previous
next

Chapter XXI. Horace and Annie.

AND how did the other couple get on?

Quite satisfactory to the couple themselves. As Tom and his lady were educating each other, so it


  ― 176 ―
may be assumed that a similar process was going on elsewhere.

And yet there was no besieging in due form. No parallels of approach were made under cover, and there was no attempt at undermining. For all that, it could not be said there was submission before approach, a treaty without knowledge, an amity without sympathy.

Neither tried to gain the other, nor assumed the defensive against supposed attack. They met on equal terms, for the lady was perfectly competent to take care of herself.

Horace was too sensitive to make a hasty advance, and too conscientious to play the lover at once. To his own surprise, he was not long in making up his own mind, but he would not presume upon the girl's readiness in settling the question. He was not so obtuse as to be unconscious of the favourable impression he had made, but not so vain as to believe his merits had induced an unconditional surrender.

His hopes were flattered sometimes in the softness of her manner, but occasionally checked by a play of sarcasm, or a chilling jauntiness of expression. He was not insensible to the uncertainty of her disposition, and felt both anxious and pained at displays of apparent heartlessness. Yet, as he witnessed a gradual development of other characteristics, he began to fancy his fears were groundless; and that, beneath


  ― 177 ―
the frivolity, there lay the strength and sincerity of lofty and impassioned sentiments.

The very sprightliness of her conversation was charming to him, and drew him unconsciously from his bashful reserve. Under the inspiration of this brightness, he talked better than he had ever done before, and his eyes kindled with enthusiasm as he spoke. Even her raillery called forth a wit of which he had no previous conviction, and a warmth to which he had been a stranger.

Annie had not been violently smitten by the young man. There was nothing formidable about him to put her on her guard. On the contrary, while admitting his sense as well as his goodness, she viewed him as a harmless personage, with whom she could practise a few quiet jokes, and from whom obtain pleasantly some useful information. She had not sought him as a lover.

So, again, she had no right to think he had been violently smitten by her. There was no evidence of the excitement in the calmness and gentleness of his demeanour. He had certainly never breathed a word of love, and was unusually chary, as a young man, of his compliments. He talked sensibly, fluently, and agreeably, but nothing more. If pleased with her society, that was but natural, she thought, in any young fellow with one of the opposite sex.

And yet, there was a something about his ways and speech that made her, in spite of herself, a listener,


  ― 178 ―
and a well-pleased listener. It was not that he spoke of himself or of her.

She was, at length, positively sensible that she was losing her high-toned hilarity, and becoming almost thoughtful, if, not serious. She listened to his discourses so long, and so attentively, that she began to feel under some mesmeric influence. This was more than her dignity could bear. She resented the impulse; and threw off jokes, and hazarded absurdities of manner, in the vain attempt to assert her independence of any of Julia's sort of sentimentality.

The effort, however, was not satisfactory. She did not please herself by it after all, and she saw that such hasty remarks brought a perceptible cloud over her companion. What right had she to give pain to any human being, and, especially, to one who tried to amuse and instruct her? He was not one of the ordinary young fellows, upon whose rhinoceros-skin she could inflict her witticisms without injury.

Somewhat ashamed of her rudeness and unkindness, she gave better heed to his conversation, and played a more amiable part in his society.

She proceeded further. He had endeavoured profitably and pleasantly to make an hour pass; should she not do her part in return? If he knew more of literature and science than she, it was in her power to please with music.

Then she discovered that her listener had more interest in one style of composition than another.


  ― 179 ―
Why should she not, therefore, play that? But this was of the emotional character, breathed in the notes of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Mozart. Her listener was pleased. He was even moved. Should she not continue, and even play with more expression?

But music is educational, and this order of music had its own peculiar lessons. It pleased him—it moved him. But it also pleased her more than it had ever done before. This, though, might be owing to her having for the first time so appreciative a listener. It was flattering to her power to please. Then, if one so much more thoughtful and studious than she was so charmed with those tunes, there must be something in them.

So she played that music to herself, and when no one was in the room with her. And she was astonished at the singular beauty of the passages, and began to appreciate the more the taste of the young man. What a true and delicate perception he must have!

And the music entered into the chambers of her soul, and awoke with its echoes such feeling as softened the maiden's heart, and brought a moisture to her eyes and a tremble upon her lip.

Was it wonderful that she should identify Horace, the listener, with such music? And if she did, with blushing haste, put aside the thought, was it wonderful that she should fancy the young man might feel as she did under the inspiration of such chords?

Then, in her pauses at the piano, she could no


  ― 180 ―
help calling to mind some sentences of his,—some quotation from a poet, some poetical thought of his own, and all, somehow or other, associated with this particular style of music, and those particular suggested sentiments in her own breast.

If, therefore, as his calls continued, she took an increased interest in him, because of her increased interest in that style of music, was it not perfectly natural, and in agreement with the philosophical Laws of Mind?

And if he were drawn a little nearer to her in confidence, felt more pleasure in her company, perceived new beauties in her, and believed her at last to be necessary to his happiness, was not that perfectly natural, and in strict agreement with the philosophical Laws of Mind?

Farther still;—if, in the course of time, by accident or design, the individual sentiment of interest and attachment became mutually known, recognised, and declared, so that the two young persons became accepted lovers, was not that, also, perfectly natural, and equally agreeable to these said immutable Laws of Mind?

It had been so before, and with others; why not then, and with them?

previous
next