University of Virginia Library


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I thought to chide thee, but it will not be;
True love can but awhile look bitterly.

Heywood.—Love's Mistress.

You have led me,
Into a subtle labyrinth, where I never
Shall have fruition of my former freedom.

The Lady's Privilege.

She stood between us like some judge suddenly
descended from heaven, and armed with power to
punish, and I stood before her like a criminal conscious
of my demerits and waiting for the doom.
An instant before she came, and I had a thousand
arguments, each, to my mind, sufficient to justify me
for any violence which I might execute upon John
Hurdis. Now, I had not one. The enormity of the
act of which I had been guilty, seemed to expand
and swell with every accumulated thought upon it;
and my tongue, that had been eloquent with indignation
but a little while before, was now frozen with
silence, and without even the power of evasion or
appeal. I did not venture to look her in the face—I
did not venture even to look upon my brother. What
were his feelings I know not; but if they partook,


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at that moment, of any of the intense humility
which made up the greater part of mine, then was
he almost sufficiently punished for the injuries
which he had done me. I certainly felt that he
was almost if not quite avenged in my present humility
for the unbrotherly anger of which he had
been the victim.

“Oh, Richard Hurdis,” she exclaimed, “this violence,
and upon your brother too.”

Why had she not addressed her speech to him?
Was I alone guilty? Had he not provoked? Had
he not even threatened me? The thought that she
was now again showing the partiality in his favour
which had been the source of my unhappiness,
changed the tenor of my feelings. My sense of
humiliation gave way to offended pride, and I answered
with sullen defiance.

“And am I only to blame, Mary Easterby? Can
you see fault in no other than me? Methinks this
is less than justice, and I may safely deny the authority
which so openly affronts justice with an
avowal of its partialities.”

“I have no partialities, Richard—it is you that
are unjust. The violence that I witnessed was only
yours. I saw not any other.”

“There was indignity and insolence—provocation
enough, Mary Easterby,” I replied hastily, “if not
violence, to justify me in what I did. But I knew


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not that you beheld us. I would not else have punished
John Hurdis. I would have borne with his
insolence—I would have spared him his shame—if
not on his account on yours. I regret that you have
seen us, though I have no regret for what I have

I confronted my brother as I spoke these words,
as if to satisfy him that I was ready to give him the
only form of atonement which I felt his due. He
seemed to understand me, and to do him all justice,
his port was as manly as I could desire that of my
father's son to be at all times. His eye flashed back
a family expression of defiance, and his lips were
closed with a resoluteness that showed him to be
fully roused. But for the presence of Mary Easterby,
we had come to the death struggle in that very
hour. But we felt ourselves too greatly wrong not
to acknowledge her superiority. Vexed and sullen
as I was, I was doubly vexed with the consciousness
of error; and when she spoke again in answer to my
last words my chagrin found due increase in what
she said.

“I know nothing of the provocation, Richard, and
need nothing to believe that there was provocation, or
that you thought so, which moved you to what you
did. I could not suppose, for an instant, that you
would proceed to such violence without provocation;
but that any provocation short of violence itself will


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justify violence—and violence too upon a brother—I
cannot admit, nor, in your secret heart, Richard, do
you admit it yourself. What would your mother
say, Richard, were she to hear this story?”

“She might be less angry, and less pained, Mary
Easterby, than you imagine, if she knew all the
story. If she knew—but no! why should I recount
his villanies, Mary Easterby, and least of all
why recount them to you? I will not.”

“Nor do I wish—nor would I hear them, Richard,”
she replied promptly, though gently. I saw
the eyes of John Hurdis brighten, and my soul felt
full of bitterness.

“What! you would not believe me, then, Mary
Easterby. Can it be that your prejudices go so far
as that?”

The tears gathered in her eyes as they were fixed
upon mine and beheld the sarcastic and scornful expression
in them, but she replied without hesitation.

“You are unjust, and unkind to me, Richard;”
and her voice trembled: she proceeded:

“I would be unwilling to believe, and am quite
as unwilling to hear, any thing which could be prejudicial
to the good name of any of your family, your
brother or yourself. I have loved them all too long,
and too truly, Richard, to find pleasure in any thing
which spoke against their worth. I should be not
less unwilling, Richard, to think that you could say


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anything, which did not merit and command belief.
I might think you guilty of error, never of falsehood.”

