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“To be the mistress of some honest man's house, and the means
of making neighbours happy, the poor easy, and relieving strangers,
is the most creditable lot a young woman can look to, and I heartily
wish it to all here.”


Mrs. Seton, Emily Dayton is engaged to William

“To William Moreland. Well, why should she
not be engaged to William Moreland?”

“Why should she, rather?”

“I know not Emily Dayton's `why,' but ladies'
reasons for marrying are as `thick as blackberries.'
A common motive with girls under twenty is the éclat
of an engagement—the pleasure of being the heroine
of bridal festivities—of receiving presents—of being
called by that name so enchanting to the imagination
of a miss in her teens—`the bride.”'

“But Emily Dayton, you know, is past twenty.”

“There is one circumstance that takes place of all
reason—perhaps she is in love.”

“In love with William Moreland! No, no, Mrs.
Seton—there are no `merry wanderers of the night' in
these times to do Cupid's errands, and make us dote
on that which we should hate.”

“Perhaps then, as she is at a rational age, three or
four and twenty, she may be satisfied to get a kind
sensible protector.”

“Kind and sensible, truly! He is the most testy,
frumpish, stupid man you can imagine.”

“Does she not marry for an establishment?”


Page 98

“Oh no! She is perfectly independent, mistress of
every thing at her father's. No, I believe her only
motive is that which actuates half the girls—the fear
of being an old maid. This may be her last chance.
Despair, they say, makes men mad—and I believe it
does women too.

“It is a fearful fate.”

“An old maid's? Yes, most horrible.”

“Pardon me, Anne, I did not mean that; but such
a fate as you anticipate for Emily Moreland—to be
yoked in the most intimate relation of life, and for
, to a person to whom you have clung to save you
from shipwreck, but whom you would not select to
pass an evening with. To such a misery there can be
no `end, measure, limit, bound.”'

“But, my dear Mrs. Seton, what are we to do?—
all women cannot be so fortunate as you are.”

“Perhaps not. But so kind is the system of compensation
in this life—such the thirst for happiness,
and so great the power of adaptation in the human
mind, that the conjugal state is far more tolerable than
we should expect when we see the mismated parties
cross its threshold. Still there can be no doubt that
its possible happiness is often missed, and such is my
respect for my sex, and so high my estimate of the
capabilities of married life, that I cannot endure to
see a woman, from the fear of being an old maid,
driven into it, thereby forfeiting its highest blessings.”

“You must nevertheless confess, Mrs. Seton, that
there are terrors in the name.”

“Yes, I know there are; and women are daily
scared by them into unequal and wretched connexions.
They have believed they could not retain
their identity after five and twenty. That unless
their individual existence was merged in that of the
superior animal, every gift and grace with which God
has endowed them would exhale and leave a `spectral


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appearance'—a sort of slough of woman—an
Aunt Grizzel, or Miss Lucretia McTab. I have
lived, my dear Anne, to see many of the mists of old
superstitions melting away in the light of a better
day. Ghost is no longer a word to conjure with—
witches have settled down into harmless and unharmed
old women; and I do not despair of living to see the
time when it shall be said of no woman breathing, as
I have heard it said of such and such a lady, who escaped
from the wreck at the eleventh hour, that she
`married to die a Mrs.”'

“I hate, too, to hear such things said, but tell me
honestly, Mrs. Seton, now when no male ears are
within hearing, whether you do not, in your secret
soul, think there is something particularly unlovely,
repelling, and frightful, in the name of an old maid.”

“In the name, certainly; but it is because it does
not designate a condition but a species. It calls up
the idea of a faded, bony, wrinkled, skinny, jaundiced
personage, whose mind has dwindled to a point
—who has outlived her natural affections—survived
every love but love of self, and self-guarded by that
Cerberus suspicion—in whom the follies of youth are
fresh when all its charms are gone—who has retained,
in all their force, the silliest passions of the silliest
women—love of dress, of pleasure, of admiration;
who, in short, is in the condition of the spirits in the
ancients' Tartarus, an impalpable essence tormented
with the desires of humanity. Now turn, my dear
Anne, from this hideous picture to some of our acquaintance
who certainly have missed the happiest
destiny of woman, but who dwell in light, the emanation
of their own goodness. I shall refer you to
actual living examples—no fictions.”

