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“There's nothing I have done yet o' my conscience,
Deserves a corner: would all other women
Could speak this with as free a soul as I do.”

Henry VIII.

While Hope Leslie was deeply engaged in the
object of her secret expedition, Governor Winthrop's
household was thrown into alarm at her

Jennet was the only member of the family who
did not admit that there was real cause of uneasiness.
“Miss Hope,” she said, “was always
like a crazed body of moonlight nights; there was
never any keeping her within the four walls of a

But a moonlight night it soon ceased to be.
The clouds that had been scudding over the heavens,
gathered in dark and terrific masses. A
spring storm ensued; a storm to which winter and
summer contribute all their elemental power—
rain, lightning, wind, and hail.

Governor Winthrop naturally concluded, (for
all persons not deeply interested are apt to be
rational,) that Miss Leslie had taken refuge under
some safe covert, and he summoned his family to


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their evening devotions. Both the Fletchers excused
themselves, and braved the storm in quest
of their lost treasure; and even old Cradock, in
spite of Mrs. Grafton's repeated suggestions that
he was a very useless person for such an enterprise,
sallied forth; but all returned in the space
of an hour to bring their various reports of fruitless
inquiry and search. Everell remained but
long enough to learn that there were no tidings
of Hope, and was again rushing out of the house,
when he met the object of his apprehensions at
the hall door. “Thank heaven!” he exclaimed,
on seeing her, “you are safe. Where have you
been?—we were all in the most distressful alarm
about you.”

Hope had, by this time, advanced far enough into
the entry for Everell to perceive, by the light of
the lantern, that she was muffled in Sir Philip
Gardiner's cloak. His face had kindled with joy
at her appearance; all light now vanished from
it, and he stood eyeing Hope with glances that
spoke, though his lips refused again to move;
while she, without observing or suspecting his
emotion, did not reply to him, and was only intent
on disengaging herself from the cloak. “Do
help me, Everell,” she said, impatiently; and he
endeavoured to untie the string that fastened it,
but in his agitation, instead of untying, he doubled
the knot.

“Oh, worse and worse!” she exclaimed, and,
without any farther ceremony, she broke the string


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and running back to the door, gave the cloak
to Sir Philip, who stood awaiting it, till then unperceived
by Everell, in the shadows of the

Everell again looked at Miss Leslie in the natural
expectation of some explanation, but she
appeared only concerned to escape to her own
apartment without any inquiries from the family.
Her face was extremely pale; and her
voice, still affected by recent agitation, trembled
as she said to Everell, “be kind enough to tell
your father, and all of them, that I have come in
drenched with the rain, and have gone to my own
room—that I am wearied, and shall throw off my
wet garments, and get to bed as soon as possible;”
and then adding, a “good night, Everell,”
and without awaiting any answer, she was springing
up the stairs when the parlour-door was
thrown open, and half-a-dozen voices exclaimed,
in the same breath, “oh, Hope!”—“Hope Leslie!”—“Miss
Hope Leslie! is it you?”

“Come back, my child, and tell me where you
have been,” said Mr. Fletcher.

“Yes, Miss Leslie,” said Governor Winthrop,
but in a tone of kindness rather than authority,
“render an account of thyself to thy rulers.”

“Yes, come along Hope,” said Mrs. Grafton,
“and make due apologies to Madam Winthrop.
A pretty hubbub you have put her house in, to be
sure—though, I make no doubt, you can show
good reason for it, and also for leaving Sir Philip


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and me in that rantipole way, which I must say
was peculiar.”

“For heaven's sake,” said Hope to Esther, who
had just joined her, “do go in and make an apology
for me. Say I am wet and tired—say any
thing you please, I care not what—will you?—
that's a dear good girl.”

“No, Hope—come in yourself—aunt Winthrop
looked a little displeased—you had best come—I
know she will expect it.”

Thus beset, Hope dared not any longer hesitate,
and with that feeling, half resolution and half impatience
to have a disagreeable thing over which
often impelled her, she descended the stairs as
hastily as she had ascended them, and was in the
parlour, confronting all the inquirers, before she
had devised any mode of relieving herself from
the disagreeable predicament of not being able
to satisfy their curiosity.

