University of Virginia Library


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There was but one
In whom my heart took pleasure amongst women;
One in the whole creation; and in her
You dared to be my rival.

Second Maiden's Tragedy.

The reader has discovered my secret. I had
long loved Mary Easterby, and without knowing it.
The knowledge came to me at the moment when
I ceased to hope. My brother was my rival, and,
whatever were the charms he used, my successful
rival. This may have given bitterness to the feeling
of contempt with which his own feebleness of
character had taught me to regard him. It certainly
took nothing from the barrier, which circumstances
and time had set up as a wall between us. Mary
Easterby had grown up beside me. I had known
no other companion among her sex. We had
played together from infancy, and I had been taught
to believe, when I came to know the situation of
my own heart, and to inquire into that of hers, that
she loved me. If she did not, I deceived myself
most wofully; but such self deception, is no uncommon


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practice with the young of my age, and sanguine
temperament. I would not dwell upon her
charms could I avoid it; yet though I speak of, I
should fail to describe and do not hope to do them
justice. She was younger by three years than myself,
and no less beautiful than young. Her person
was tall, but not slight; it was too finely proportioned
to make her seem tall, and grace was the
natural result, not less of her physical symmetry,
than of her maiden taste, and sweet considerateness of
character. Her eye was large and blue, her cheek
not so round as full, and its rich rosy colour almost
vied with that which crimsoned the pulpy outline of
her lovely mouth. Her hair was of a dark brown,
and she wore it gathered up simply in volume behind,
a few stray tresses only being suffered to escape from
bondage at the sides, to attest, as it were, the bountiful
luxuriance with which nature had endowed her. See
these tresses on her round white neck, and let your
eye trace them in their progress to the swelling
bosom on which they sometimes rested; and you may
conceive something of those charms, which I shall
not seek farther to describe.

Though a dweller in the woods all her life, her
mind and taste had not been left without due cultivation.
Her father had been taught in one of the
elder states, one of the old thirteen, and he carried
many of the refinements of city life with him into


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the wilderness. Books she had in abundance, and
these taught her every thing of those older communities,
which she had never yet been permitted
to see. Her natural quickness of intellect, her
prompt appreciation of what she read, enabled her
at an early period duly to estimate those conventional
and improved forms of social life to which
her books perpetually referred, and which belong
only to stationary abodes, where wealth brings
leisure, and leisure provokes refinement. With such
aid, Mary Easterby soon stood alone among the
neighbouring damsels. Her air, manner, conversation,
even dress, were not only different from, but
more becoming, than those of her associates. She
spoke with the ease and freedom of one bred up in
the most assured society; and thought with a mind
filled with standards which are not often to be met
with in an insulated, and unfrequented community.
In short she was one of those beings, such as lift the
class to which they belong; such as represent rather a
future than a present generation; and such as, by
superior grasp of judgment or of genius, prepare the
way for, and guide the aims of all the rest.

It were folly to dwell upon her excellences, but
that my narration may depend upon their development.
They were powerful enough with me; and
my heart felt, ere my mind could analyze them. A
boy's heart, particularly one who is the unsophisticated


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occupant of the forests, having few other
teachers, is no sluggish and selfish creation, and
mine was soon filled with Mary Easterby, and all
its hopes and desires depended upon hers for their
fulfilment. It was the thought of all, that hers was
not less dependent upon mine; and when the increasing
intimacy of the maiden with my brother, and
his confident demeanor towards herself and parents,
led us all to regard him as the possessor of those affections
which every body had supposed to be mine,
the matter was no less surprising to all than it was
for the season bitter and overwhelming to me. I
could have throttled my more fortunate brother
—brother though he was—in the first moment of
my rage at this discovery; and all my love for Mary
did not save her from sundry unmanly denunciations
which I will not now venture to repeat. I did
not utter these denunciations in her ears though I
uttered them aloud. They reached her ears, however,
and the medium of communication was John
Hurdis. This last baseness aroused me to open rage
against him. I told him to his teeth he was a scoundrel;
and he bore with the imputation, and spoke of
our blood connection as the reason for his forbearance
to resent an indignity which, agreeably to our modes
of thinking, could only be atoned for by blood.

“Brother indeed!” I exclaimed furiously in reply.
“No, John Hurdis, you are no brother of mine,


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though our father and mother be the same. I acknowledge
no relationship between us. We are of
a different family—of a far and foreign nature. My
kindred shall never be found among the base; and
from this moment I renounce all kindred with you.
Henceforth, we know nothing of each other only so
far as it may be necessary to keep from giving pain
and offence to our parents. But we shall not be
long under that restraint. I will shortly leave you
to yourself—to your conquests, and the undisturbed
enjoyment of that happiness which you have toiled
for so basely at the expense of mine.”

He would have explained and expostulated but I
refused to hear him. He proffered me his hand, but
with a violent blow of my own, I struck it down,
and turned my shoulder upon him. It was thus, in
such relationship, that we stood, when I announced
to my mother my intention to leave the family. We
barely spoke to one another when speech was absolutely
unavoidable, and it was soon known to Mary
Easterby, not less than to the persons of my own household,
that our hearts were lifted in enmity against each
other. She seized an early opportunity and spoke
to me on the subject. Either she mistook the nature
of our quarrel, or the character of my affections.
Yet how she could have mistaken the latter
or misunderstood the former, I cannot imagine.
Yet she did so.