“No fictions, indeed, for then you must return to
the McTabs and Grizzles. Whatever your philanthropy
may hope for that most neglected portion
of our sex, no author has ventured so far from nature


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as to portray an attractive old maid. Even Mackenzie,
with a spirit as gentle as my Uncle Toby's, and as
tender as that of his own `Man of Feeling,' has written
an essay in ridicule of `old maids.”'

“And you are not perhaps aware, Anne, that he
has written a poem called the `Recantation,' and
dedicated it to his single daughter, a most lovely
woman, who was the staff and blessing of his old
age. In your wide range of reading cannot you
think of a single exception to the McTabs and Grizzles?”

“Miss Farrer's `Becca Duguid,' but she is scarcely
above contempt, trampled on by the children, and the
tool of their selfish and lazy mammas.”

“There is one author, Anne, the most beloved, and
the most lamented of all authors, who has not ventured
to depart from nature, but has escaped prejudice,
and prejudice in some of its most prevailing forms.
He has dared to exhibit the Paynim Saladin as superior
to the Christian crusader. He has dispelled the
thick clouds that enveloped the `poor Israelite,' the
most inveterate of all prejudices, transmitted from age
to age, and authorised by the fancied sanctions of religion.
I said the clouds were dispelled, but do they not
rather hang around the glorious Rebecca, the unsullied
image of her Maker, as the clouds that have broken
away from the full moon encircled her, and are
converted by her radiance to a bright halo?”

“Mrs. Seton! Mrs. Seton! you are, or I am getting
lost in all this mist and fog. What have Paynims
and Jews to do with old maids? I do not
remember an old maid in all Sir Walter's novels,
excepting, indeed, Alison—Martha Trapbois—Meg
Dods—one of Monkbarns' womankind, and Miss
Yellowley, a true all-saving, fidgetting, pestering old
maid, and the rest of them are entertaining but certainly
not very exalting members of any sisterhood.”

“But these are not my examples, Anne. I confess


Page 101
that they are fair examples of follies and virtues that,
if not originated, are exaggerated and made conspicuous
by single life. I confess too that for such
foibles matrimony is often a kind and safe shelter.
But to my examples. Sir Walter—and who is more
poetically just than Sir Walter?—has abandoned to
the desolate, tragic, and most adhorred fate of old
maids, his three first female characters—first in all
respects, in beauty, in mind, in goodness, first in our
hearts. The accomplished Flora M`Ivor—the peerless
Rebecca, and the tender, beautiful Minna.”

“Bless me! I never thought of this.”

“No, nor has one in a thousand of the young ladies
who have admired these heroines laid the moral of
their story to heart. Perhaps not one of the fair young
creatures who has dropped a tear over the beautiful
sentence that closes the history of Minna,[1] has been
conscious that she was offering involuntary homage to
the angelic virtues of an old maid. The very term
would have wrought a disenchanting spell.”

“I confess, Mrs. Seton, I am in what is vulgarly
called a `blue maze.' My perceptions are as imperfect
as the man's in scripture who was suddenly cured
of blindness. Besides I was never particularly skilful
at puzzling out a moral; will you have the goodness
to extract it for me?”

“Certainly, Anne, as I am the lecturer, this is my
duty. First, I would have young ladies believe that
all beautiful and loveable young women do not of
course get married—that charms and virtues may exist,
and find employment in single life—that a single
woman, an old maid, (I will not eschew the name,)


Page 102
may love and be loved if she has not a husband, and
children of her own. I would have her learn that if,
like Flora M`Ivor, she has been surrounded by circumstances
that have caused her thoughts and affections to
flow in some other channel that love, she need not
wed a chance Waverly to escape single life; that if,
like Rebecca, she is separated by an impassable gulf
from him she loves, she need not wed one whom she
does not love, but like the high souled Jewess she may
transmute `young Cupid's fiery shafts,' to chains that
shall link her to all her species; and if like poor Minna
she has thrown away her affections on a worthless object,
she may live on singly, and so well that she will
be deemed but `little lower than the angels.'

