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"Excellent," replied Ella.
I ever was ill in my life."
"Indeed I do not know that
"What a happiness!-what a blessing!" exclaimed Mr. Jocelyne. "It is attended, however, with one disadvantage." "Ah! I know what you mean," said Ella, laughing. "It makes me less lady-like."
"That was not my meaning, most certainly;" observed her companion, with a smile.
"What did you mean, then?" asked Ella, rather ashamed of having given utterance, in company so grave, to such a foolish idea.
"I meant," he continued, " that those who are unacquainted experimentally with any weakness of constitution, or any liability to illness, are not likely to be very sympathizing, perhaps scarcely forbearing, to the weaknesses and sufferings of others."
"Oh! but I am very sympathizing;" said Ella, with perfect ingenuousness. "It is one of my weak points that I cannot help sympathizing."
"Miss More," said the gentleman, " do you think you really know what you are?"
"Yes," replied Ella; "I am quite sure I do, in some respects, though not perhaps in all."
It was Mr. Jocelyne's turn to laugh. "Wise as you are,” said he, “discriminating, and abounding in self-knowledge, you have a good deal to learn yet, Miss More, even about yourself."
"No doubt," replied Ella, with sudden gravity: "but I am studying the subject with great earnestness; and if I had but some real friend to help me in the study-some friend wiser and better than I am, I think I should soon know myself thoroughly."
"Indeed?" said Mr. Jocelyne, with a tone of incredulity; and, as he looked into her upturned face, while her fine expressive eyes were raised to his, it is more than probable he thought that he should like to be that friend himself.
It was very natural to think so; many other persons would have thought the same. Willis Cawthorne at that precise mo
ment passed them by: perhaps he thought so too. Perhaps he also would have enjoyed having that fair figure leaning on his arm, and looking up into his face. He betrayed no disposition of the kind, however, but passed more hastily than was his wont, and then went down towards the ebbing waves, and walked for some time very quickly upon the wet sands, so near the water that the white foam here and there rolled far above where he was treading, and must sometimes have bathed his feet most inconveniently. But he seemed to be in that kind of humour which makes people scorn to run, even when a breaker falls and surges at their feet. Neither did he once look back; and yet he felt as if he was seeing behind him—as if his head was placed upon his shoulders in the direction opposite to its nature, and as if he could not avoid seeing the full length of shore behind him, and those two figures wandering-wandering on, to vanish finally from his sight for ever. And what if they did? What was their destiny to him? In the midst of all manner of strange thoughts, and some angry ones, a sudden surprise of tenderness came over him. "Ella! poor Ella!" he exclaimed; but why he pitied her, or called her poor, he would have found it difficult to explain. No longer could he see the glimmer of the sunshine on the waves, nor the white foam rolling at his feet. His eyes were dim with tears. "Will that proud man," said he, "ever make your young heart happyhappy as it ought to be?-happy as I would have made it," he might have added. But he was no coxcomb; and the idea of placing himself in comparison with one who possessed so many superior advantages as Mr. Jocelyne, was a folly from which his natural good sense and manliness preserved him.
That was not the last time that Ella More was seen walking with Mr. Jocelyne along the shore of the old sea, whose waves rolled on, and never told them what it had in store even for them; who never warned them of the treachery of its glassy smile, nor of the fearful depths which lay beneath its restless billows; who never spoke to them in the language of disappointment of despair. And why? Simply because their ears
were not attuned to hear it. And yet the old sea murmured— murmured on, with a voice as irresistible as death-as hollow as the grave; and they might have heard its friendly warning if they would.
There is a disappointment which sometimes produces a kind of desperation, and which thus arouses a strength of purpose and of will commensurate with the occasion, whatever that may be. Willis Cawthorne did not reason upon the probable consequences of a growing intimacy upon which he tried in vain to close his eyes: he only felt; but he felt that this must not be; that something must be done to put a stop to it. And, as if he were himself the champion whose proud privilege, as well as duty, it was to rescue a fair maiden from the jaws of some devouring monster, he set himself to devise plans innumerable for snatching Ella from the doom which seemed to be impending over her.
