Chapter XIX. Love's Cross Purposes.

TOM was introduced to the family. He was no stranger for all that. In a settlement of a few thousand people all are neighbours more or less, and all know something of everybody there.

He was in his usual rollicking vein, and placed himself at once at perfect ease. A contest of wit arose between him and Annie, affording great amusement to the rest. The young lady was so unmerciful in her attacks, that her mother interposed more than once with a hint of propriety. But Tom exulted in the battle, and dealt return blows with animation and vigour.

As usual, both sides claimed the victory. But what effect had the discussion on them and others?

  ― 160 ―

Though the two were so singularly alike, though each answered the ideal of the other, they both failed to see that they were halves needing but union to make a perfect whole. To his friend's description of the two ladies, Tom had cried out, ‘Annie's the girl for me,’ to the annoyance of Horace. Now he would have said, ‘She is a jolly girl, but not the girl for me.’

Annie was not smitten with him as she expected she would have been. She liked his person, she liked his fun, she liked his candour; but there was a something that rather repelled than attracted. He would be famous at a pic-nic, but not for a party indoors. He would be a merry companion for a walk, but not the mate for her.

Horace had watched the encounter with much interest. It was a hazardous experiment upon which he had entered. What if the young fellow should have been drawn to the one he thought he preferred himself! And what if the lady should have greeted Tom with marks of approval not obvious on her part toward himself! At any rate, that result, although unfortunate, he thought, would relieve him from present doubt and anxiety. If Annie were taken with Tom, it was clear that his own supposed predilections must be retired. It would not only be proof that the door was closed to himself, but that she would be wanting in those special sympathies indispensable in one to be his wife. When first favouring her, it must have been from his defective observation. He could

  ― 161 ―
not possibly have regarded her with that sagacity which was essential to so delicate an investigation, or he would have known that the exterior some way blinded him to the revelation of her soul, her inner life, with which alone his association must be formed.

He even began to think that after all there might be found in Julia not only charms of person, but resources of mind, and deep springs of feeling, unpossessed by the sprightlier Annie. Even if Julia had recognized in him the mateship essential to love before he had caught the same conception, might it not arise from her superior insight into the human heart? And might not there be the certainty of his ultimate, though tardier, discovery of the pleasing and absolute fitness of each to the other? His spirit of rectitude was aroused. He would, at any rate, suspend his judgment, and watch Annie and himself.

But the lively intercourse between the combatants had shown Horace two things:—First, that the parties then in battle arrayed were not likely to be so smitten as he had once supposed; and, second, that Annie had developed before him in such a manner, not to be analysed or weighed, that his susceptibilities were rather strengthened, and his tenderness more than ever stirred. In proportion as he saw she was not the one for Tom, he was learning how much she seemed the one for him.

Then as to the quiet Julia. Some change had been silently passing in her mind. Her romantic feelings

  ― 162 ―
toward Horace had yielded to time, as well as being modified by the mode of their reception. The gentleman was not cool and insensible, but was not romantically disposed to think destiny had thrown them together for ever. Tom, on the other hand, though so utterly unlike the dreams of the dreamer, became suddenly an object of awakened interest. It was a new sensation. His very dissimilarity to the ideal of her morbid imagination produced a fresh thought, and developed new emotions.

Unconsciously she revealed the other side of her nature. The practical, the vivid, the present were personified in the young man. There was a joyousness about him which raised her own depression of spirits. There was a freshness which put to flight her own moodiness. She instinctively realized the fact that the complement of her being was before her,—that such a man, even though not he, was essential for the completion of her happiness.

Tom and she had a few words, only a few, in the garden stroll. But in the brief interval he was unusually impressed. He was driven out of his extreme jollity and audacity by her quietness and gentleness; but he gained so careful and sympathizing a listener, and so liked the still depth of her soft blue eye, that he positively frowned at the interruption to the walk.

But it was while those two apparently opposite characters were having that conference without, that Horace and Annie fell into chat within doors. The

  ― 163 ―
lady felt she was not put upon her mettle, and had no self dignity to assert. The quieter talk was a relief to the discussion in which she had been engaged. She had a different auditor, and one willing to be pleased. She saw something different to herself, and understood that there could be found in this gentleman a nameless something with which a higher, tenderer, but somewhat slighted sentiment of her nature might sympathise. With her rapid perception of character, and the innate womanly, intuitive discernment of feeling, there gradually arose in her mind a consciousness that, if not he, such as he, would make a better husband for her than what she had previously calculated.