“After all it is not such high natures as these that
need to be fortified by argument, or example. They
are born equal to either fortune. But I would entreat
all my sex—those even who have the fewest and smallest
gifts—to reverence themselves, to remember that
it is not so much the mode of their brief and precarious
existence that is important, as the careful use of those
faculties that make existence a blessing here, and
above all hereafter, where there is certainly `no marrying,
nor giving in marriage;' but I am growing
serious, and of course, I fear, tiresome to young ears.”

“Oh, no, no, Mrs. Seton. These are subjects on
which girls are never tired of talking nor listening;
besides, you know you promised me some examples
—such as Miss Hamilton and Miss Edgeworth, I

“No, Anne, these belong to the great exceptions
I have mentioned, `equal to either fortune,' who, in
any condition, would have made their `owne renowne,
and happie days.'

“I could adduce a few in our own country, known
to both of us, who are the ornament of the high
circles in which they move, but for obvious reasons I
select humble persons—those who, like some little


Page 103
rivulet unknown to fame, bless obscure and sequestered
places. There is Violet Flint—I always wondered
how she came by so appropriate a name. That little
flower is a fit emblem for her—smiling in earliest
spring, and in latest fall—requiring no culture, and
yet rewarding it—neglected and forgotten when the
gay tribes of summer are caressed, and yet always
looking from its humble station with the same cheerful
face—bright and constant through the sudden
reverses of autumn, and the adversity of the roughest
winter. Such is the flower, and such is Violet Flint.
But as I am now in realities, I must call her by the
old maidenish appellation that, spoiling her pretty
name, they have given to her, `Miss Vily.' She
lives, and has for the last twenty years lived, with her
brother Sam. He married young, a poor invalid,
who, according to Napoleon's scale of merit, is a great
woman, having given to the commonwealth nine or
ten—more or less—goodly sons and daughters. After
the children were born, all care of them, and of their
suffering mother, devolved on Violet. Without the
instincts, the claims, the rights, or the honours of a
mother, she has not only done all the duties of a
mother, but done them on the sure and broad basis of
love. She has toiled and saved, and made others
comfortable and enjoying, while she performed the
usually thankless task of ordering the economy of a
very frugal household. She has made the happy
happier, tended the sick, and solaced the miserable.
She sheltered the weak, and if one of the children
strayed she was the apologist and intercessor. With
all this energy of goodness the cause is lost in the blessed
effects—she never appears to claim applause or notice.
She is not only second best; but when indulgence or
pleasure is to be distributed, her share is last and
least—that is, according to the usual selfish reckoning.
But according to a truer and nobler scale, her amount


Page 104
is greatest, for she has her share in whatever happiness
she sees in any living thing.

“How many married dames are there who repeat
every fifteen minutes, my husband, my children,
my house, and glorify themselves in all these little
personalities, who might lay down their crowns at
the feet of Violet Flint!—Miss Vily, the old maid.

“The second example that occurs to me, is Sarah
Lee. Sarah has not, like Violet, escaped all the peculiarities
that are supposed to characterise the `Single-sides.'
With the chartered rights of a married lady
to fret, to be particular, and to have a way of her
own, her temper would pass without observation; but
being an old maid, she is called, and I must confess is,
rather touchy. But what are these sparks, when the
same fire that throws them off keeps warm an overflowing
stream of benevolence?—look into her room.”

“Oh, Mrs. Seton! I have seen it, and you must confess
it is a true `Singleside' repository.”

