Chapter XVIII. The Two Sisters.

Of course Horace continued to make his calls at the Woodbine Cottage. He observed that, while the elder sister received him with evident satisfaction, the other was apparently uninterested.

The two sisters were very unlike. Julia was rather tall, and very graceful in her movements. Her features were regular, but somewhat grave. Her eye

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had a dreamy expression, with much softness. Her checks were pale, but their delicacy arose from no infirmity of health. Her temperament partook of the melancholic, although she was far from being selfish and morose.

Unlike some who wish to be thought ethereal in their neglect of the claims of others, and in their distaste for labour, Julia was not wanting in attention to household work, and by no means indifferent to the welfare of those around her. Still, her habit of moody thought, her interest in German stories, her solitary rambles, her rapt contemplation of nature, indicated the presence of a poetical element in the girl. Of this a modern writer says:—

“It coloured her thoughts, it suffused her soul; it asked not words, it created not things; it gave birth but to emotions, and lavished itself on dreams.”

When she gazed at the sunset, or watched the changing clouds, there might be seen in her eyes a light beaming as if from some unfathomable depths. In her reading, she indulged in the dreamy pictures of inner life; in music, her favourites were the magical songs of those German composers who read the heart of man, and who sympathise with its beatings.

And what were her musings when alone?

Perhaps young gentlemen imagined they were about themselves in general, and of a favourite in particular. Their vanity was mistaken. The girl had other thoughts in the wide universe, and not unfrequently

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were they fixed upon the highest and noblest of subjects,—the unseen future of a life to come.

But she was a girl after all, and did think about the lads, and dream of one that might some day come knocking at the door. Of course, he must have the beauty of Adonis, the rapt soul of a Shelley, the tender heart of a Werter, the glowing imagination of a Schiller, the sighing complainings of a Petrarch, the nature-worship of a Wordsworth, the impassioned devotion of a Hafiz, the romance of a Troubadour. With such a one she could glide through life in peace. It would be no love in a cottage, for the cottage itself never came into her lofty fancies.

Her sister Annie was another kind of body. She was not so tall and graceful as Julia. Pretty and lively, she reminded one of the humming-bird rather than of the pheasant.

“Her cheek was blushing, sheen as Eden's rose.”

But the next line of the Hindoo poet's praise did not fit in so well, when saying:—

“The soft Narcissus tinged her sleeping eyes.”

They were not at all sleeping eyes, especially when a young fellow was within reach of her teazing powers. There was a world of mischief in these orbs of hers, and most provoking mirth. But the lines after will apply:—

“And white her forehead, as the Lotus shows
'Gainst Summer's earliest sunbeams shimmering far.”

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Her mouth displayed a fair set of teeth; but the lips were so rosy, so rounded, so coquettishly mobile, that other lips longed for closer acquaintance. Her chin was firmly set, but had no angles about it. Her hair suggested the warning of Goëthe:—

“Beware of her fair hair, for she excels
All women in the magic of her locks;
And when she winds them round a young man's neck,
She will not ever set him free again.”

Not that many young men would take the warning, or that every one was right in fancying that he was the one round whose neck the said locks should wind.

Annie was no dreamer, but no trifler. She was not lost in the clouds, and by no means lost in the flowers of the earth. Though not a careful Martha, a housebound Dorothy, she was quite alive to the practical, and had a real liking for the kitchen, and the bustle of work. As to the needle, her preference was not for a lengthened stitching, though she rattled over a seam in half the ordinary time. Great in fancy work, quick at copy, and inventive of patterns, it was her delight to aid in bazaars, and astonish her lady friends.

Read she did, but not remarkably long. She laughed over a merry tale, she sobbed at a lover's catastrophe, she held breath when a thrilling incident was recorded, but she seldom sighed over a volume. Her sympathies were ready at command, but the subject that called for them must be genuine. History she devoured, and poetry she admired. The pictures of

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real life had a charm for her, and the sketches of nature ever interested her.

One must not suppose she was wanting in the soft and in the emotional. There was more delicacy and depth of feeling than the exterior foreshadowed. She enjoyed polkas and operas; but privately played moving strains of heart-music till her eyes filled with tears, and her lips quivered with excited emotion. A book of sentiment was not passed by. It was laughed at in company, but solaced some twilights of loneliness, and supplied food for her spiritual being.

She was not silent about the young men, and most freely communicated her views about the entire genus. Some smarted under her satire, and others were be wildered at the brilliancy of her wit, or the subtlety of her jokes.

She thought less about the young fellows than others who talked less than she. She had no one yet in her eye, though she had ruthlessly flung away the proffered offerings of worship, and had dashed aside more than one cup of bliss presented by an ardent suitor.

She had her ideal,—or thought she had. He must be an uncommon good-looking fellow, tall, powerful in frame, with a strong voice and will, to keep her in order, she said. He must be glowing in colour, bright in eye, beaming in smiles, ready in joke, active in movement. He must dance with vigour, argue shrewdly, talk vivaciously, and yet listen discreetly.