“Thank you, Mary; for so much, at least, let me
thank you. You do me justice only. When I
speak falsely, of man or woman, brother or stranger,
friend or foe, let my tongue cleave to my mouth in

John Hurdis mounted his horse at this moment,
and an air of dissatisfaction seemed to hang upon his
features. He muttered something to himself, the
words of which were unintelligible to us; then speaking
hurriedly to Mary, he declared his intention of
riding on to her father's farm, then but a short mile
off. She begged him to do so, courteously, but, as
I thought, coldly; and giving a bitter glance of enmity
towards me, he put spurs to his horse and was
soon out of sight.

His absence had a visible effect upon her, and I
felt that much of the vexation was passing from my
own heart. There was something in the previous
conversation between us which had softened me,
and when the tramp of his horse's heels was no longer
in hearing, it seemed as if a monstrous barrier had
been broken down from between us. All my old
thoughts and fancies returned to me; sweet memories,
which I had just before angrily dismissed, now
came back confidently to my mind, and taking her


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hand in one of mine, while leading my horse with
the other, we took our course through a narrow path
which wound through a pleasant thicket, we had
trodden together a thousand times before.

“Mary,” I began, as we proceeded—this is our
old walk. Do you remember? That pine has lain
across the path from the first time we knew it.”

“Yes, it looks the same as ever, Richard, with
one exception which I have remarked more than
once and particularly this morning. The end of it,
upon which we used to sit, is scarcely to be got at now,
the bushes have grown up so thickly around it.”

“It is so long, Mary, since we have used it. It
was our visits that kept the brush down. The weeds
grow now without interruption from us—from me at
least; and the time is far distant when I shall visit it
again. Do you know, Mary, I am come to bid you
good-bye? I leave Marengo to-morrow.”

“To-morrow! so soon?”

“Soon! Do you think it soon, Mary? I have
been making preparations for months. Certainly,
I have declared my intention for months.”

“Indeed! but not to me. I did hear something
of such a purpose being in your mind; but I hoped, I
mean I believed, that it was not true.”

“Did you hope that it was not true?” I demanded
with some earnestness. She answered with the
ready frankness of childhood.


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“Surely I did; and when John Hurdis told

“John Hurdis is no authority for me,” I said
gloomily, breaking off her speech in the middle.
The interruption brought us back to our starting
place, from the contemplation of which, since my
brother's departure, we had both tacitly seemed to

“Oh, Richard, this is an evil temper!” she exclaimed.
“Why do you encourage it? Why
this angry spirit towards your brother? It is an
evil mood, and can do no good. Besides, I think
you do him injustice. He is gentle and good
natured; he wants your promptness, it may be, and
he lacks something of your enterprise and industry.
Perhaps, too, he has not the same zealous warmth
of feeling, but truly I believe that his heart is in the
right place.”

“It is your policy to believe so, Mary; else where
is yours?”

“Mine!” she exclaimed; and her eye was fixed
upon me with an expression of mixed curiosity and

“Ay, yours,” I continued, giving a construction
to the equivocal form of my previous speech, differing
from that which I originally intended—

“Ay, yours, for if it be not, your charity is
wasted. But no more of this, Mary, if you please.


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The subject, for sundry reasons, is an unpleasant
one to me. John Hurdis is fortunate in your
eulogy, and for your sake, not less than his, I will
not seek, by any word of mine, to disturb your impressions.
My words might prejudice your opinion
of his worth, without impairing its intrinsic value;
and it may be as you think, that I am all wrong
about it. He is a fortunate man, that John Hurdis;
doubly fortunate, Mary. He has the wealth which
men toil for, and fight for, and lie for, and sell
themselves to the foul fiend for in a thousand ways;
he has the favour of women; a greater temptation,
for which they do a thousand times worse. He has
those possessions, Mary, some of which I am never
to have, but for the rest of which I am even now
about to leave the home, and perhaps, all the happiness
of my childhood.”

“You surely do not envy your brother, Richard,
any of his possessions.”

