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“An' forward, though I canna see,
I guess an' fear.”


Three years passed over without any marked
change in the external condition of our young friends.
Herbert Linwood endured the hardships of an
American officer during that most suffering period
of the war, and remained true to the cause he had
adopted, without any of those opportunities of distinction
which are necessary to keep alive the fire
of ordinary patriotism.

It has been seen that Eliot Lee, with most of
the young men of the country (as might be expected
from the insurgent and generous spirit of youth),
espoused the popular side. It ought not to have
been expected, that when the young country came
to the muscle and vigour of manhood, it should
continue to wear the leading-strings of its childhood,
or remain in the bondage and apprenticeship
of its youth. It has been justly said, that the seeds
of our revolution and future independence were
sown by the Pilgrims. The political institutions of
a people may be inferred from their religion. Absolutism,
as a mirror, reflects the Roman Catholic
faith. Whatever varieties of names were attached


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to the religious sects of America, they were, with
the exception of a few Pepists, all Protestants—
all, as Burke said of them, “agreed (if agreeing
in nothing else) in the communion of the spirit of
liberty—theirs was the Protestantism of the Protestant
religion—the dissidence of dissent.” It was
morally certain, that as soon as they came to man's
estate, their government would accord with this
spirit of liberty; would harmonize with the independent
and republican spirit of the religion of
Christ, the only authority they admitted. The
fires of our republic were not then kindled by a
coal from the old altars of Greece and Rome, whose
freest government exalted the few, and retained
the many in grovelling ignorance and servitude:
ours came forth invincible in the declaration of
liberty to all, and equality of rights.

Such minds as Eliot Lee's, reasoning and religious,
were not so much moved by the sudden
impulses of enthusiasm as incited by the convictions
of duty. His heart was devoted to his country,
his thoughts absorbed in her struggle; but he
quenched, or rather smothered his intense desire
to go forth with her champions, and remained pursuing
his legal studies, near enough to his home
to perform his paramount but obscure duty to his
widowed mother and her young family.

Jasper Meredith's political preferences, if not
proclaimed, were easily guessed. It was obvious
that his tastes were aristocratic and feudal—his


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sympathies with the monarch, not with the people.
New-York was the headquarters of the British
army, and Judge Ellis, his uncle, on the pretext
of keeping his nephew out of the way of the seductions
of a very gay society, advised him to pursue
the study of the law in New-England, and thus for
a while he avoided pledging himself. He resided
in Boston or its vicinity, never far from Westbrook.
He had a certain eclat in the drawing-rooms of
Boston, but he was no favourite there. A professed
neutrality was, if not suspicious, most offensive
in the eyes of neck-or-nothing patriots.
But Meredith did not escape the whisper that his
neutrality was a mere mask. His accent, which
was ambitiously English, was criticised, and his
elaborate dress, manufactured by London artists,
was particularly displeasing to the sons of the
Puritans, who, absorbed in great objects, were then
more impatient even than usual of extra sacrifices
to the graces.

The transition from Boston to Westbrook was delightful
to Meredith. There was no censure of any
sort, but balm for the rankling wounds of vanity;
and it must be confessed that he not only appeared
better, but was better at Westbrook than elsewhere:
the best parts of his nature were called forth; he
was (if we may desecrate a technical expression)
in the exercise of grace. There is a certain moral
atmosphere, as propitious to moral wellbeing as a
genial temperature is to health. Vanity has a sort
of thermometer, which enables the possessor to


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graduate and adapt himself to the dispositions, the
vanities (is there any gold in nature without this
alloy?) of others. Meredith, when he wished to be
so, was eminently agreeable. Those always stand
in a most fortunate light who vary the monotony
of a village existence, and he broke like a sunbeam
through the dull atmosphere that hung over West-brook.
He brought the freshest news, he studied
good Mrs. Lee's partialities and prejudices, and
(without her being aware of their existence) accommodated
himself to them. He supplied to
Eliot what all social beings hanker after, companionship
with one of his own age, pursuits, and
associations. The magnet that drew him to West-brook
was never the acknowledged attraction.
Meredith was not in love with Bessie Lee. She
was too spiritual a creature for one of earth's mould;
but his self-love, his ruling passion, was flattered
by her. He saw and enjoyed (what, alas! no one
else then saw) his power over her. He saw it in
the mutations of her cheek, in the kindling of her
eye, in the changes of her voice. It was as if an
angel had left his sphere to incense him. Meredith
must be acquitted of a deliberate attempt to insnare
her affections. He thought not and cared not
for the future. He cared only for a present selfish
gratification. A ride at twilight or a walk
by moonlight with this creature, all beauty, refinement,
and tenderness, was a poetic passage to him
—to her it was fraught with life or death.