“Verily, verily,” exclaimed Cradock, who was
the only one of the groupe, not even excepting
Everell, whose sympathy mastered his curiosity—
“verily, the maiden hath been in peril; she is as
white as a snow-wreath, and as wet as a drowned

“Yes, Master Cradock, quite as wet,” replied
Hope, rallying her spirits, “and with almost as
little discretion left, or I should not have entered
the parlour in this dripping condition. Madam
Winthrop, I beg you will have the goodness to
pardon me for the trouble I have occasioned.”


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“Certainly, my dear, as I doubt not you will
make it plain to us that you had sufficient reason
for what appears so extraordinary, as a young
woman wandering off by herself after nine
o'clock on Saturday night.”

Our heroine had never had the slightest experience
in the nice art of diplomacy—that art that
contrives to give such a convenient indistinctness
to the boundary line between truth and falsehood.
After a moment's reflection, her course seemed
plain to her. To divulge the real motive of her
untimely walk, was impossible—to invent a false
excuse, to her, equally impossible. She turned
to Governor Winthrop and said, with a smile,
that Everell, at least, thought might have softened
the elder Brutus—“I surrender myself to the
laws of the land, having no hope, but from the
mercy of our magistrates. I have offended, I
know; but I should commit a worse offence—an
offence against my own conscience and heart—if
I explained the cause of my absence.”

Governor Winthrop was not accustomed to
have his inquisitorial rights resisted by those of
his own household, and he was certainly more
struck than pleased by Hope's moral courage.

Mrs. Grafton half muttered, half spoke, what
she meant to be an apology for her favourite. “It
was not every body,” she said, “that thought as
the Governor did about Saturday night.”

“True, true,” said Cradock, eagerly, “it is a
doubtful point with divines and gifted men.”


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“Master Cradock,” said the Governor, “thou
art too apt to measure thy orthodoxy by thy charity.
Saturday night is allowed to be, and manifestly
is, holy time; and therefore to be applied,
exclusively, to acts of mercy and devotion.” Then
turning to the impatient culprit, he added, “I am
bound to say to thee, Hope Leslie, that thou dost
take liberties unsuitable to thy youth, and in violation
of that deference due to the rule and observances
of my household, and discreditable to
him who hath been entrusted with thy nurture and

Hope received the first part of this reproof with
her eyes rivetted to the floor, and with a passiveness
that had the semblance of penitence; but
at the implied reproach of her guardian, for whom
she had an affection that had the purity of filial
and the enthusiasm of voluntary love, she raised
her eyes—their mild lustre, for an instant, gave
place to the passage of a flash of indignation direct
from her heart. Her glance met Everell's—
he stood in a recess of the window, leaning his
head against the casement, looking intently
on her. `He too suspects me of evil,' she thought,
and she could scarcely command her voice to say,
as she turned and put her hand in the elder
Fletcher's, “I have done nothing to dishonour
you. You believe me—do you not?”

“Yes, yes, my dear child; I must believe you,
for you never deceived me—but be not so impatient
of reproof.”


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“I am not impatient for myself,” she said; “I
care not how sternly—how harshly I am judged;
but I see not why my fault, even if I had committed
one, should cast a shadow upon you.”

Madam Winthrop now interposed her good offices
to calm the troubled waters. “There is no
shadow any where, Miss Leslie, if there is sunshine
in the conscience; and I can answer for the
Governor, that he will overlook the disturbance of
this evening, provided you are discreet in future.
But we are wrong to keep you so long in your
wet garments. Robin,” she said, turning to a
servant, “light a little fire in the young ladies'
room, and tell Jennet to warm Miss Leslie's bed—
let her strew a little sugar in the pan—an excellent
thing, Mrs. Grafton, to take soreness out of the

Madam Winthrop was solicitous to remove the
impression from her guests that Miss Leslie was
treated with undue strictness. Hope thanked her
for her kindness; and protesting that she had no
need of fire, or warming-pan, she hastily bade
good-night, and retired to her own apartment.

