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MADAM—The announcement of Mr. Lovell's marriage with my granddaughter, Alice, will probably have surprised you disagreeably. As he has, I find, written by this day's post to communicate it to you, I take the liberty of addressing to you a few lines on the subject. I grieve that myself or any one belonging to me should be the means of causing you grief or annoyance. But, madam, remember who it was that said, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged ; condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.” Obey that injunction now, and visit not the sins of others on an angel of goodness and purity,—the dust of whose feet some whom you cherish in your bosom are not worthy to wipe off. I love you, Mrs. Middleton, and would not willingly give you pain; but do not try me too severely by ill-usage of that child, whom my dying son bequeathed to me, and who is now your brother's wife. As God will judge one day betwixt you and me, be kind to her; her presence and her prayers may sanctify your home, and bring down a blessing on your head. If you are tempted to say in your heart, “Why did this angel of goodness and purity consent to a secret marriage ?-why did this saint, whose prayers are to bring down a blessing on our home, enter our family without our sanction?"—if you are tempted to say this, Mrs. Middleton --yet say it not. Alice has lived alone with her flowers and with her bible. She has never opened a novel; she has never conversed with any one but me, and with him who is now her husband, and that but little. She knows nothing of the world and its customs. She was asked, as Rebecca was asked—“Wilt thou go with this man?” and she said, “I will go.” I told her it was her duty to marry Mr. Lovell, and she married him; and if you should say, Mrs. Middleton, that it was not her duty to marry him, and that I deceived her as well as you-again I say," Judge not, condemn not;" and thus you may escape a fearful judgment-an awful condemnation.'
Is not that letter the very height of cant and impertinence ?' said my aunt, as I laid it down on the table.
It is a strange letter,' I answered; but what she says of Alice I am certain must be true. It tallies exactly with the impression she made upon me, and with what I should have supposed her part to have been in the whole affair.'
But how can her grandmother justify her own conduct to herself, if it is so ?'
"God only knows,' I answered; 'but if you love me, my dearest aunt—if you wish me to be happy—if my supplications have any weight with you
'If they have, Ellen ?'
No, no!' I exclaimed; 'not if-I will not say if they have, for I know they have. I know you love me, and I know that you will do all you can to make Henry happy with Alice. I shall not have a moment's peace if they are not happy.'
' Angel !' said my aunt, as she pressed her lips to my cheek. I drew back with a thrill of horror.
'Never call me an angel-never say that again: I cannot bear it. I am not disclaiming—I am not humble—I am only cowardly. I cannot explain to you everything; indeed, I hardly know if I understand myself, or Henry, or anything; but thus much I do know, that if Alice Tracy has gained his regard-wildly as he talks in that strange letter—if she has a hold on his affections, I shall bless her every day of my life; she will have saved me from inexpressible misery. Oh, my dearest dear aunt, write to Henry, write to Alice today-immediately: do not wait for my uncle's permissionwrite at once.'
I seized on the inkstand, and putting paper and pen before her, I stood by in anxious expectation. She sighed heavily, and then said to me :
'Ellen, will you never again speak openly to me? If you
did not care about Henry, what has made you so wretched lately? Why are your spirits broken ?—why is your cheek pale and your step heavy? You deceive yourself, my child; you love Henry, and it is only excitement that at this moment gives you false strength.'
"Whether I ever have loved Henry,' I replied, 'is a mystery to myself. I think not; indeed I believe I can truly say that I never loved him—though at one moment I fancied that I did ; and if, yesterday, you had come to me and told me that my uncle had consented to my marrying him-nay, that he wished me to do so; had you yourself asked me to marry your brother, I should have refused — yesterday, to-day, always.'
Then you have quarrelled with him,' quickly rejoined Mrs. Middleton; "and this marriage of his is the result of wounded feeling-perhaps of a misunderstanding between you. Poor Henry!'
There was a little irritation in my aunt's manner of saying these last words; and I was on the point of telling her what Henry had proposed and urged upon me in our last interview, and of thus justifying myself from any imputation of having behaved ill to him ; but I instantly felt that this would be unfair and ungenerous, especially at this moment. Besides, was I not in his power, and could I venture to accuse him who held in his hands the secret of my fate ? So again I shut up my heart, and closed my lips to her who loved me with a love which would have made the discovery of that fatal secret almost amount to a deathblow.
She seemed now to understand better my anxiety for the happiness of her brother and of his young wife. She seemed to think that I was conscious of having, in some manner or other, behaved ill to Henry, and driven him to this marriage, and that I was anxious to make all the amends in my power. But when she had drawn the paper before her, and was
beginning to write, she put down her pen, and exclaimed: • But if he does not love her, what induced him to choose her? To make us all wretched !—to inflict upon himself such a connection !- I cannot understand it !'
Again and again she cross-questioned me about Alice, about that one memorable visit of mine to Bridman Manor, about Henry's manner to her, and hers to him. I answered in the way best calculated to remove her prejudices, to allay her anxieties, to encourage her hopes of eventual happiness for Henry. My angry feelings with regard to him had for the time quite subsided; I pitied him from the bottom of my heart, and remembered what he had said of a similarity in our destinies. It seemed to me that he too was bound by some stern necessity, by some secret influence, to work mischief to himself and to others; and it was with intense eagerness that, after Mrs. Middleton had written a kind and soothing letter to him (in which she expressed the hope that when in London, where we were going in three months' time, she should see Alice, whom she was prepared to receive and to love as a sister), I sealed it, and gave it to the servant, who was just setting off for the post-town. She wrote a few lines also to Mrs. Tracy, in which she expressed, in severe terms, her sense of the impropriety, if not of the guilt of her conduct with respect to her own grandchild, as well as with regard to a family whose indignation she could not but feel that she had justly incurred. Her letter to her father she did not communicate to me. Mr. Middleton took little notice of the whole affair. One day that his wife was beginning to discuss the subject before him, he said, 'My dear Mary, there are persons and things about which the less is said the better, and your brother and his marriage are of that number.' Another time, when she remarked to him that I was looking much better, he observed, 'I am glad that she has come to her senses. Now and then there came
letters from Henry to Mrs. Middleton, but she never showed them to me. When I made any inquiries about them, she told me such facts as that he had taken a small house instreet; that he had been with his father once or twice, but that he still refused to see Alice. When I asked if Henry seemed happy, or at least contented, she answered that it had always been difficult to make out his state of mind from what he wrote, and now more so than ever; and then she would abruptly change the subject. My intense curiosity, my still more intense anxiety to hear about them, seemed to give her the idea that, though my pride had been wounded, I still cared for him. Indeed so much of my future peace of mind turned upon the direction which his feelings would take, that my manner was probably well calculated to give this impression. In despair of overcoming it, unable to speak out, too proud to repeat what I saw she did not believe, I shut myself up in that resolute silence, in that systematic reserve, which had now become habitual to me; but I looked forward to our journey to London with nervous anxiety, and saw the time for its approach with a mixture of hope and fear.