University of Virginia Library


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Had she no lover there
That wails her absence?'

O, sir, to such as boasting, show their scars,
A mock is due. Will you walk on, my lord?
She was beloved—she loved—she is, and both—
But still, sweet love is food for fortune's tooth.

Troilus and Cressida.

That night we slept at a miserable hovel, consisting
of but one apartment into which the whole family,
husband, wife, three children and ourselves, were
oddly clustered together. The house was of logs,
and the rain which fell in torrents before we sought
shelter in so foul a stye, came through upon the trundle
bed in which we strove to sleep. Still we had
no occasion for discontent. The poor wretches who
kept the hovel, gave us the best they had. A supper
of bacon, eggs, and hoe-cake, somewhat consoled
us for the doubtful prospect in our eyes; and our
consolation was complete, when, at rising in the
morning, we found that the storm had passed over,
and we were in safety to depart. We had not been so
sure that such would be the case at retiring for the night.
Our host had quite a cut-throat and hang-dog expression,


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and we lay with dirk and pistol at hand,
ready for the last emergencies. Fortunately, we had
no need to use them; and bestowing a couple of dollars
upon the children, for their parents refused all
pay, we sallied forth upon our journey. That night
we arrived at Tuscaloosa, a town now of considerable
size, of increasing prosperity and population, but
at the time of our visit, but little more than opened
in the woods. Here we took lodgings at the only
hotel in the place, and were assigned a room in common
with two other persons. To this arrangement
we objected in vain. The chambers were too few
and the crowd too great to permit a tavernkeeper to
tolerate any unnecessary fastidiousness on the part
of his guests.

Here let me pause in the narrative of my own
progress, and retrace for a brief period my steps.
Let me unfold the doings of others, necessarily connected
with my own, which are proper to be made
known to the reader in this place, though only known
to me long after their occurrence. The parting with
my brother will be remembered. It will be recollected,
that, when Mary Easterby came between us
after I had dragged him from his horse, and prevented
strife, and possibly bloodshed, that he left us together,
and proceeded to the habitation of her parents.
There, with a heart full of bitterness towards
me, and a mind crowded with conflicting and angry


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emotions, he yet contrived effectually to conceal
from observation, both the struggle and the bitterness.
His words were free, easy, well arranged and
good-natured as usual, to all around, and when Mary
Easterby returned to the cottage after I had left her,
she started with surprise to see how effectually
he could hide the traces of that fierce and unnatural
strife in which, but a little while before, he
had been so earnestly engaged. The unlookedfor
ease with which this was done, effectually
startled and pained her. By what mastery of his
emotions had this been done, and what was the nature
of that spirit which could so hermetically seal
its anger, its hate, its human and perhaps holiest passions.
She saw him in a new light. Heretofore she
had regarded him but in one aspect; as a man more
solicitous of his ease than of his reputation, good
natured in the extreme, too slothful to be irritable,
too fond of repose and good living to harbour secret
hostilities. If her opinion on this subject did not
suffer change, it, at least, called for prompt revision
and re-examination under the new light in which
it appeared, and which now served only to dazzle
and confound her. The wonder increased as the
evening advanced. He was even humorous and
witty in his easy volubility; and but for the annoyance
which she naturally felt at what seemed to
her his unnatural flow of spirits, she would have


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been constrained to confess that never before had
he seemed so positively agreeable. All his resources
of reading and observation were brought into requisition,
and he placed them before the company with
so much order, clearness and facility that she was
disposed to give him credit for much more capacity
of nature and acquisition, than she had ever esteemed
him to possess before. He was acting a part, and
had she not been troubled with misgivings to this
effect, he might have acted it successfully. But he
overshot his mark. He had not the art, the result
only of frequent practice, to conceal the art which he
employed. His purpose was to seem amiable—to be
above the passions which governed me; and to possess
the forbearance which could forgive them, even
where he himself had been, in a measure, their victim.
He erred in seeming, not only above their
control, but free from their annoyance. Had he
been slightly grave during the evening, had he
seemed to strive at cheerfulness, and at a forgetfulness
of that which could not but be unpleasant to
any brother, he had been far more successful with
Mary Easterby. Her natural good sense revolted
at the perfect mastery which he possessed over his
emotions. Such a man might well become an Iago,
having a power, such as he certainly exhibited, “to
smile and smile, and be,” if not a villain, one at
least, wholly insensible to those proper sentiments


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and sorrows which belonged to his situation under
existing circumstances. Little did my brother conjecture
the thoughts passing through her mind as he
thus played his part. What would I have given to
know them? How many pangs, doubts and sorrows
would have been spared me? What time had
I not saved, what affections had I not spared and
sheltered! But this is idle.