Miss Downing lingered a moment after her,
and ventured to say, in a low timid tone, “that
she trusted her uncle Winthrop would harbour no
displeasure against her friend—she was sure
that she had been on some errand of kindness;
for, though she might sometimes indulge in a
blameable freedom of speech, she had ever observed
her to be strict in all duties and offices of


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“You are right—right—marvellously right, Miss
Downing,” cried Cradock, exultingly rubbing his
hands—and then added, in a lower tone, “a discerning
young woman, Miss Esther.”

“Humph!” said Mrs. Grafton, “I don't see
any thing so marvellously right in what Miss
Esther says—it's what every body knows, who
knows Hope, that she never did a wrong thing.”

Governor Winthrop suppressed a smile, and
said to the good lady, “we should take heed, my
worthy friend, not to lay too much stress on doing
or not doing—not to rest unduly on duties and
performances, for they be unsound ground.”

Mrs. Grafton might have thought if she had
enough such ground to stand on, it were terra
firma to her; but, for once, she had the discretion
of silence.

Neither Everell nor his father spoke, probably
because they felt more than all the rest; and Madam
Winthrop, feeling the awkwardness of the
scene, mentioned the hour, and proposed a general

Everell followed Miss Downing to the staircase.
“One word, Miss Downing,” he said—Esther
turned her face towards him, her pale face, for that
instant illuminated—“did you,” he asked, “in
your apology for your friend, speak from knowledge
or from generous faith?”

“From faith,” she replied, “but not generous
faith, for it was founded on experience.”

Everell turned, disappointed, away. `Faith,'


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he thought, `there might be without sight—but
faith against sight, never.' “Trifles light as air”
are proverbially momentous matters to lovers.
Everell had too noble a mind to indulge in that
fretful jealousy which is far more the result of
egregious self-love than love of another. But he
had cherished for Hope a consecrating sentiment
—he had invested her with a sacredness which
the most refined, the purest, and most elevated
love throws around the object of its devotion.
“On magic ground that castle stoode,
And fenc'd with many a spelle.”
Were these “spelles” to be dissolved by the light
of truth? `Why should one,' thought Everell,
`who seemed so pure that she might dwell in
light—so artless, confiding, and fearless—why
should she permit herself to be obscured by mystery?
If her meeting with Sir Philip Gardiner
was accidental, why not say so?—But what
right have I to scan her conduct?—What right
to expect an explanation?—It is evident she
feels nothing more for me than the familiar affection
of her childhood. How she talked to me this
evening of Esther Downing!—`if she had a brother,
she would select her friend from all the
world for his wife'—`Esther was not precise, she
was only discreet'—`she was not formal, but timid.'
Perhaps she sees I love her, and thus delicately
tries to give a different bent to my affections;
but that is impossible—every hope—every
purpose has been concentrated in her. My affections


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may be blighted, but they cannot be transferred—Perhaps
it is true, as some satirists say,
that a woman's heart is wayward, fantastic, and
capricious. This vagrant knight has scarcely
turned his eyes from Hope since he first saw her,
and I know he has addressed the most presumptuous
flattery to her. Perhaps she favours his
pretensions. I shrink even from his gazing on
her, as if there were something sullying in the
glance of his eye; and yet she violates the customs
of the country—she braves severe displeasure—to
walk alone with him—with him she is
insensible to a gathering storm. He is incapable
of loving her—he is intoxicated with her beauty
—he seeks her fortune—Her fortune! I had
forgotten that my father made that a bar between
us. Fortune!—I never thought of any
thing so mean as wealth in connexion with her.
I would as soon barter my soul, as seek any woman
for fortune—and Hope Leslie!—oh, I should as
soon think of the dowry of a celestial spirit, as of
your being enriched by the trappings of fortune.”

These disjointed thoughts, and many others that
would naturally spring up in the mind of a young
lover, indicated the ardor, the enthusiasm, the disinterestedness
of Everell's passion, and the restless
and fearful state into which he had been
plunged by the events of the evening.

While he was pursuing this train of fancies, in
which some sweetness mingled with the bitter,
Esther had followed Hope to her apartment, and


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having shut the door, turned on her friend a look
of speaking inquiry and expectation, to which
Hope did not respond, but continued in a hurried
manner to disrobe herself, throwing her
drenched shawl on one side, and her wet dress on
the other.