Doom! Had Ella heard that word-had she suspected that any one was fearing, and not hailing it for her as the greatest good which human destiny could offer, how astonished she would have been; for all whom she conversed with, or who dared to hint their thoughts upon that subject, either spoke as if she was the most favoured and the happiest of human beings, or they expressed themselves in language which left no doubt upon her mind that she was one of the most envied. Thus it is to move in a narrow and exclusive circle of little-minded people, who have nothing else to do than to talk over the tiny facts transpiring every day within the small sphere of their vision; and thus have many other minds, of stronger constitution than Ella More's, been beguiled into the belief that some petty conquest, some meagre triumph, some appropriation of an imaginary good, was in itself a glory, and richly worth the pains bestowed in gaining it, when all the while its value was no other than that which arises out of an obvious and a general wish to gain it. A single gem, so long as there is no other to compare it with, is the gem of inestimable value; and the individual who can purchase and possess it, is the privileged and envied person.
It was thus in the small circle of society met that winter at C. The Jocelynes were unquestionably persons of the highest rank within that circle, besides being somewhat remarkable and distinguished in their general bearing, and in themselves. The different characters who came within their influence had nothing else to do than to gossip with, and remark upon each other; and thus, in time, the interest of these personal discussions grew so strong, and the importance so great, that they forgot there was a world elsewhere; and thus, as a natural consequence, they gave all their energies, and all their emotions, to the events of the passing day—to who walked with who; what intimacies were increasing, what upon the wane; which party was in favour, which going out; and so on, through an endless round of calculations, based upon a look, a word, or an unconscious act, and ending in conclusions often as wide of the truth, as ill-nature is separated from that charity which hopeth all things.
We will not say how large a proportion of this society was made up of the female sex. Men who have nothing to do worth doing, and who give their thoughts to trifles, are scarcely wiser or more dignified than women under similar circumstances; though the cases may be more rare in which they are thus placed. There could be no wonder, then, that while older, wiser, and more experienced people than Ella More were thus employed in detailing mere gossip, and were thus influenced by the prejudices, rivalries, and envyings of the moment-there could be no wonder that a girl like Ella, rising as it were to the topmost pinnacle of distinction amongst all this turmoil of contending interests, should feel herself exalted to an immense height above her fellow-beings; and conscious that she was remarked upon, suspecting that she was envied by all, there was no wonder if she endeavoured to believe that she was happy in proportion to the glory which imagination pictured as surrounding her, and as tinging every object associated with her greatness with roseate hues of beauty and enchantment.
It is no exaggeration, gentle reader, to say that all this may
be the consequence of innate vanity, fed plentifully upon low calculations, gratified self-love, and cunning. Yes, cunning; for a large amount of secret purposes, all pressing on the heart, and working at the will, deserve no better name than cunning: and the woman who, with all outward candour, frankness, and sincerity, in this manner deceives herself, cherishing desires which she will not call by their right names, and designs which, if they were placed before her in their true light, she would reject and wholly disavow, hopes which would tremble into nothing were a language found for their utterance, and ambition with an end in view widely separate from the end which is openly acknowledged and discoursed about-the woman who carries all this about with her, and acts, and thinks, and feels with that complication of meaning and of motive, which all this, as the groundwork of character, is certain to inspire-that woman, if not so originally, becomes in time a cunning woman; for after pursuing a long-continued system of self-deception, she is sure to acquire at last a habit of deceiving others also.
A cunning woman!-most odious of distinctions! Who, looking into the bright face of Ella More, could have believed that such a title would ever be applicable to her! No; she was naturally open, frank, sincere; but unfortunately she was already becoming entangled in a labyrinth of motives; the thread of her purposes was becoming difficult to unravel; and just in proportion as she was losing her singleness and simplicity of character, as an inevitable consequence she was losing, with that, her integrity of heart: and thus she was laying herself equally open to the suspicion of her friends, and to the censure of her enemies.
It is true that Ella was unfortunately circumstanced for discovering the truth in relation to herself. It is true, her extreme beauty, that much-envied inheritance, placed her in a false position with regard to any correct estimate of character which others might form of her; for that beauty, before which some appear ready almost to bow down and worship, has always the