John Hurdis lingered late that night for an opportunity
which was at length given him. Mary and
himself were left alone together, and he proceeded
to do that which, with the precipitate apprehensions
of a jealous lover, I had long before supposed to
have been over. Either emboldened by the belief
that my rash conduct had sufficiently offended the
maiden, and that he had properly prepared the way
for his declaration, or, possibly, somewhat anxious
lest, in my parting interview, I had poured out desperately
those emotions which I had, with undue
timidity, hopelessly and long locked up, and anxious
to know the result, he resolved to close a pursuit,
which he had hitherto conducted with no less art
than perseverance. John Hurdis was a vain man
and confident of his position; and yet he did not approach
that calm, and high minded girl without
some trepidation. His first overture began with a
reference to the conflict which she had so happily


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“Mary, you have this day witnessed that which I
should willingly have kept forever from your knowledge.
You have seen the strife of brother with brother—you
have beheld a violence, shocking to humanity,
and, if not ending like that of the first murderer,
one which, but for your timely coming, might
have had, for one or both of us, a no less fatal termination.
I hope, Mary, you do me the justice to believe
that I was not to blame in this quarrel.”

He drew his chair nigher to hers, as he thus spoke,
and waited for her answer with no little solicitude.
She hesitated. How could she else than hesitate
when an assenting answer sanctioned the address,
the sincerity of which she seriously questioned?

“I know not what to say, Mr. Hurdis;” was her
reply. “I saw not enough of the strife of which
you speak to pass judgment upon it. I will not pretend
to say who began it; I would rather not speak
on the subject at all.”

“Yet he—Richard Hurdis—he spoke of it to
you?” he replied suspiciously.

“No, I spoke of it to him, rather,” was the fearless
answer. “In the first moment of my surprise
and terror, Mr. Hurdis, I spoke to Richard—to your
brother—about his rashness; and yet, though I
spoke, I know not truly what I said. I was anxious.
I was alarmed.”


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“Yet you know that it was his rashness, Mary,
that provoked the affair,” he said quickly.

“I know that Richard is rash, constitutionally
rash, John,” she replied gravely. “Yet I will not
pretend to say, nor am I willing to think, that the
provocation came entirely from him.”

“But you saw his violence, only, Mary.”

“Yes; that is true; but did his violence come of
itself, John? Said you nothing? Did you nothing to
provoke him to that violence? Was there no vexing
word? Was there no cause of strife, well known before,
between you? I am sure that there must have
been, John, and I leave it to your candour to say if
there were not. I have known Richard long—we
were children together—and I cannot think, that in
sheer wantonness, and without provocation, he
could do what I this day beheld.”

A faint yet bitter smile passed over his lips as he

“And do you think, Mary—is it possible that
you, a lady, one brought up to regard violence with
terror, and brutality with disgust—is it possible that
you can justify a resort to blows for a provocation
given in words?”

The cheek of the maiden crimsoned beneath the
tacit reproach; but she replied without shame.

“God forbid! I do not; blows are brutal, and violence


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degrading to humanity in my eyes. But
though I find no sanction for the error of Richard, I
am not so sure that you have your justification in
his violence for every provocation of which you may
have been guilty. Your brother is full of impulse,
quick and irritable. You knew his nature well.
Did you scruple to offend it? Did you not offend
it? I ask you in honour, John Hurdis, since you have
invited me to speak, was there not some previous
cause of strife between you, which provoked, if it
did not justify, your brother in his violence?”

“It may be; nay, there was, Mary. I confess it.
And would you know the cause, Mary? Nay, you
must; it is of that I would speak. Will you hear

“Freely, John,” was the ready and more indulgent
reply. “If the cause be known, the remedy
cannot be far off, John, if we have the will to apply

He smiled at what he considered the aptness of
the reply. He drew his chair still nigher to her
own; and his voice fell and trembled as he spoke.

“You are the cause, Mary!”

“I—I, the cause!” she paused and looked at him
with unreserved astonishment.

“Yes; you, and you only, Mary. Richard Hurdis
hates me simply because I love you. Not that
he loves you himself, Mary,” he spoke quickly;


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“no, he would control you for his own pride; he
would rule you and me, and every thing alike. But
that he shall not. No, Mary; hear me—I have been
slow to speak, as I was fearful to offend. I would
not be precipitate. I sought to win your regard before
I ventured to proffer mine. The affair this day
prompts me to speak sooner than I might have done.
Hear me then, Mary; I love you, I proffer you my
heart, my life. I will live for you. I implore you
then—be mine.”