Esther took a silver whistle from the toilet,
and was opening the door to summon Jennet with
its shrill call, when Hope, observing her intention,
cried out, “If you love me, Esther, don't call
Jennet to-night; I wish at least to be spared her

“As you please,” replied Esther, quietly reclosing
the door; “I thought Jennet had best
come, and take care of your apparel, as, if your
mind was not otherwise occupied, you would not
choose to leave it in such disorder.” While Esther
spoke, she stood by the toilet, smoothing her
kerchief, and restoring it to the laundress' folds.

“Yes,” said Hope, “I prefer any disorder to
the din of Jennet's tongue. I cannot, Esther—I
cannot always be precise.”

“Precision, I know, is not interesting,” said
Esther, with a slight tremulousness of voice; “but
if you had a little more of it, Hope, it would save
yourself, and your friends a vast deal of trouble.”

“Now, do not you reproach me, Esther!—that
is the drop too much!” said Hope, turning her
face to the pillow, to hide the tears that gushed
from her eyes: “I know I am vexed and cross—
but I did not mean that you was too precise;—I


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I do not know what I meant. I feel oppressed
and wearied—and I want sympathy, and not

“Unburthen your heart then, to me,” said Esther,
kneeling by the bed-side, and throwing her
arm over Hope: “most gladly would I pay back
the debt of sympathy I owe you.”

“And never, dear Esther, did a poor creditor
receive a debt more joyfully than I should this.
But others are concerned in my secret; a sacred
promise requires me to preserve it inviolate. The
Governor, and your aunt, and all of them might
have known—and, most of all, Everell”—she continued,
raising herself on her elbow—“they might
have known, that I should not have been roaming
about such a pitiless night as this, without good
reason;—and Everell, I am sure, knows that I
despise the silliness of making a secret out of
nothing. I don't care so much for the rest; but
it was very, very unkind of Everell!—I am sure
my heart has been always open as the day to

Perhaps Miss Downing was not quite pleased
with Hope's discriminating between the censure
of Everell, and the rest of the family; for she
said, with more even than her ordinary gravity—
“There is but one thing, Hope, that ought to
make you independent of the opinion of any of
your friends.”

“And what is that?”

“The acquittal of your conscience.”


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“My conscience!—Oh, my dear Esther, no
mother Lois, nor grandmother Eunice, ever had
a more quiet conscience than I have at this moment;—and
I really wish that my tutors, governors—good
friends all—would not think it necessary
to keep quite so strict a guard over me.”

“Hope Leslie,” said Esther, “you do allow
yourself too much liberty of thought and word:
you certainly know that we owe implicit deference
to our elders and superiors;—we ought to
be guided by their advice, and governed by their

“Esther, you are a born preacher,” exclaimed
Hope, with a sort of half sigh, half groan of impatience.
“Nay, my dear friend, don't look so
horridly solemn: I am sure, if I have wounded
your feelings, I deserve to be preached to all the
rest of my life. But really I do not entirely agree
with you about advice and authority. As to advice,
it needs to be very carefully administered,
to do any good, else it's like an injudicious patch,
which, you know, only makes the rent worse;—
and as to authority, I would not be a machine, to
be moved at the pleasure of anybody that happened
to be a little older than myself. I am perfectly
willing to submit to Mr. Fletcher, for he
never”—and she smiled at her own sophistry—
“he never requires submission. Now, Esther,
don't look at me so, as if I was little better than
one of the wicked. Come, kiss me good night;


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and when you say your prayers, Esther, remember
me, for I need them more than you think.”

This last request was made in a plaintive tone,
and with unaffected seriousness, and Esther
turned away to perform the duty, with a deep
feeling of its necessity; for Hope, conscious of
her integrity, had perhaps been too impatient of
rebuke; and if to a less strict judge than Esther,
she seems to have betrayed a little of the spoiled
child, to her she appeared to be very far from that
gracious state, wherein every word is weighed before
it is uttered, and every action measured before
it is performed.