“Yes, I do confess it—nor will I shrink from the
confession, for I wish to select for my examples, not
any bright particular star, but persons of ordinary gifts,
in the common walks of life. Had Sarah been married
she would have been a thrifty wife, and painstaking
mother, but she wore away her youth in devotion
to the sick and old—and now her kindness, like
the miraculous cruise, always imparting and never
diminishing, is enjoyed by all within her little sphere.
Experience has made her one of the best physicians I
know. She keeps a variety of labelled medicines for
the sick, plasters and salves of her own compounding,
and materials with which she concocts food and beverages
of every description, nutritious and diluent; in
short, she has some remedy or solace for every ill that
flesh is heir to. She has a marvellous knack of gathering
up fragments, of most ingeniously turning to account
what would be wasted in another's hands. She


Page 105
not only has comfortables for shivering old women,
and well patched clothes for neglected children, but
she has always some pretty favour for a bride—some
kind token for a new-born baby. And then what a
refuge is her apartment for the slip-shod members of
the family who are in distress for scissors, penknife,
thimble, needle, hook and eye, buttons, a needle-full
of silk or worsted of any particular colour. How
many broken hearts she has restored with her inexhaustible
glue-pot—mending tops, doll's broken legs,
and all the luckless furniture of the baby-house—to
say nothing of a similar ministry to the `minds diseased'
of the mammas. Sarah Lee's labours are not
always in so humble a sphere—`He who makes two
blades of grass grow where one grew before,' says a
political economist, `is a benefactor to his race.' If
so, Sarah Lee takes high rank.

“Two blades of grass! Her strawberry beds produce
treble the quantity of any other in the village.
Her potatoes are the `greatest yield'—her corn the
earliest—her peas the richest—her squashes the sweetest—her
celery the tenderest—her raspberries and
currants the greatest bearers in the country. There
is not a thimble-full of unoccupied earth in her garden.
There are flowers of all hues, seasons, and
climes. None die—none languish in her hands.

“My dear Anne, I will not ask you if an existence
so happy to herself, so profitable to others, should
be dreaded by herself, neglected or derided by others.
Yet Sarah Lee is an old maid.”

“You are, I confess, very happy in your instances,
Mrs. Seton, but remember the old proverb, `one swallow
does not make a summer.”'

“I have not done yet—and you must remember
that in our country, where the means of supporting a
family are so easily attained, and when there are no
entails to be kept up at the expense of half a dozen
single sisters, the class of old maids is a very small one.


Page 106
Many enter the ranks, but they drop off in the natural
way of matrimony. Few maintain the `perseverance
of saints.' Among those few is one, who, when she
resigns the slight covering that invests her spirit, will
lay down `all she has of humanity'—our excellent
friend, Lucy Ray.

“She is now gently drawing to the close of a long
life, which I believe she will offer up without spot or
blemish. She began life with the most fragile constitution.
She has had to contend with that nervous
susceptibility of temperament that so naturally engenders
selfishness and irascibility, and all the miseries and
weaknesses of invalidism. Not gifted with any personal
beauty, or grace, she was liable to envy her more fortunate
cotemporaries. Without genius, talents, or accomplishments
to attract or delight, she has often been
slighted—and what is far worse, must have been always
liable to the suspicion of slights. But suspicion, that
creator and purvey or of misery, never darkened her
serene mind. She has lived in others and for others,
with such an entire forgetfulness of self, that even the
wants and weakness of her mortal part seem scarcely
to have intruded on her thoughts. She has resided
about in the families of her friends—a mode of life
which certainly has a tendency to nourish jealousy,
servility, and gossipping. But for what could Lucy
Ray be jealous or servile? She craved nothing—
she asked nothing, but, like an unseen, unmarked
Providence, to do good; and as to gossipping, she had
no turn for the ridiculous, no belief of evil against
any human being—and as to speaking evil, `on her
lips was the law of kindness.' You would hardly
think, Anne, that a feeble, shrinking creature, such
as I have described, and truly, Lucy Ray, could have
been desired, as an inmate with gay young people, and
noisy, turbulent children. She was always welcome,
for, like her Divine Master, she came to minister—
not to be ministered unto.


Page 107

“Lucy, like the Man of Ross, is deemed passing rich
by the children, and an unfailing resource to the poor
in their exigencies, though her income amounts to
rather less than one hundred dollars!!