The head of Mary Easterby sank as she heard
this language. Her cheek assumed a deeper flush;
there was a sorrowful expression in her eye which did
not encourage the pleader, and when she spoke,
which, after a little pause she did, it annoyed him to
perceive that she was composed and dignified in her
manner, and that all trace of emotion had departed
from her voice.

“I thank you, John—I thank you for your favourable
opinion; but I am not satisfied that I should be
the occasion of strife between you and your brother.
You tell me that I am—that he is unwilling that you
should love me, or that I should love you in return.”

“It is—it is that, Mary,” he exclaimed, hastily
interrupting her speech, which was uttered composedly,
and even slow.


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“I am sorry that it is—sorry that you think so,
John, for I am sure you must be mistaken.”

“Mistaken!” he exclaimed.

“Yes, John, mistaken. You are—you must be
mistaken. It cannot be as you imagine. Supposing
that Richard was unwilling that you should regard
me with favour, and that I should respond favourably
to your regard—for which I see no reason—”

He Interrupted her again, and with some show of

“There is reason, reason enough, though you may
not see it. I tell you that he would rule us both;
his nature is despotical. A younger brother, he has
yet the management of every thing at home, and,
having been been brought up as your companion
from childhood, he claims to have some right to
manage your concerns also. He would rule in all
things, and over every body, and would not have
me love you, Mary, or you me, for that very reason.
Not that he loves you himself, Mary; no, no—that
might alter the case were it so—but I am sure, I
know, that he loves another. It is a sort of dog in the
manger spirit that possesses him, and which brought
about our quarrel.”

Here was a batch of lies, and yet there was truth
in much that he said. Without doubt I had much
of that despotic nature, which he ascribed to me,
and which, more or less, affected my deportment in


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all my associations; but the whole tissue of his
speech was woven in falsehood, and one difficulty
in which he had involved himself by a previous
remark, led even to a greater number yet. He had
ascribed to her the occasion of our quarrel, without
reflecting that he had already persuaded her that my
regards were given to another. It was difficult now for
him to account for my hostility to his success with
Mary, unless by supposing in me a nature unnaturally
froward and contradictory. And such a nature,
whatever were my other faults, could not fairly
be laid to my charge. To have suffered Mary to
suppose that I really loved her, was no part of his
subtle policy. For months, it had been his grateful
labour to impress upon her mind a different belief.

After hearing him patiently through his hurried
tirade, Mary resumed.

“I think you do your brother much injustice,
John, when you ascribe to him a temper so unreasonable.
I have known him for many years, and
while I have often found him jealous and passionate,
I must defend him from any charge of mere wilful
and cold perversity. He is too irritable, too quick
and impetuous for such a temper. He does not
sufficiently deliberate to be perverse; and as for the
base malignity of desiring to keep one, and that one
a brother, from the possession of that which he did
not himself desire to possess, I cannot think it. No,


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John, that cannot be the true reason. I have no
doubt that you think so, but as little is my doubt
that you think unjustly.”

“I know no other reason, Mary,” was the somewhat
cold answer.

“Nay, John, I speak not so much of the general
cause of the difference between you, as of the particular
provocation of the strife to day. Let it be
as you say, that Richard is thus perverse with little
or no reason, yet it could not be that without immediate
and rude cause of anger he should rush upon
you in the high road and assault you with blows.
Such violence is that of the robber who seeks
for money, or the blood-thirsty assassin who
would revenge, by sudden blow, the wrong for
which he dared not crave open and manly atonement.
Now, I know that Richard is no robber,
and we both know him too well to think that he
would assassinate, without warning, the enemy
whom he had not the courage to fight. Cowardice
is not his character any more than dishonesty; and
yet it were base cowardice if he assaulted you this
day without provocation and without due warning.”

The cool, deliberate survey which Mary Easterby
took of the subject, utterly confounded her companion.
He was unprepared for this form of the
discussion. To dwell longer upon it was not his policy,
yet to turn from it in anger and impatience was


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to prejudice his own cause and temper, in the estimation
of one so considerate and acute as Mary had
shown herself to be. Passing his hand over his face,
he rose from his seat, paced the room slowly twice or
thrice, and then returned to his place with a countenance
once more calm and unruffled, and with a
smile upon his lips as gently winning as if they had
never worn any other expression. The readiness
of this transition was again unfavourable to his object.
Mary Easterby was a woman of earnest character,
not liable to sudden changes of mood herself,
and still less capable of those sudden turns of look
and manner which denote strong transitions of it.
She looked distrustfully upon them accordingly,
when they were visible in others.