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He must quote poetry, sing songs, ride gracefully, drive cleverly. He must know everybody, know everything, and have been everywhere. He must be supremely fond of her, very jealous of her, constantly attending to her, and uncommonly considerate of her whims and fancies. Such a man she could love with heart and soul, teaze provokingly, obey implicitly, and scold and kiss at alternate minutes of the day.

Horace, the bashful and thoughtful young man, of delicate features and lightness of frame, was not after this type.

Perhaps, had we interrogated him, a discovery might have been made of his ideal of a mate. In company he showed so little a susceptibility for the grand passion, that some accused him of insensibility. Because he had so far roamed free and unconquered in the wilds of love, it was thought he could not be caught and won. A lady might have exclaimed:—

“Welcome thou ice that sitt'st about his heart!
No heat can ever thaw thee.”

It was admitted on all hands that he was remarkably prudent. A single glance of his would have been held to have had a meaning beyond a volume of words in compliments from the impetuous Tom. Whether Horace read the passage or not, he would act upon the Edda's hint:—

“He who would win another's heart
Must his most inner self impart.”

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Indulging in fewer ecstacies, displaying less eloquence in protestations of adoration, he was disposed by nature to love truly and deeply.

“Ah!” said some, “that young man must be courted to be won. He is too bashful to take the initiative. But the proceedings will have to be conducted cautiously, for the timid creature would take fright at too sudden or too violent an avowal.”

But Julia, without intending a conquest, was absolutely attempting it, in the fervour of her gratitude, the romance of her feelings, and the simplicity and purity of her character. Consciously, or unconsciously, she looked at him upon each visit as if he were most welcome—to her. She took a wonderful interest in everybody and everything connected with the young man. She conversed with modest warmth, but still with warmth. She sung and played before him as under some special and pleasing inspiration. She believed he was heaven sent to her, and went the way to make him see that she believed he was.

Strange to say, although Horace was placed in this novel and interesting position, he failed to receive the full advantages thereof. He did not reciprocate the friendship to the like extent. Not that he had the least want of kindness or respect in his feelings toward her; not that he thought her bold or unmaidenly in her advances; nor that he was indifferent to her beauty, or unmindful of her culture. All that he knew was this,—that she, perhaps, thought more seriously

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about him than he cared for her to do, as his own heart was not sufficiently moved.

She might be beginning to be in love with him, when he was not sensible of love to her.

It was an awkward discovery. Though flattering to vanity to perceive another, whom he could not but ever highly esteem, have a preference for his society, and though fancying it quite probable with a little effort he could return such inclinations, his sense of honour would not permit his indulgence of the vanity, nor his reverence for truth sanction the forcing of a sentiment.

Perhaps his high principle was helped in another direction. Somehow he began to suspect that there was a slight tendency on his part to have a preference for the other sister. He never owned this to himself, when speculating upon his duty. Once he almost confessed it to himself, but he immediately withdrew the suggestion. Would it not be as unfortunately inopportune as for Julia to think of him? Was it not quite evident that Annie, in her freedom of manner, her jaunty air, her careless speech to him, cared less about him than even he did for Julia?

Again, could she help perceiving her sister's partiality for him, and hearing her praises of him? Would not this knowledge alone arrest any possible buddings of regard for him, even supposing the buds were forming?

It was exceedingly embarrassing.

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At first he half resolved to speak to his mother about the matter. He had heretofore told her everything. But he could not name this subject. It was so foolish. What right had he to suppose Julia was in love? If she were, was it delicate for him to breathe a word about it, even to his own mother?

He would stay away from Hawthorn Cottage. But to do this, he must not be rude. His absence would excite the suspicions he wished not to arouse. Was it not natural, if somewhat imprudent, for a girl to like the man who had saved her life? Might there, after all, be anything more than a warm demonstration of gratitude, rendered peculiarly glowing by the romantic temperament of the girl? Were he to misinterpret the feeling, and in his egotism treat it as one of love, would he not cover himself with humiliation, and bring blushes of pain to maidenly cheeks?

He did not say there was yet another reason why he should still continue his friendly visits. He saw Annie there. Her conversation interested him.

On the last two or three occasions he had observed her more than usually attentive when he spoke in the family. And when he had turned to her, and, with some extra earnestness, perhaps, had discoursed of books in which he was interested, there was a little softness in her manner, and a subdued look, quite foreign to her usual way. She had voluntarily played tunes for which he had previously expressed a preference.

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Then he half believed that Julia was less demonstrative in her gratitude. She had become used to his presence.

One evening, when returning homeward, he suddenly exclaimed:—

“I do wish Tom were with me when I went to Woodbine Cottage. I must get him to go. He is a good fellow, and deserves a good wife. I do believe Julia and he would just suit one another.”