“We sometimes admire the art of the Creator more
in the exquisite mechanism of an insect than in the
formation of a planet, and I have been more struck
with the power of religion in the effect and exaltation
it gave to the humble endowments of this meek woman,
than by its splendid results in such a life as
Howard's. Lucy Ray, by a faithful imitation of her
master, by always aiding and never obstructing the
principle of growth in her soul, has, through every
discouragement and disability, reached a height but
`little lower than the angels;' and when her now
flickering light disappears, she will be lamented almost
as tenderly (alas! for that almost) as if she were a
mother; and yet, Anne, Lucy Ray is an old maid.”

“You half persuade me to be one too, Mrs. Seton.”

“No, Anne, I would by no means persuade you or
any woman to prefer single life. It is not the `primrose
path.' Nothing less than a spirit of meekness,
of self renunciation, and of benevolence, can make a
woman, who has once been first, happy in a subordinate
and second best position. And this under
ordinary circumstances is the highest place of a single
woman. Depend upon it, my dear young friend, it
is safer for most of us to secure all the helps to our
virtues that attend a favourable position; besides, married
life is the destiny Heaven has allotted to us, and
therefore best fitted to awaken all our powers, to exercise
all our virtues, and call forth all our sympathies.
I would persuade you that you may give dignity and
interest to single life, that you may be the cause of
happiness to others, and of course happy yourself—for
when was the fountain dry while the stream continued
to flow? If single life, according to the worst view of it,


Page 108
is a moral desert, the faithful, in their passage through
it, are refreshed with bread from Heaven and water
from the rock.

“I shall conclude with a true story. The parties are
not known to you. The incidents occurred long ago,
and I shall take the liberty to assume names; for I
would not, even at this late day, betray a secret once
confided to me, though time may long since have
outlawed it. My mother had a school-mate and friend
whom I shall call Agnes Gray. Her father was a
country clergyman with a small salary, and the blessing
that usually attends it—a large family of children.
Agnes was the eldest, and after her following a line
of boys, as long as Banquo's. At least, some ten
years after Agnes, long waited and prayed for, appeared
a girl, who cost her mother her life.

“The entire care of the helpless little creature
devolved on Agnes. She had craved the happiness
of possessing a sister, and now, to a sister's love, she
added the tenderness of a mother. Agnes' character
was formed by the discipline of eircumstances—the
surest of all discipline. A host of turbulent boys,
thoughtless and impetuous, but kind-hearted, bright,
and loving, had called forth her exertions and affections,
and no one can doubt, either as lures or
goads, had helped her on the road to heaven. Nature
had, happily, endowed her with a robust constitution,
and its usual accompaniment, a sweet temper; so that
what were mountains to others, were mole hills to
Agnes. `The baby,' of course, was the pet lamb of
the fold. She was named, for her mother, Elizabeth;
but, instead of that queenly appellation, she was
always addressed by the endearing diminutive of Lizzy.
Lizzy Gray was not only the pet of father, brothers,
and sister at home—but the plaything of the village.

“The old women knit their brightest yarn into tippets
and stockings for the `minister's motherless little
one' (oh, what an eloquent appeal was in those words!)


Page 109
the old men saved the `red cheeked' apples for her
—the boys drew her, hour after hour, in her little
wagon, and the girls made her rag babies. Still she
was not in any disagreeable sense an enfant gatee.
She was like those flowers that thrive best in warm
and continued sunshine. Her soft hazle eye, with its
dark sentimental lashes, the clear brunette tint of her
complexion, and her graceful flexible lips, truly expressed
her tender, loving, and gentle spirit. She
seemed formed to be sheltered and cherished—to love
and be loved; and this destiny appeared to be secured
to her by her devoted sister, who never counted any
exertion or sacrifice that procured an advantage or
pleasure for Lizzy. When Lizzy was about fourteen,
a relative of the family, who kept a first rate boarding
school in the city, offered to take her for two years,
and give her all the advantages of her school, for the
small consideration of fifty dollars per annum. Small
as it was, it amounted to a tithe of the parson's income.
It is well known, that, in certain parts of our country,
every thing (not always discreetly) is sacrificed to
the hobby—education. Still the prudent father, who
had already two sons at college, hesitated—did not
consent till Agnes ascertained that by keeping a little
school in the village she might obtain half the required
sum. Her father, brothers, and friends all remonstrated.
The toils of a school, in addition to the care
and labour of her father's family, was, they urged, too
much for her—but she laughed at them. `What was
labour to her if she could benefit Lizzy—dear Lizzy!'
All ended, as might be expected, in Lizzy going to
the grand boarding school. The parting was a great
and trying event in the family. It was soon followed
by a sadder. The father suddenly sickened and died
—and nothing was left for his family hut his house and
well kept little garden. What now was to be done?—
College and schools to be given up?—No such thing.
In our country, if a youth is rich he ought to be