“You are right, Mary,” said the tempter approaching
her, and speaking in tones in which an
amiable and self-accusing spirit seemed to mingle
with one of wooing solicitation. “You are right,
Mary; there was an immediate provocation of which
I had not spoken, and which I remember occasioned
Richard's violence. He spoke to me in a manner
which I thought insolently free, and I replied to him
in sarcastic language. He retorted in terms which
led me to utter a threat which it did not become me to
utter, and which, I doubt not, was quite too provoking
for him to bear with composure. Thence came
his violence. You were right, I think, in supposing


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his violence without design. I do not think it
myself; and though, as I have said, I regard Richard's
conduct towards me as ungracious, and inexcusable,
I am yet but too conscious of unkind feelings
towards him to desire to prolong this conversation.
There is another topic, Mary, which is far more
grateful to me—will you suffer me to speak on that?
You have heard my declaration. I love you, Mary.
I have long loved you. I feel that I cannot
cease to love, and cannot be happy without you.
Turn not from me, Mary; hear me, I pray you; be
indulgent, and hear me.”

“I should not do justice to your good regards,
John, nor to our long intimacy, if I desired to hear
you father on this subject. Forgive me—leave me
now—let me retire.”

She arose as if to depart. He caught her hand and
led her back to the seat from which she had arisen.
It was now that he trembled; trembled more than
ever, as he beheld her so little moved.

“You are cold, Mary; you dislike, you hate me,”
he stammered forth almost convulsively.

“No, John, you are wrong. I neither hate nor
dislike you; and you know it. On the contrary, I
have much respect for you, as well on your own account
as on that of your family.”

“Family—respect! Oh, Mary, choose some other
words. Cannot you not hear me speak of warmer


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feelings, closer ties? Will you not heed me when I
say that I love?—When I pray you to accept—to
love me in return?”

“It must not be, John!—to love you as a husband
should be loved—as a wife should love—wholly, singly,
exclusively; so that one should leave father, mother,
and all other ties only for that one—I cannot!
I should speak a base untruth, John, were I to say
so. It gives me pain to tell you this, sir; it gives
me pain—but better that both of us should suffer the
present and momentary anguish which comes from
defrauded expectations, than risk the permanent sorrow
of a long life, passed in the exercise of falsehood.
I am grateful for your love, John; for the favour
with which you distinguish me; but I cannot give
you mine. I cannot reply as you would wish me.”

“Mary—you love another!”

“I know not, John; I would not know—I pray
that you would not strive to force the reflection upon

“You mistake Richard Hurdis, if you think that
he loves you, Mary; he does not; you can have no
hope of him.”

The coarse, cold speech of the selfish man, was well
answered by the calm and quiet tone of the maiden.

“And if I had hopes of him, or of any man, John
Hurdis, they should be entombed in the bosom,
where they had their birth, before my lips, or looks


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should declare them to other bosoms than my own.
I have no hopes, such as you speak of; and so truly
as I stand before you, I tell you that I know not that
I have in my heart a solitary sentiment with reference
to your brother, which, according to my present
thought, I would not you should hear. That I
have always regarded him with favour, is true; that
I deem him to be possessed of some very noble qualities,
is no less true. More, I tell you—it is with pain,
anxious and deep pain, that I have beheld his coldness,
when we have met of late; and his estrangement
from me, for so long a period. I would give much
to know why it is. I would do much that it should
be otherwise.”

“And yet you know not, Mary, that you love

“I know not, John; and if the knowledge may be
now obtained, I would infinitely prefer not to know.
It would avail me nothing, and might—might become
known to him.”

There is no need to dwell longer upon this interview,
though the vexing spirit of my brother, clothing
what he spoke still in the language of dissimulation,
protracted it for some time longer, in vain assaults
upon her firmness, and, failing in that, in mean
sarcasms, which were doubly mean as they were disguised
alternately in the language of humiliation and
of love. When he left her, she hurried to her chamber,


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utterly exhausted with a struggle in which all the
strength of her mind had been employed in the double
duty of contending with his, and of keeping her
own feelings, upon which it was his purpose to play,
in quiet and subjection. Her tears came to her relief,
when she found herself alone, but they could
not banish from her mind a new consciousness,
which, from the moment when she parted with my
brother, kept forcing itself upon her. “Did she in
truth, love Richard Hurdis?” was her question to herself.
How gladly, that moment, would I have listened
to her answer.