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Page 74

16. XVI.

The old family mansion of the Vaughans
stood a little out of town, in the midst of a
pleasant farm. The county road was not near
enough to annoy; and the rattling wheels and
little clouds of dust seemed like friendly salutations
from travellers as they passed. They
spoke of safety and companionship, and took
away all loneliness from the solitude.

On three sides, the farm was inclosed by
willow and alder hedges, and the flowing wall
of a river; nearer the house were groves
clear of all underwood, with rocky knolls, and
breezy bowers of beech; and afar off the blue
hills broke the horizon, creating secret longings
for what lay beyond them, and filling the mind
with pleasant thoughts of Prince Rasselas and the
Happy Valley.


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The house was one of the few old houses still
standing in New England;—a large, square
building, with a portico in front, whose door
in Summer time stood open from morning until
night. A pleasing stillness reigned about it;
and soft gusts of pine-embalmed air, and distant
cawings from the crow-haunted mountains, filled
its airy and ample halls.

In this old-fashioned house had Cecilia Vaughan
grown up to maidenhood. The travelling shadows
of the clouds on the hill-sides,—the sudden
Summer wind, that lifted the languid leaves, and
rushed from field to field, from grove to grove,
the forerunner of the rain,—and, most of all,
the mysterious mountain, whose coolness was a
perpetual invitation to her, and whose silence a
perpetual fear,—fostered her dreamy and poetic
temperament. Not less so did the reading of
poetry and romance in the long, silent, solitary
winter evenings. Her mother had been dead for
many years, and the memory of that mother had
become almost a religion to her. She recalled
it incessantly; and the reverential love, which
it inspired, completely filled her soul with melancholy
delight. Her father was a kindly old
man; a judge in one of the courts; dignified,


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affable, somewhat bent by his legal erudition,
as a shelf is by the weight of the books
upon it. His papers encumbered the study
table;—his law books, the study floor. They
seemed to shut out from his mind the lovely
daughter, who had grown up to womanhood
by his side, but almost without his recognition.
Always affectionate, always indulgent, he left
her to walk alone, without his stronger thought
and firmer purpose to lean upon; and though her
education had been, on this account, somewhat
desultory, and her imagination indulged in many
dreams and vagaries, yet, on the whole, the result
had been more favorable than in many cases where
the process of instruction has been too diligently
carried on, and where, as sometimes on the roofs
of farm-houses and barns, the scaffolding has
been left to deform the building.

Cecilia's bosom-friend at school was Alice
Archer; and, after they left school, the love between
them, and consequently the letters, rather
increased than diminished. These two young
hearts found not only a delight, but a necessity
in pouring forth their thoughts and feelings to
each other; and it was to facilitate this intercommunication,
for whose exigencies the ordinary


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methods were now found inadequate, that
the carrier-pigeon had been purchased. He was
to be the flying post; their bed-rooms the dovecots,
the pure and friendly columbaria.

Endowed with youth, beauty, talent, fortune,
and, moreover, with that indefinable fascination
which has no name, Cecilia Vaughan was not
without lovers, avowed and unavowed;—young
men, who made an ostentatious display of their
affection;—boys, who treasured it in their bosoms,
as something indescribably sweet and precious,
perfuming all the chambers of the heart with
its celestial fragrance. Whenever she returned
from a visit to the city, some unknown youth
of elegant manners and varnished leather boots
was sure to hover round the village inn for a few
days,—was known to visit the Vaughans assiduously,
and then silently to disappear, and be
seen no more. Of course, nothing could be
known of the secret history of such individuals;
but shrewd surmises were formed as to their
designs and their destinies; till finally, any well-dressed
stranger, lingering in the village without
ostensible business, was set down as “one of
Miss Vaughan's lovers.”

In all this, what a contrast was there between


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the two young friends! The wealth of one and
the poverty of the other were not so strikingly
at variance, as this affluence and refluence of
love. To the one, so much was given that she
became regardless of the gift; from the other, so
much withheld, that, if possible, she exaggerated
its importance.