University of Virginia Library


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Miss Ellerton sat in the music-room the next morning after
breakfast, preventing pauses in a rather interesting conversation,
by a running accompaniment upon the guitar. A single gold
thread formed a fillet about her temples, and from beneath it, in
clouds of silken ringlets, floated the softest raven hair that ever
grew enamored of an ivory shoulder. Hers was a skin that seemed
woven of the lily-white, but opaque fibre of the magnolia, yet of
that side of its cup turned toward the fading sunset. There is no
term in painting, because there is no touch of pencil or color that
could express the vanishing and impalpable breath that assured
the healthiness of so pale a cheek. She was slight, as all southern
women are in America, and of a flexible and luxurious gracefulness
equalled by nothing but the movings of a smoke-curl. Without
the elastic nerve remarkable in the motions of Taglioni, she appeared,
like her, to be born with a lighter specific gravity than her fellow-creatures.
If she had floated away upon some chance breeze
you would only have been surprised upon reflection.

“I am afraid you are too fond of society,” said Miss Ellerton,
as Juba came in hesitatingly and delivered her a note in the handwriting
of an old correspondent. She turned pale on seeing the
superscription, and crushed the note up in her hand, unread. I
was not sorry to defer the denouement of my little drama, and taking
up the remark which she seemed disposed to forget, I referred
her to a scrap-book of Van Pelt's, which she had brought home
with her, containing some verses of my own, copied (by good luck)
in that sentimental sophomore's own hand.

“Are these yours, really and really?” she asked, looking pryingly


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into my face, and showing me my own verses, against which
she had already run a pencil line of approbation.

Peccavi!” I answered. “But will you make me in love
with my offspring by reading them in your own voice.”

They were some lines written in a balcony at daybreak, while
a ball was still going on within, and contained an allusion (which
I had quite overlooked) to some one of my ever-changing admirations.
As well as I remember they ran thus:—

Morn in the east! How coldly fair
It breaks upon my fevered eye!
How chides the calm and dewy air!
How chides the pure and pearly sky!
The stars melt in a brighter fire,
The dew in sunshine leaves the flowers;
They from their watch, in light retire,
While we in sadness pass from ours!
I turn from the rebuking morn,
The cold gray sky and fading star,
And listen to the harp and horn,
And see the waltzers near and far:
The lamps and flowers are bright as yet,
And lips beneath more bright than they—
How can a scene so fair beget
The mournful thoughts we bear away.
'Tis something that thou art not here
Sweet lover of my lightest word!
'Tis something that my mother's tear
By these forgetful hours is stirred!
But I have long a loiterer been
In haunts where Joy is said to be,
And though with Peace I enter in,
The nymph comes never forth with me'


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“And who was this `sweet lover,' Mr Wrongham? I should
know, I think, before I go farther with so expeditious a gentleman.”

“As Shelley says of his ideal mistress—

`I loved—oh, no! I mean not one of ye,
Or any earthly one—though ye are fair!'
It was but an apostrophe to the presentiment of that which I have
found, dear Miss Ellerton! But will you read that ill-treated
billet-doux, and remember that Juba stands with the patience of
an ebon statue waiting for an answer?”

I knew the contents of the letter, and I watched the expression
of her face, as she read it, with no little interest. Her temples
flushed, and her delicate lips gradually curled into an expression
of anger and scorn, and having finished the perusal of it, she put
it into my hand, and asked me if so impertinent a production deserved
an answer.

I began to fear that the eclaircissement would not leave me on
the sunny side of the lady's favor, and felt the need of the moment's
reflection given me while running my eye over the letter.

“Mr. Slingsby,” said I, with the deliberation of an attorney,
“has been some time in correspondence with you?”


“And, from his letters and your brother's commendations, you
had formed a high opinion of his character, and had expressed as
much in your letters?”

“Yes—perhaps I did.”

“And from this paper intimacy he conceives himself sufficiently
acquainted with you to request leave to pay his addresses?”

A dignified bow put a stop to my catechism.


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“Dear Miss Ellerton!” I said, “this is scarcely a question
upon which I ought to speak, but by putting this letter into my
hand, you seemed to ask my opinion.”

“I did—I do,” said the lovely girl, taking my hand, and looking
appealingly into my face; “answer it for me! I have done
wrong in encouraging that foolish correspondence, and I owe perhaps
to this forward man a kinder reply than my first feeling
would have dictated. Decide for me—write for me—relieve me
from the first burden that has lain on my heart since—”

She burst into tears, and my dread of an explanation increased.

“Will you follow my advice implicitly?” I asked.

“Yes—oh, yes!”

“You promise?”

“Indeed, indeed!”

“Well, then, listen to me! However painful the task, I must
tell you that the encouragement you have given Mr. Slingsby, the
admiration you have expressed in your letters of his talents and
acquirements, and the confidence you have reposed in him respecting
yourself, warrant him in claiming as a right, a fair trial
of his attractions. You have known and approved Mr. Slingsby's
mind for years—you know me but for a few hours. You saw
him under the most unfavorable auspices (for I know him intimately),
and I feel bound in justice to assure you that you will like
him much better upon acquaintance.”

Miss Ellerton had gradually drawn herself up during this splendid
speech, and sat at last as erect and as cold as Agrippina upon
her marble chair.

“Will you allow me to send Mr. Slingsby to you,” I continued,
rising—“and suffer him to plead his own cause?”


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“If you will call my brother, Mr. Wrongham, I shall feel
obliged to you,” said Miss Ellerton.

I left the room, and hurrying to my chamber, dipped my head
into a basin of water, and plastered my long locks over my eyes,
slipped on a white roundabout, and tied around my neck the identical
checked cravat in which I had made such an unfavorable
impression on the first day of my arrival. Tom Ellerton was
soon found, and easily agreed to go before and announce me by
my proper name to his sister; and treading closely on his heels,
I followed to the door of the music-room.

“Ah, Ellen!” said he, without giving her time for a scene, “I
was looking for you. Slingsby is better, and will pay his respects
to you presently. And, I say—you will treat him well, Ellen,
and—and, don't flirt with Wrongham the way you did last night!
Slingsby's a devilish sight better fellow. Oh, here he is!”

As I stepped over the threshold, Miss Ellerton gave me just
enough of a look to assure herself that it was the identical monster
she had seen at the tea-table, and not deigning me another glance,
immediately commenced talking violently to her brother on the
state of the weather. Tom bore it for a moment or two with
remarkable gravity, but at my first attempt to join in the conversation,
my voice was lost in an explosion of laughter which would
have been the death of a gentleman with a full habit.

Indignant and astonished, Miss Ellerton rose to her full height
and slowly turned to me.

Peccavi!” said I, crossing my hands on my bosom, and looking
up penitently to her face.

She ran to me, and seized my hand, but recovered herself instantly,
and the next moment was gone from the room.

Whether from wounded pride at having been the subject of a


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mystification, or whether from that female caprice by which most
men suffer at one period or other of their bachelor lives, I know
not—but I never could bring Miss Ellerton again to the same interesting
crisis with which she ended her intimacy with Mr. Wrongham.
She proffered to forgive me, and talked laughingly enough
of our old correspondence; but whenever I grew tender, she referred
me to the “sweet lover,” mentioned in my verses in the
balcony, and looked around for Van Pelt. That accomplished
beau, on observing my discomfiture, began to find out Miss Ellerton's
graces without the aid of his quizzing-glass, and I soon found
it necessary to yield the pas altogether. She has since become
Mrs. Van Pelt, and when I last heard from her was “as well as
could be expected.”