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Page 79

17. XVII.

In addition to these transient lovers, who were
but birds of passage, winging their way, in an
incredibly short space of time, from the torrid
to the frigid zone, there was in the village a
domestic and resident adorer, whose love for
himself, for Miss Vaughan, and for the beautiful,
had transformed his name from Hiram A.
Hawkins to H. Adolphus Hawkins. He was
a dealer in English linens and carpets;—a profession
which of itself fills the mind with ideas
of domestic comfort. His waistcoats were made
like Lord Melbourne's in the illustrated English
papers, and his shiny hair went off to the left
in a superb sweep, like the hand-rail of a bannister.
He wore many rings on his fingers,
and several breast-pins and gold chains disposed
about his person. On all his bland physiognomy


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was stamped, as on some of his linens,
“Soft finish for family use.” Every thing
about him spoke the lady's man. He was, in
fact, a perfect ring-dove; and, like the rest of
his species, always walked up to the female,
and, bowing his head, swelled out his white crop,
and uttered a very plaintive murmur.

Moreover, Mr. Hiram Adolphus Hawkins
was a poet,—so much a poet, that, as his sister
frequently remarked, he “spoke blank verse
in the bosom of his family.” The general
tone of his productions was sad, desponding,
perhaps slightly morbid. How could it be otherwise
with the writings of one who had never
been the world's friend, nor the world his?
who looked upon himself as “a pyramid of
mind on the dark desert of despair”? and who,
at the age of twenty-five, had drunk the bitter
draught of life to the dregs, and dashed the
goblet down? His productions were published
in the Poet's Corner of the Fairmeadow Advertiser;
and it was a relief to know, that, in private
life, as his sister remarked, he was “by no
means the censorious and moody person some
of his writings might imply.”

Such was the personage who assumed to


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himself the perilous position of Miss Vaughan's
permanent admirer. He imagined that it was
impossible for any woman to look upon him and
not love him. Accordingly, he paraded himself
at his shop-door as she passed; he paraded
himself at the corners of the streets;
he paraded himself at the church-steps on Sunday.
He spied her from the window; he sallied
from the door; he followed her with his eyes;
he followed her with his whole august person;
he passed her and repassed her, and turned
back to gaze; he lay in wait with dejected
countenance and desponding air; he persecuted
her with his looks; he pretended that their
souls could comprehend each other without
words; and whenever her lovers were alluded
to in his presence, he gravely declared, as one
who had reason to know, that, if Miss Vaughan
ever married, it would be some one of gigantic

Of these persecutions Cecilia was for a long
time the unconscious victim. She saw this
individual, with rings and strange waistcoats, performing
his gyrations before her, but did not
suspect that she was the centre of attraction,—
not imagining that any man would begin his


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wooing with such outrages. Gradually the truth
dawned upon her, and became the source of
indescribable annoyance, which was augmented
by a series of anonymous letters, written in a
female hand, and setting forth the excellences
of a certain mysterious relative,—his modesty,
his reserve, his extreme delicacy, his talent for
poetry,—rendered authentic by extracts from his
papers, made, of course, without the slightest
knowledge or suspicion on his part. Whence
came these sibylline leaves? At first Cecilia
could not divine; but, ere long, her woman's instinct
traced them to the thin and nervous hand of
the poet's sister. This surmise was confirmed by
her maid, who asked the boy that brought them.

It was with one of these missives in her hand
that Cecilia entered Mrs. Archer's house, after
purchasing the carrier-pigeon. Unannounced she
entered, and walked up the narrow and imperfectly
lighted stairs to Alice's bed-room,—that
little sanctuary draped with white,—that columbarium
lined with warmth, and softness, and
silence. Alice was not there; but the chair
by the window, the open volume of poems on
the table, the note to Cecilia by its side, and
the ink not yet dry in the pen, were like the


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vibration of a bough, when the bird has just
left it,—like the rising of the grass, when the
foot has just pressed it. In a moment she returned.
She had been down to her mother,
who sat talking, talking, talking, with an old
friend in the parlour below, even as these young
friends were talking together, in the bed-room
above. Ah, how different were their themes!
Death and Love,—apples of Sodom, that
crumble to ashes at a touch,—golden fruits of
the Hesperides,—golden fruits of Paradise, fragrant,
ambrosial, perennial!

“I have just been writing to you,” said Alice;
“I wanted so much to see you this morning!”

“Why this morning in particular? Has any
thing happened?”

“Nothing, only I had such a longing to see

And, seating herself in a low chair by Cecilia's
side, she laid her head upon the shoulder of her
friend, who, taking one of her pale, thin hands
in both her own, silently kissed her forehead
again and again.

