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It was midsummer, and my brother Hermann had arrived, bringing with him his beautiful wife, and her pretty Lena Illeota, a little girl of some four summers, who seemed equally attached to her mamma and her nurse Chloe. My brother had espoused an interesting widow, whose husband had died a few months previous to the birth of this her only child. I think our parents were as much pleased with their daughter as we with our sister-in-law. Great attention was shown her--we had frequent guests, invitations were constantly received, and parties made. But of these, Rose and I knew little, we were kept close to our studies, and rarely had a holiday.
The first of these I should have forgotten, but for a few sentences that fell from unguarded lips-giving me a lightuing glance into a mystery about which I had never dared to question. This was an entering-wedge which no after prudence, no future precaution, could ever withdraw—there it remained intact-so neither could any amount of hạmmering or delving of mind advance it a hair's breadth.
That day our house had been filled with guests. All the rooms had been opened and the family pictures uncovered.
Now all the guests were gone, and a grateful hush had fallen upon the whole house. I sat alone in the embrasure of a window-a circumstance for which I could in no way account—the heavy drapery had fallen, concealing me from the inner view, and I was looking with a half sad but all-loving soul upon the quiet garden, the great trees silvered with the moon's pale light, listening to the soft murmuring of a fountain, and to the far-off liquid note of the night-bird which clove the odorous air.
I had, for some moments, been aware of gently spoken words within the room, but not of their import. A name spoken gave me a startling consciousness.
"I am all too sad, mother, looking upon that beautiful picture—so lovely, so life-like, so like aunt Engel—for I cannot hide from myself the remembrance of her happiness blighted, her wealth wasted for any good purpose it ever served her or us."
“ Nay, not wasted, my son, since her wealth secured the happiness or comfort, at least, of suffering innocence."
" True, my mother, but I must believe she died for one who was not worthy to touch the dust beneath her feet.”
“ If so, she has exchanged a crown of thorns for a crown of glory.”
“ Still must we lament her loss. Beautiful, gentle, gifted, and with such a wealth of love in that great and noble heart, which broke
“ Cease, cease, my son. You must think of Engel as she was in the days of her brightest happiness on earth, or as she is now, in heaven. As I now look on that sweet face, which seems to smile down upon us with her own still, serene smile, I can almost believe it is our own Engel come back to us in all her glorious beauty. Thus, oh thus our Engel looked oa that fatal morning of her bridal — ".
The drapery rustled ; for in my eagerness, I had thrust it aside, and my face, white as my dress, was distinctly brought to view. My mother turned with a frightened look, exclaiming
“Bless me, child, how is it possible you are thus lingering here alone ?
But my brother whispered, “Give yourself no unrest, dear mother, Minnie was, doubtless, wrapt in one of her poetic reveries, and has heard nothing."
My mother's fears were not so easily quieted, her face still wore signs of emotion, as she took up the small silver bell and rang to summon our attendant. Meta came quickly.
“Go up with Miss Minnie to her chamber. I think it is past her usual bed-time. Enquire if Miss Standish wishes for anything, and then, Meta, as you must be tired, you need not wait up longer.”
Then with a kiss for one and a good night for the other, both Meta and I were dismissed, neither of us receiving a reproof, and perhaps neither deserved one, though we had unwittingly brought a pang to the heart that loved us.
But with me present thoughts and awakened memories were all too busy for sleep. I had a vague and fleeting remembrance of the time when aunt Engel looked as there in her picture, beautiful in her heart-born happiness, with a queenly glory falling about her statue-like person. When our elders called her Sophie and our people Miss Sophie or Miss Engelborg, and not unfrequently, the lady Engelborga ; and then I could but dimly remember that a change came, I knew not how or why, when all her glowing happiness was gone, she was tranquil, serene and loving still; and, ah, I remembered from this, she was always called Engel, and our Engel.
And truly, for the aura of her angelic spirit pervaded my father's house.