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Poor Bessie! she should have been hardened
for the changing climate of this rough world; but
by a fatal, but very common error, she had been
cherished like a tropical bird, or an exotic plant.
“She has such delicate health! she is so different
from my other children!” said the mother.—“She
is so gentle and sensitive,” said the brother. And
thus, with all their sound judgment, instead of submitting
her to a hardening process, it seemed an
instinct with them, by every elaborate contrivance,
to fence her from the ordinary trials and evils of
life. Only when she was happy did they let her
alone; with Meredith she seemed happy, and
they were satisfied. Bessie shared this unfounded
tranquillity, arising with them partly from confidence
in Meredith, and partly from the belief that
she was in no danger of suffering from an unrequited
love; but Bessie's arose from the most childlike
ignorance of that study puzzling to the wisest and
craftiest—the human heart. She was the most
modest and unexacting of human creatures—her
gentle spirit urged no rights—asked nothing, expected
nothing beyond the present moment. The
worshipper was satisfied with the presence of the
idol. Her residence in New-York had impressed a
conviction that a disparity of birth and condition
was an impassable gulf. It was natural enough
that she should have imbibed this opinion; for,
being a child, the aristocratic opinions of the society
she was in were expressed, unmitigated by


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courtesy; they sunk deep in her susceptible mind,
a mind too humble to aspire above any barrier
that nature or society had set up.

There was another foundation of her fancied
security. This was shaken by the following conversation:—Meredith
was looking over an old
pocketbook, when a card dropped from it on the
floor at Bessie's feet: she handed it to him—he
smiled as he looked at it, and held it up before her.
She glanced her eye over it, and saw it was a note
of the date of their visit to the soothsayer Effie,
and of Effie's prediction in relation to the “dark
curling hair.”

“I had totally forgotten this,” said he, carelessly.

“Forgotten it!” echoed Bessie, in a tone that indicated
but too truly her feelings.

“Certainly I had—and why not, pray?”

“Oh, because—” she hesitated.

“Because what, Bessie?”

Bessie was ashamed of her embarrassment, and
faltering the more the more she tried to shake it
off, she said, “I did not suppose you could forget
any thing that concerned Isabella.”

“Upon my honour, you are very much mistaken;
I have scarcely thought of Effie and her
trumpery prediction since we were there.”

“Why have you preserved the card, then, Jasper?”
asked Bessie, in all simplicity.

Jasper's complexion was not of the blushing
order, or he would have blushed as he replied, at


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the same time replacing the card—“Oh, Lord, I
don't know! accident—the card got in here among
these old memoranda and receipts, `trivial fond
records' all!”

“There preserve it,” said Bessie, “and we will
look at it one of these days.”


“When—as it surely will be, the prediction is

“If not till then,” he said, “it will never again
see the light—this is the oddest fancy of yours,”
he added.

“Not fancy, but faith.”

“Faith most unfounded—why, Bessie, Isabella
and I were always quarrelling.”

“And always making up. Do you ever quarrel
now, Jasper?”

“Oh, she is still of an April temper; but I”—he
looked most tenderly at Bessie—“have lived too
much of late in a serene atmosphere to bear well
her fitful changes.”

A long time had passed since Bessie had mentioned
Isabella to Meredith. She knew not why,
but she had felt a growing reluctance to advert to
her friend even in thought; and she was now
conscious of a thrilling sensation at the careless,
cold manner in which Jasper spoke of her. It
seemed as if a load had fallen off her heart. She
felt like a mariner who has at length caught a
glimpse of what seems distant land, and is bewildered


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with new sensations, and uncertain whether
it be land or not. She was conscious Jasper's eye
was on hers, though her own was downcast. She
longed to escape from that burning glance, and
was relieved by a bustle in the next room, and her
two little sisters running in, one holding up a long
curling tress of her own beautiful hair, and crying
out—“Did not you give this to me, Bessie?”

“Is not it mine?” said the competitor.

“No, it is mine!” exclaimed Jasper, snatching
it, and holding it beyond their reach.

The girls laughed, and were endeavouring to
regain it, when he slipped a ring from his finger,
and set it rolling on the floor, saying, “The hair
is mine—the ring belongs to whoever gets it.”
The ring, obedient to the impulse he gave it, rolled
out of the room; the children eagerly followed,
he shut the door after them, and repeated, kissing
the lock of hair—“It is mine—is it not?”

“Oh, no—no, Jasper—give it to me,” cried Bessie,
excessively confused.

“You will not give it to me!—well—`a fair exchange
is no robbery,' ” and taking the scissors
from Bessie's workbox, he cut off one of his own
luxuriant dark locks, and offered it to her. She
shook her head.