Page 110
educated; if he is poor he must be. The education is
the capital whereby they are to live hereafter. It is
obtained in that mysterious but unfailing way—`by
hook and by crook.'

“The elder Grays remained in college—Agnes enlarged
her school—learned lessons in mathematics and
Latin one day, and taught them the next; took a poor,
accomplished young lady from some broken down family
in town into partnership, and received a few
young misses as boarders into her family. Thus, she
not only was able to pay `dear Lizzy's' bills regularly,
but to aid her younger brothers. Her energy and
success set all her other attractions in a strong light,
and she was admired and talked about, and became
quite the queen of the village.

“I think it was about a year after her father's death,
that a Mr. Henry Orne, a native of the village, who
was engaged in a profitable business at the south, returned
to pass some months at his early home. His
frequent visits to the parsonage, and his attentions, on
all occasions, to Agnes, soon became matter of very
agreeable speculation to the gossips of the village.
`What a fine match he would be for Agnes!—such an
engaging, well-informed young man, and so well off!'
Agnes' heart was not steel; but though it had been
exposed to many a flame she had kindled, in had never
yet melted.”

“Pardon me, Mrs. Seton, for interrupting you—
was Agnes pretty?”

“Pretty? The word did not exactly suit her. At
the time of which I am now speaking, she was at the
mature age of five and twenty; which is called the
perfection of womanhood. Prettiness is rather appropriate
to the bud than the ripened fruit. Agnes, I
have been told, had a fine person—symmetrical features,
and so charming an expression that she was not
far from beautiful, in the eyes of strangers, and quite
a beauty to her friends and lovers. Whether it were


Page 111
beauty, manners, mind, or heart, I know not—one
and all probably—but Henry Orne soon became her
assiduous and professed admirer. Till now Agnes
had lived satisfied and happy with subordinate affections.
She had never seen any one that she thought
it possible she could love as well as she loved those
to whom nature had allied her. But now the sun
arose, and other lights became dim—not `that she
loved Cæsar less, but she loved Rome more.' Their
mutual faith was plighted, and both believed, as all
real lovers do, that the world never contained so
happy, so blessed a pair, as they were.

“Lizzy's second year at school was nearly ended,
and one month after her return the marriage was to
be solemnised. In the mean time Agnes was full
of the cares of this world. The usual preparations
for the greatest occasion in a woman's life are quite
enough for any single pair of hands, but Agnes had
to complete her school term, and the possibility of
swerving from an engagement never occurred to her.

“Lizzy arrived, as lovely a creature as she had
appeared in the dreams of her fond sister. In the freshness
and untouched beauty of her young existence,
just freed from the trammels of school, her round
cheek glowing with health, and her heart overflowing
with happiness. `Here is my own dear Lizzy,' said
Agnes, as she presented her to Henry Orne, `and if
you do not love me for any thing else, you must for
giving you such a sister.'

“Henry Orne looked at Lizzy and thought, and
said, `the duty would be a very easy one.' `For
the next month,' continued Agnes, `I shall be incessantly
occupied, and you must entertain one another.
Henry has bought a nice little pony for me, Lizzy,
and he shall teach you to ride, and you shall go over
all his scrambling walks with him—to Sky-cliff, Roseglen,
and Beech-cove—the place he says nature made
for lovers; but my poor lover has had to accommodate


Page 112
himself to my working day life and woo me in beaten

“The next month was the most joyous of Lizzy's
life; every day was a festival. To the perfection of
animal existence in the country, in the month of June,
was added the keen sense of all that physical nature
conveys to the susceptible mind.