Could it be that Monica had it in her power to reveal to me any part of this mystery? Of which the longing to know fevered my day-dreams, and oftimes, banished sleep; but if so, how should I dare to ask of Monica what my mother had thought wiser to withhold ? Then I rose, and dipping a napkin into the basin of water, cooled my hands and brow, and fell asleep.
The rapidly succeeding events in which I was allowed slightly to participate, added to the steady pressure of my studies, drove for the time this harassing thought from my mind. * * * And so we were all going to spend the day at Umberhurst ! Aunt Frances had been explicit in her note of invitation that Rose and Minnie should come, to visit with Fan and Belle. This aunt was my mamma's only
sister, and living at Umberhurst, her husband's paternal estate, lying some half-dozen miles from Glenelvan.
Greatly to the joy of some portion of our household, a Mr. Sterling, a warm friend of my brother Hermann, and also of sister Mildred, arrived by boat from the city. I could not but hazard a guess, mentally be it understood, that Mr. James Geoffrey Sterling had some previous intimation of thə anticipated visit on that particular day.
Immediately after breakfast, then, our whole party were ready to set out. Edgar was at home now, and as mamma proposed to take Miss Standish with us, the family carriage would be full, my brother Hermann, his wife and her little Lena Illeota, drove over in the open curricle, well pleased to have an entire carriage to themselves.
Mr. Stirling and sister Mildred, galloped past us, splendidly mounted, for my father's saddle-horses, the " greys,” were scarcely equaled, certainly not surpassed, in all the country side.
Mildred was smiling brightly, as with her companion they dashed past us ; her rich riding-habit, the skirt of which nearly swept the ground, was of sober green cloth, and buttoned from the waist to the throat with studs of jet, set in pure gold, a standing collar over which fell a neat frill of Mecklin lace, a few soft ringlets of her abundant hair flowed down from beneath her glossy beaver, whose sable plumes nearly kissed the overarching boughs as they, with prancing steeds wound round the smooth slopes of this woodland road. I had never seen our Mildred looking lovelier.
The morning was of surpassing loveliness. The heavy dews of the previous night lay in countless diamonds on the thick, rustling foliage, shaded here and there by towering evergreens, through which the sunshine broke in patches of golden sheen.
The broad and massive gate, opening from the highroad to the Umberhurst avenues, was held back by a young and sable servitor and as we swept around the noble carriage
a high that the
drive-its overarching trees, its "dim religious light," its cool and fragrant atmosphere, seemed, to the wrapt fancy, but an immense cathedral aisle, and the plaintive note of the coy wood-bird, the choral symphonies.
With something of awe mingled with her transport, Miss Standish exclaimed
“Oh! how very like this is to some of our lovely English parks at home. Only the mansion, of which I have just a glimpse, has a more cheerful aspect.”
The first view was of a very large, substantial-looking house, of a soft cream color, gleaming through the noble trees, most like a fairy palace. A nearer view showed this to be real, and, also, that the mansion was very tastefully finished, with a high verandah from the second floor, out upon which those elegant chambers opened ; a handsome piazza in front, around the massive white columns of which some choice vines were clinging ; then, on either side, and receding, were the wings of the house, and of the same color and finished with bright green venetian blinds.
It had a look of freshness, of new young life, abounding with evidences of feminine taste. Indeed, it was well known that aunt Frances had suggested and designed all the ornamental architecture, the house at Umberhurst having been originally a well built, substantial, but plain one, suited to the simple tastes, and supplying all the comforts known to its early builders. With these later improvements it was an elegant and very desirable dwelling.
Just as Miss Standish had ceased speaking, a pair of white kids left their dam and scrambled upon the rocks, uttering their querrilous plaint of ma-a-a-a. Rose, laughing, said, these were hints to a Greek mythology.
Papa made a playful rejoinder—something about the goat Jove sucked-of sympathies and associations, of majesty and power, descending through such a long line of ancestors ; but so eager was I peeping through the flowering shrubs, to catch the first glimpse of Fan and Belle, that I could not