Thus it was—that, without the general revelation of the state of affairs—each of the four got a conviction of the sort of partner desirable, with the association of an individual along with that theory.

On returning from the call, the two young men were ready enough to say they had been pleased, but were not candid enough to express their particular opinions of the particular ladies. If anything, Tom talked more of Annie, and Horace of Julia. The excellences of the other's charmer were thus portrayed.

The tenants of the cottage were not less prompt to declare the time an agreeable one, and not less reticent in referring to their selected favourite. Annie loudly praised Tom's spirit and good humour, while Julia advanced a word in approval of the other.

  ― 164 ―

‘Of course, my dear,’ said the smarter sister, ‘you must be grateful to your delivering angel.’

‘Certainly, I am,’ was the reply.

‘But you will admit that he is rather slow. Yet that suits you, I know. It must be so nice for you two sentimental souls,—for I feel sure he is one of those queer beings,—to sit and sigh together over the wrongs of some injured beauty, or to delight in the poetic resemblance of a tin pannican to a sweet impulse of the interior sense.’

‘O, do stop your silly nonsense, Annie. If you are satisfied with your life in the external, don't ridicule hose who look deeper than you.’

‘So, so, my prophetess. I did not seek to rob you of your admirer. You saw my devotion to Mr Tom Turner.’

‘I witnessed your rudeness to him, and felt for the young man.’

‘Indeed! Was the feeling an interior one? For, if so, I may have to abandon the chosen of my heart, and take up with your forsaken though but newly elected one.’

‘Annie! do not be so absurd. Mr Horace is a very excellent young man, whom I highly esteem, and to whom I shall be ever most grateful; but he has never paid me particular attentions, and has neither been an elected nor a forsaken one of mine.’

‘Beg pardon, sister dear. Calm yourself. It is not proper for a philosopher to display perturbation.

  ― 165 ―
I can solemnly promise you that I have no intention to run away with either of the gentlemen. As an evidence of my disinterestedness, I now frankly make you an offer of either, and will engage to padlock my heart against his intrusion.’

‘Ah! Annie, how often I have entreated of you not to indulge in such trifling talk. You are so giddy, that I often tremble for your future.’

‘And you, my darling mentor, are so grave, that nothing short of an undertaker will suit you for a husband.’

This closed the conversation rather abruptly. The case was carried up to a higher court. Mamma was interrogated as to her notions of the same.

‘My dears!’ said she, ‘there is such a difference in your temperaments, your modes of thought, your way of looking at a thing, that you must expect to have variety of view about such a person as a husband.’

‘O, mamma dear! pray don't,’ ejaculated Annie. ‘Do not enter upon so abstruse a disquisition. The selection of a husband is one about which there is a deal of preaching, but which appears such a lottery to me, that I would fain decide it with the toss of a shilling.’

‘For shame, Annie!’ said her sister. ‘How could you grieve mamma with such a silly speech!’

‘Bless her dear heart!’ quoth the other, ‘She knows I love her too well to give her a moment's

  ― 166 ―
pain. She lets me rattle on at my own pace—don't you, dear?’

With this she drew her mother toward her, gave her a tender kiss, and smoothed down her hair.

What could a parent do with such a child! She folded her arms around her, and fondled over the prattler of nonsense.

‘Indeed, mamma! you spoil that girl,’ said Julia, almost in anger. ‘You may be making a rod for your own back.’

‘Then I'll come and kiss the place to make it well,’ the wilful sister said.

‘My children!’ now spoke the mother. ‘Bear with one another. Different as you may appear to each other, you are the same in my eyes. I know you are both truthful and loving. I may at times have fears from, Annie, your vivacity, and from, Julia, your morbidity. But I can see honest principle under the gaiety of one, and cheerful tenderness beneath the sombreness of the other. You are both affectionate daughters, and dutiful in your service to the Good One.’

The sisters tenderly embraced, and laughed away any lingering doubt of each other.