“That is unkind—most unfriendly, Bessie”—
he paused a moment, and then, still holding both
locks, he extended the ends to Bessie, and asked
her if she could tie a true love-knot. Bessie's


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heart was throbbing; she was frightened at her
own emotion; she was afraid of betraying it; and
she tied the knot as the natural thing for her to do.

“There is but one altar for such a sacrifice as
this,” said Meredith, and he was putting it into his
bosom, when Bessie snatched it from him, burst
into tears, and left the room.

After this, there was a change in Bessie's manners—her
spirits became unequal, she was nervous
and restless—Meredith, in the presence of
observers, was measured and cautious to the last
degree in his attentions to her—when however they
were alone together, though not a sentence might
be uttered that a lawyer could have tortured into a
special plea, yet his words were fraught with looks
and tones that carried them to poor Bessie's heart
with a power that cannot be imagined by those

“Who have ceased to hear such, or ne'er heard.”

It was about this period that Meredith wrote the
following reply to a letter from his mother.


“You say, my dear madam, that you have
heard `certain reports about me, which you are not
willing to believe, and yet cannot utterly discredit.'
You say, also, `that though you should revolt with
horror from sanctioning your son in those liaisons
that are advised by Lord Chesterfield, and others
of your friends, yet you see no harm in' loverlike
attentions `to young persons in inferior stations;


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they serve' you add, `to keep alive and cultivate
that delicate finesse so essential to the success
of a man of the world, and, provided they
have no immoral purpose, are quite innocent,' as the
object of them must know there is an `impassable
gulf between her and her superiors in rank, and
is therefore responsible for her mistakes.' I have
been thus particular in echoing your words, that I
may assure you my conduct is in conformity to
their letter and spirit. Tranquillize yourself, my
dear madam. There is nothing, in any little fooleries
I may be indulging in, to disquiet you for a
moment. The person in question is a divine little
creature—quite a prodigy for this part of the
world, where she lives in a seclusion almost equal to
that of Prospero's isle; so that your humble servant,
being scarce more than the `third man that e'er
she saw,' it would not be to marvel at `if he
should be the first that e'er she loved'—and if I am,
it is my destiny—my conscience is quite easy—
I never have committed myself, nor ever shall:
time and absence will soon dissipate her illusions.
She is an unaspiring little person, quite aware of
the gulf, as you call it, between us. She believes
that even if I were lover and hero enough to play
the Leander and swim it, my destiny is fixed on
the other side. I have no distrust of myself, and I
beg you will have none; I am saved from all responsibility
as to involving the happiness of this
lily of the valley, by her very clear-sighted mother,


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and her sage of a brother, her natural guardians.

“It is yet problematical whether, as you suppose,
a certain lady's fortune will be made by the
apostacy of her disinherited brother. If the rebels
win the day, the property of the tories will be confiscated,
or transferred to the rebel heir. But all
that is in futuro—fortune is a fickle goddess; we
can only be sure of her present favours and deserve
the future by our devotion.

“With profound gratitude and affection,
“Yours, my dear mother,

J. Meredith.
“P. S.—My warmest thanks for the inestimable
box, which escaped the sea and land harpies, and
came safe to hand. The Artois buckle is a chef
worthy the inventive genius of the royal
count whose taste rules the civilized world. The
scarlet frock-coat, with its unimitated, if not inimitable,
capes, `does credit (as friend Rivington would
say in one of his flashy advertisements) to the most
elegant operator of Leicester-fields.' I must reserve
it till I go to New-York, where they always
take the lead in this sort of civilization—the boys
would mob me if I wore it in Boston. The umbrella,
a rare invention! is a curiosity here. I
understand they have been introduced into New-York
by the British officers. Novelty as it is, I
venture to spread it here, as its utility commends it
to these rationalists, who reason about an article


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of dress as they would concerning an article of
“Once more, your devoted son, M.”

Meredith's conscience was easy! “He had not
committed himself!”—Ah, let man beware how he
wilfully or carelessly perverts and blinds God's
vicegerent, conscience.

Meredith was suddenly recalled to New-York,
and Bessie Lee was left to ponder on the past, and
weave the future of shattered faith and blighted
hopes. The scales fell too late from the eyes of
her mother and brother. They reproached themselves,
but never poor Bessie. They hoped that
time, operating on her gentle, unresisting temper,
would restore her serenity. She, like a stricken
deer, took refuge under the shadow of their love,
she was too affectionate, too generous, to resign
herself to wretchedness without an effort. She
wasted her strength in concealing the wound that
rankled at her heart.


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