“Wherever she was, her sweet voice was heard
ringing in laughter, or swelling in music that seemed
the voice of irrepressible joy—the spontaneous breathing
of her soul. To the lover approaching his marriage
day Time is apt to drag along with leaden foot,
but to Henry Orne he seemed rather to fly with
Mercury's wings at his heels; and when Agnes found
herself compelled by the accumulation of her affairs,
to defer her wedding for another month, he submitted
with a better grace than could have been expected.
Not many days of this second term had elapsed, when
Agnes, amidst all her cares, as watchful of Lizzy as a
mother of an only child, observed a change stealing
over her. Her stock of spirits seemed suddenly expended,
her colour faded—her motions were languid,
and each successive day she became more and more
dejected. `She wants rest,' said Agnes to Henry
Orne; `she has been unnaturally excited, and there is
now a reaction. She must remain quietly at home
for a time, on the sofa, in a darkened room, and you,
Henry, I am sure, will, for my sake, give up your
riding and walking for a few days, and stay within
doors, and play on your flute, and read to her.' Agnes'
suggestions were promptly obeyed, but without the
happy effect she anticipated. Lizzy, who had never
before had a cloud on her brow, seemed to have passed
under a total eclipse. She became each day more sad
and nervous. A tender word from Agnes—a look,
even, would make her burst into tears.

“`I am miserable, Henry,' said Agnes, `at this unaccountable
change in Lizzy—the doctor says she is


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perfectly free from disease—perhaps we have made
too sudden a transition from excessive exercise to none
at all. The evening is dry and fine, I wish you would
induce her to take a walk with you. She is distressed
at my anxiety, and I cannot propose any thing that
does not move her to tears.'

“`It is very much the same with me,' replied Henry,
sighing deeply, but if you wish it I will ask her.'
He accordingly did so—she consented, and they went
out together.

“Agnes retired to her own apartment, and there,
throwing herself upon her knees, she entreated her
Heavenly Father to withdraw this sudden infusion of
bitterness from her brimming cup of happiness. `Try
me in any other way,' she cried, in the intensity of
her feeling, and, for the first time in her life, forgetting
that every petition should be in the spirit of `Thy will
be done,' `try me in any other way, but show me the
means of restoring my sister—my child to health and

“She returned again to her little parlour. Lizzy
had not come in, and she sat down on the sofa near an
open window, and resigned herself to musings, the occupation,
if occupation it may be called, of the idle, but
rarely, and never of late, of Agnes!

“In a few moments Lizzy and Henry returned,
and came into the porch, adjoining the parlour.
They perceived the candles were not lighted, and
concluding Agnes was not there, they sat down in the

“`Oh, I am too wretched!' said Lizzy. Her voice
was low and broken, and she was evidently weeping.
`Is it possible,' thought Agnes, `that she will express
her feelings more freely to Henry than to me? I will
listen. If she knows any cause for her dejection, I
am sure I can remove it.'

“`Why, my beloved Lizzy,' replied Orne, in a
scarcely audible voice, `will you be so wretched—


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why will you make me so, and for ever, when there
is a remedy?'

“`Henry Orne!' she exclaimed, and there was
resolution and indignation in her voice. `If you
name that to me again, I will never, so help me
God, permit you to come into my presence without
witnesses. No, there is no remedy, but in death.
Would that it had come before you told me you
loved me—before my lips confessed my sinful love
for you—no, no—the secret shall be buried in my

“`Oh, Lizzy, you are mad—Agnes does not, cannot
love as we do. Why sacrifice two to one? Let me,
before it is too late, tell her the whole, and cast myself
on her generosity.'

“`Never, never—I now wish, when I am in her
presence, that the earth at her feet would swallow me
up; and how can you, for a moment, think I will ask
to be made happy—that I could be made happy, at her
expense? No, I am willing to expiate with my life,
my baseness to her—that I shall soon do so is my
only comfort—and you will soon forget me—men can
forget, they say—'

“`Never—on my knees, I swear never!'—

“`Stop, for mercy's sake, stop. You must not
speak another such word to me—I will not hear it.'
She rose to enter the house. Agnes slipped through
a private passage to her own apartment.

