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Page 141

24. XXIV.

The project of the new Magazine being
heard of no more, and Mr. Churchill being
consequently deprived of his one hundred and
fifty thousand readers, he laid aside the few notes
he had made for his papers on the Obscure
Martyrs, and turned his thoughts again to the
great Romance. A whole leisure Saturday
afternoon was before him,—pure gold, without
alloy. Ere beginning his task, he stepped
forth into his garden to inhale the sunny air,
and let his thoughts recede a little, in order
to leap farther. When he returned, glowing
and radiant with poetic fancies, he found, to his
unspeakable dismay, an unknown damsel sitting
in his arm-chair. She was rather gayly yet
elegantly dressed, and wore a veil, which she
raised as Mr. Churchill entered, fixing upon
him the full, liquid orbs of her large eyes.


Page 142

“Mr. Churchill, I suppose?” said she, rising,
and stepping forward.

“The same,” replied the school-master, with
dignified courtesy.

“And will you permit me,” she continued,
not without a certain serene self-possession, “to
introduce myself, for want of a better person to
do it for me? My name is Cartwright,—
Clarissa Cartwright.”

This announcement did not produce that powerful
and instantaneous effect on Mr. Churchill
which the speaker seemed to anticipate, or at
least to hope. His eye did not brighten with
any quick recognition, nor did he suddenly

“What! Are you Miss Cartwright, the
poetess, whose delightful effusions I have seen
in all the magazines?”

On the contrary, he looked rather blank and
expectant, and only said,—

“I am very glad to see you; pray sit down.”

So that the young lady herself was obliged
to communicate the literary intelligence above
alluded to, which she did very gracefully, and
then added,—

“I have come to ask a great favor of you,


Page 143
Mr. Churchill, which I hope you will not deny
me. By the advice of some friends, I have collected
my poems together,”—and here she
drew forth from a paper a large, thin manuscript,
bound in crimson velvet,—“and think of publishing
them in a volume. Now, would you not
do me the favor to look them over, and give
me your candid opinion, whether they are
worth publishing? I should value your advice
so highly!”

This simultaneous appeal to his vanity and
his gallantry from a fair young girl, standing on
the verge of that broad, dangerous ocean, in
which so many have perished, and looking wistfully
over its flashing waters to the shores of
the green Isle of Palms,—such an appeal, from
such a person, it was impossible for Mr. Churchill
to resist. He made, however, a faint show
of resistance,—a feeble grasping after some
excuse for refusal,—and then yielded. He
received from Clarissa's delicate, trembling hand
the precious volume, and from her eyes a still
more precious look of thanks, and then said,—

“What name do you propose to give the

“Symphonies of the Soul, and other Poems,”


Page 144
said the young lady; “and, if you like them,
and it would not be asking too much, I should
be delighted to have you write a Preface, to introduce
the work to the public. The publisher
says it would increase the sale very considerably.”

“Ah, the publisher! yes, but that is not very
complimentary to yourself,” suggested Mr.
Churchill. “I can already see your Poems
rebelling against the intrusion of my Preface,
and rising like so many nuns in a convent to
expel the audacious foot that has dared to invade
their sacred precincts.”

But it was all in vain, this pale effort at
pleasantry. Objection was useless; and the
soft-hearted school-master a second time yielded
gracefully to his fate, and promised the Preface.
The young lady took her leave with a profusion
of thanks and blushes; and the dainty manuscript,
with its delicate chirography and crimson
cover, remained in the hands of Mr. Churchill,
who gazed at it less as a Paradise of Dainty
Devices than as a deed or mortgage of so
many precious hours of his own scanty inheritance
of time.

Afterwards, when he complained a little of


Page 145
this to his wife,—who, during the interview, had
peeped in at the door, and, seeing how he was
occupied, had immediately withdrawn,—she said
that nobody was to blame but himself; that he
should learn to say “No!” and not do just as
every romantic little girl from the Academy
wanted him to do; adding, as a final aggravation
and climax of reproof, that she really believed
he never would, and never meant to, begin his