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“Richard, they say you have quarrelled with
your brother.”

“Does he say it—does John Hurdis say it, Mary?”
was my reply.

She paused and hesitated. I pressed the question
with more earnestness as I beheld her hesitation.
She strove to speak with calmness, but was not altogether
successful. Her voice trembled as she replied.

“He does not, Richard—not in words; but I have
inferred it from what he does say, and from the fact,
that he has said so little. He seemed unwilling to
tell me anything.”

“He is wise,” I replied bitterly; “he is very
wise; but it is late. Better he had been thus taciturn

“Why speak you so, Richard?” she continued;
“why are you thus violent against your brother?
What has he done to vex you to this pass? Let me
hear your complaint.”

“Complaint! I have none—you mistake me, Mary.
I complain not. I complain of nobody. If I cannot
right my own wrongs, at least, I will not complain
of them.”

“Oh, be not so proud, Richard; be not so proud,”
she replied earnestly; and her long white fingers
rested upon my wrist for an instant, and were as
instantly withdrawn. But that one touch was enough


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to thrill to the bone. It was my turn to tremble.
She continued: “There is no wisdom in this pride
of yours, Richard; it is unbecoming in such frail
beings as we are, and it will be fatal to your happiness.”

“Happiness—my happiness! Ah, Mary, if it be
my pride only which is to be fatal to my happiness
then I am secure. But I fear not that. My pride
is my hope now, my strength. It protects me, it
shields my heart from my own weakness.”

She looked in my face with glances of the most
earnest inquiry for a little while, and then spoke as

“Richard, there is something now-a-days about
you which I do not exactly understand. You utter
yourself in a language which is strange to me, and
your manners have become strange? Why is this!
what is the matter?”

“Nay, Mary, but that should be my question.
The change is in you, not me. I am conscious of
no change such as you speak of. But a truce to this.
I see you are troubled. Let us talk of other things.”

“I am not troubled, Richard, except on your account.
But as you desire it, let us talk of other
things; and to return—why this hostility between
yourself and your brother?”

“Let him tell you. Demand it of him, Mary;
he will better tell the story than I, as it will probably


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sound more to his credit, than to mine, in your

“I know not that,” she replied; “and know not
why you should think so, Richard, unless you are
conscious of having done wrong, and if thus conscious,
the cure is in your own hands.”

“What!” I exclaimed impetuously; “You would
have me go on my knees to John Hurdis, and humbly
ask his pardon, for denouncing him as a scoundrel—”

“You have not done this, Richard?” was her sudden
inquiry, silencing me in the middle of my hurried
and thoughtless speech. The error was committed,
and I had only to avow the truth. Gloomily
I did so, and with a sort of sullen ferocity that
must have savoured very much of the expression of
a wolf goaded to the verge of his den by the spear
of the hunter.

“Ay, but I have, Mary Easterby. I have called
John Hurdis a scoundrel, and only wonder that he
told you not this along with the rest of my misdoings
which he has been careful to relate to you.
Perhaps, he might have done so, had the story
spoken more favourably for his manhood.”

We had been sitting together by the window while
the conversation proceeded; but at this stage of it,
she arose, crossed the apartment slowly, lingered for
a brief space at an opposite window, then quietly


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returned to her seat. But her eyes gave proof of
the big tears that had been gathering in them.

“Richard, I fear that you are doing me, and your
brother both injustice. You are too quick, too
prompt to imagine, wrong, and too ready to act upon
your imaginings. You speak to me with the tone
of one who has cause of complaint—of anger! Your
eyes have an expression of rebuke which is painful
to me, and I think unjust. Your words are sharp,
and sometimes hostile and unfriendly. You are not
what you were—Richard, in truth, you are not.”

“Indeed, do you think so, Mary?”

“Ay, I do. Tell me, Richard, in what have I
done you wrong? Where is my error? Of what do
you complain?”

“Have I not told you, Mary, that I have no
cause of complaint—that I hold it unmanly to complain?
And wherefore should I complain of you? I
have no right. You are mistress of your own words
and actions so far as Richard Hurdis is concerned.”

The stubborn pride of my spirit was predominant,
and the moment of explanation had gone by. A slight
sigh escaped her lips as she replied—

“You are not what you used to be, Richard; but
I know not what has changed you.”

She had spoken soothly—I was not what I was.
A dark change had come upon me; a gloomy shadow
had passed over my spirit, chilling its natural warmth


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and clouding its glory. The first freshness of my
heart's feelings were rapidly passing from me. I had
worshipped fruitlessly, if not unwisely; and if the
deity of my adoration was not unworthy of its tribute,
it gave back no response of favour to the prayer
of the supplicant.

Such were my thoughts—such the conviction
which was driving me into banishment. For banishment
it was, utter, irrevocable banishment, which
I then meditated. The promise given to my mother
was meant to soothe her heart, and silence her entreaties.
I meant never to return. In deeper forests,
in a wilder home, I had resolved to choose me out
an abode, which, if it had fewer attractions, had, at
the same time, fewer trials for a bosom vexed like
mine. I feared not the silence and the loneliness of
the Indian habitations, when those to which I had
been accustomed, had become, in some respects, so
fearful. I dreaded no loneliness so much as that of
my own heart, which, having devoted itself exclusively
to another, was denied the communion which
it sought.