison and Clarence be one?"
"Yes, my Augusta, these arms have a right to enfold thee,
or they would not clasp you thus. No miracle has been
wrought, but the skeleton is reclothed with flesh, the locks of
youth have been renewed, the tide of health has flowed back
again into the wasted veins, lending a glow to the wan cheek,
and a brightness to the dim eye; and more than all, the worn
and feeble spirit, always sympathizing with its frail companion,
as replumed its drooping wings, and been soaring in regions
of hope, and joy, and love."
Without speaking metaphorically, Augusta's heart actually
ached with its excess of happiness.
"I have not room here," she cried, "for such fulness of
joy," again laying her hand where that precious letter was deposited,
but with such different emotions. "My friends must
participate in my happiness, it is selfish to withhold it from
them so long."
"They know it already," said Allison, smiling; "they have
known my secret from the first, and assisted me in concealing
Augusta now understood Mary's apparent inconsistency,
and vindicated her from all unkindness and wilful palliation
of guilt. "I am not quite an impostor," continued her husband,
"for my name is Sydney Clarence Allison—and let me
still wear the appellation you have learned to love. It was
my uncle's, and he left a condition in his will that I should
assume it as my own. I find myself, too, the heir of sufficient
wealth to be almost a burden; for my uncle, romantic to the
last, only caused the report of the failure of his wealth, that
I might prove the sincerity of your father's friendship. My
wife, my own Augusta, is not his blessing resting on us now?"
Mr. Manning and his daughter sympathized largely in the
happiness of their friends. Their only sorrow was the approaching
separation. Mary, whose disposition was naturally
serious, was exalted on this occasion to an unwonted vein of
humour. When she saw Augusta's eyes turning with fond
admiration towards her husband, she whispered in her ear—"Is
it possible, that bald, yellow, horrid-looking creature is
your husband? I would not marry him, unless I were dragged
to the altar."
And Allison, passing his hand over his luxuriant hair, reminded
her, with a smile, of the subscription and the wig.