“She heard Lizzy ascending the stairs. She heard
Henry call after her, `One word, Lizzy—for mercy's
sake, one last word.' But Lizzy did not turn. Agnes
heard her feebly drag herself into the little dressing-room
adjoining their apartment, and after, there was
no sound but the poor girl's suppressed, but still audible

“None but He who created the elements that compose
the human heart, and who can penetrate its
mysterious depths, can know which of the sisters was


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most wretched at that moment. To Agnes who had
loved deeply, confidingly without a shadow of fear
or distrust, the reverse was total. To Lizzy who had
enjoyed for a moment the bewildering fervours of a
young love, only to feel its misery, that misery was
embittered by a sense of wrong done to her sister.
And yet it had not been a willing, but an involuntary
and resisted, and most heartily repented wrong. She
had recklessly rushed down a steep to a fearful precipice,
and now felt that all access and passage to
return was shut against her. Agnes without having
had one dim fear—without any preparation, saw an
abyss yawning at their feet—an abyss only to be closed
by her self-immolation.

“She remained alone for many hours—she resolved—her
spirit faltered—she re-resolved. She
thought of all Lizzy had been to her, and of all she had
been to Lizzy, and she wept as if her heart would
break. She remembered the prayer that her impatient
spirit had sent forth that evening. She prayed
again, and a holy calm, never again to be disturbed,
took possession of her soul.

“There is a power in goodness, pure self-renouncing
goodness, that cannot be `overcome, but overcometh
all things.'

“Lizzy waited till all was quiet in her sister's
room. She heard her get into bed, and then stole
softly to her. Agnes, as she had done from Lizzy's
infancy, opened her arms to receive her, and Lizzy
pillowed her aching head on Agnes' bosom, softly
breathing,—`My sister—mother!'

“`My own Lizzy—my child,' answered Agnes.
There was no tell-tale faltering of the voice. She felt
a tear trickle from Lizzy's cold cheek on to her bosom,
and not very long after both sisters were in a sleep
that mortals might envy, and angels smile on.

“The rest you will anticipate, my dear Anne. The
disclosure to the lovers of her discovery, was made by


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Agnes in the right way, and at the right time. Every
thing was done as it should be by this most admirable
woman. She seemed, indeed, to feel as a guardian
angel might, who, by some remission of his vigilance,
had suffered the frail mortal in his care to be beguiled
into evil. She never, by word, or even look, reproached
Lizzy. She shielded her, as far as possible,
from self-reproach, nor do I believe she ever felt more
unmixed tenderness and love for her, than when, at
the end of a few months, she saw her married to Henry

“My story has yet a sad supplement. Madame
Cotin, I believe it is, advises a story teller to close the
tale when he comes to a happy day; for, she says, it
is not probable another will succeed it. Poor Lizzy
had experience of this sad mutability of human life.
Hers was checquered with many sorrows.

“Lapses from virtue at eight and twenty, and at sixteen,
afford very different indications of the character;
you cannot expect much from a man, who, at eight
and twenty, acted the part of Henry Orne. He was
unfaithful in engagements with persons less merciful
than Agnes Gray. He became inconstant in his pursuits—self-indulgent,
and idle, and finally intemperate,
in his habits. His wife—as wives will—loved him to
the end.

“Agnes retained her school, which had become in
her hands a profitable establishment. There she laboured,
year after year, with a courageous heart, and
serene countenance, and devoted the fruit of all her
toils to Lizzy, and to the education of her children.

“I am telling no fiction, and I see you believe me,
for the tears are trembling in your eyes—do not repress
them, but permit them to embalm the memory of
an old maid.”


“Thus passed her life, enjoying, from all who approached her, an
affection enhanced by reverence, insomuch that when her friends
sorrowed for her death, which arrived at a late period of her existence,
they were comforted by the fond reflection, that the humanity
which she then laid down, was the only circumstance which had
placed her, in the words of scripture, `A little lower than the angels.”'