Alice was not aware, that, in the words she
uttered, there was the slightest shadow of untruth.
And yet had nothing happened? Was


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it nothing, that among her thoughts a new thought
had risen, like a star, whose pale effulgence,
mingled with the common daylight, was not
yet distinctly visible even to herself, but would
grow brighter as the sun grew lower, and the
rosy twilight darker? Was it nothing, that a
new fountain of affection had suddenly sprung
up within her, which she mistook for the freshening
and overflowing of the old fountain of
friendship, that hitherto had kept the lowland
landscape of her life so green, but now, being
flooded by more affection, was not to cease,
but only to disappear in the greater tide, and
flow unseen beneath it? Yet so it was; and
this stronger yearning—this unappeasable desire
for her friend—was only the tumultuous
swelling of a heart, that as yet knows not its
own secret.

“I am so glad to see you, Cecilia!” she continued.
“You are so beautiful! I love so
much to sit and look at you! Ah, how I wish
Heaven had made me as tall, and strong, and
beautiful as you are!”

“You little flatterer! What an affectionate,
lover-like friend you are! What have you been
doing all the morning?”


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“Looking out of the window, thinking of you,
and writing you this letter, to beg you to come
and see me.”

“And I have been buying a carrier-pigeon, to
fly between us, and carry all our letters.”

“That will be delightful.”

“He is to be sent home to-day; and after he
gets accustomed to my room, I shall send him
here, to get acquainted with yours;—a Iachimo
in my Imogen's bed-chamber, to spy out its

“If he sees Cleopatra in these white curtains,
and silver Cupids in these andirons, he will have
your imagination.”

“He will see the book with the leaf turned
down, and you asleep, and tell me all about

“A carrier-pigeon! What a charming idea!
and how like you to think of it!”

“But to-day I have been obliged to bring my
own letters. I have some more sibylline leaves
from my anonymous correspondent, in laud and
exaltation of her modest relative, who speaks
blank verse in the bosom of his family. I have
brought them to read you some extracts, and to
take your advice; for, really and seriously, this
must be stopped. It has grown too annoying.”


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“How much love you have offered you!”
said Alice, sighing.

“Yes, quite too much of this kind. On my
way here, I saw the modest relative, standing at
the corner of the street, hanging his head in this

And she imitated the melancholy Hiram Adolphus,
and the young friends laughed.

“I hope you did not notice him?” resumed

“Certainly not. But what do you suppose he
did? As soon as he saw me, he began to walk
backward down the street only a short distance in
front of me, staring at me most impertinently.
Of course, I took no notice of this strange conduct.
I felt myself blushing to the eyes with indignation,
and yet could hardly suppress my
desire to laugh.”

“If you had laughed, he would have taken it
for an encouragement; and I have no doubt it
would have brought on the catastrophe.”

“And that would have ended the matter. I
half wish I had laughed.”

“But think of the immortal glory of marrying
a poet!”

“And of inscribing on my cards, Mrs. Hiram
Adolphus Hawkins!”


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“A few days ago, I went to buy something at
his shop; and, leaning over the counter, he asked
me if I had seen the sun set the evening before,
—adding, that it was gorgeous, and that the grass
and trees were of a beautiful Paris green!”

And again the young friends gave way to their

“One thing, dear Alice, you must consent to
do for me. You must write to Miss Martha
Amelia, the author of all these epistles, and tell
her very plainly how indelicate her conduct is,
and how utterly useless all such proceedings will
prove in effecting her purpose.”

“I will write this very day. You shall be no
longer persecuted.”

“And now let me give you a few extracts
from these wonderful epistles.”

So saying, Cecilia drew forth a small package
of three-cornered billets, tied with a bit of pink
ribbon. Taking one of them at random, she was
on the point of beginning, but paused, as if her
attention had been attracted by something out of
doors. The sound of passing footsteps was
heard on the gravel walk.

“There goes Mr. Kavanagh,” said she, in a


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Alice rose suddenly from her low chair at
Cecilia's side, and the young friends looked from
the window to see the clergyman pass.

“How handsome he is!” said Alice, involuntarily.

“He is, indeed.”

At that moment Alice started back from the
window. Kavanagh had looked up in passing, as
if his eye had been drawn by some secret magnetism.
A bright color flushed the cheek of Alice;
her eyes fell; but Cecilia continued to look
steadily into the street. Kavanagh passed on,
and in a few moments was out of sight.

The two friends stood silent, side by side.