“Let me know what they are Mary; let them be
enumerated, and then will I answer you. Envy
John Hurdis I do not; that is to say, I do not envy
him his wealth, or his wisdom, his lands, his negroes
or any of his worldly chattels. Are you satisfied
now, Mary, that there is nothing base in my envy;
though it may be that he has something yet which
provokes it!”

“And what is that, Richard?”


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Why did I not answer her in plain language?
How often have I repented that I did not. How
much sorrow might have been spared me else. But
I was proud of heart as Lucifer; proud in my own
despite, stubborn to my own sorrow.

“Mary, ask me not,” I answered. “What matter
is it to know, when even were he to lose that
which I envy him, it might be that I would not be
esteemed worthy to possess it.”

“Richard, there is something strange to me in
your tones, and mysterious in your language. Why
do you not speak to me as formerly? Why are you
changed—why should you be changed to me? You
scarcely speak now without saying something which
I do not thoroughly comprehend. There is a hidden
meaning in every thing you say; and it seems to me
that you are suspicious and distrustful of the honesty
of every body.”

“And should I not be, Mary? He is not a wise
man who learns no lessons of caution from the deception
of others; who, wronged once, suffers himself
to be wronged a second time from the same
source. I may be distrustful, but I am prudently so,

“You prudent, Richard! I fear that even now you
deceive yourself, as it seems to me you must have
deceived yourself before. You have not said, Richard,


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by whom you have been wronged—by whose dishonesty,
you have acquired all these lessons of prudence
and circumspection.”

How could I answer this? Who could I accuse?
I could only answer by replying to another
portion of her remarks.

“You think me changed, Mary, and I will not
deny it. I am certainly not so happy as I have been;
but my change has only corresponded with the
changed aspects of the world around me. I know
that I have undergone no greater change than others
that I know—than you, for example. You are
changed, Mary, greatly changed in my sight.”

The deepest crimson, and the utmost pallor succeeded
to each other in rapid alternations upon her
cheek. Her bosom heaved—her hand trembled
within my own. I thought at first that she would
have fainted, and, dropping the bridle of my horse,
I supported her shrinking form with my arm. But
she recovered herself almost instantly; and, advancing
from the clasp of my arm which had encircled
her waist—with a sudden composure which astonished
me, she replied:

“I did not think it, Richard—I am not conscious
of any change in me, but it may be even as you
say. I could have wished you had not seen it, if
it be so; for, of a truth, I have not striven for


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change, and it gives me pain to think that I do seem
so—to my friends at least.”

“It is so, Mary. I once thought—but no! wherefore
should I speak of such things now—.” She
interrupted me by a sudden and hurried effort—seemingly
an impulsive one.

“Oh, speak it, Richard—speak aloud—speak
freely as you used to speak when we were happy
children together. Be no longer estranged—think
me not so. Speak your thought, and as I hope for
kindness from all I love, I will as freely utter

“No!” I exclaimed coldly, and half releasing her
fingers from my grasp. “No! Mary, it were but
a folly now to say what were my thoughts once—
my feelings—my fancies. I might have done so in
a former day; but now I cannot. I acknowledge
the change, and so must you. It is a wise one. Ere
long, Mary, long before I return to Marengo, you
will undergo another change, perhaps, which I shall
not witness, and shall not desire to witness.

“What is it that you mean, Richard?”

“Nothing—no matter what. It will be a happy
change to you, Mary, and that should be enough to
make me satisfied with it. God knows I wish you
happiness—all happiness—as complete as it is in
man's power to make it to you. I must leave you
now. The sun is gone, and I have to ride over to


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Carrington's to night. Good bye, Mary, good

“Are you going, Richard?” she said without looking

“Yes; I have loitered too long already.”

“You will write to us—to father?”

“No! of what use to write? Wherefore tax your
sympathies by telling the story of my sufferings?”

“But your successes, Richard.”

“You will believe them without the writing.”

“So cold, Richard?”

“So prudent, Mary—prudent.”

“And you will not go to the house?”

“What! to meet him there! No, no! Good
bye—God bless you, Mary, whatever be your changes
of fortune or condition.” I carried her hand to
my lips, flung it from me, and, gathering up the
bridle of my steed, was soon upon my way. Was
it in truth a sob which I heard behind me? I stole
a glance backward—and she sat upon the log with
her face buried in her hands.