It often happens that a proud, austere
person, so grounded in opinions and prejudices as
to be considered above and beyond ordinary influences,
will all at once, give heart and reason up to passionate
or capricious fondness for some individual often
a very child and yield everything to persuasion
when reason is utterly rejected.
Indeed, few people like to be convinced;
but the strongest mind ever bestowed on man or woman
finds something gratifying to self-love in the persuasive
enticements of affection.
This singular moral phenomenon astonished
the neighbors and household of Lady Carset when she
gave herself up, with the abandon of a child, to the
caressing young creature, who had, it seemed, appeared
in her home to win her back from the very brink of
the grave, and make the sunset of her long life brighter
with love than the dawn had been.
There was nothing in the young girl
which did not seem beautiful to the old relative.
Her originality, which made the well-trained servants
stare, seemed the perfection of piquant grace to one
whose fastidious tastes had been an example to the
whole neighborhood. In her estimation Lady Clara
could do nothing which was not in itself loveliest
and best. The old lady had been so long without
an object of affection, that her love of this girl
became almost a monomania.
“I have an atonement to make,”
she would say to herself in excuse for this extraordinary
and most pleasant subjugation; “for years and
years I have driven this young creature from me because
of what, I am almost convinced, were unfounded suspicions
against her father and that woman. It is but
just that I should accept my grandchild with generous
confidence; and she deserves it she deserves
After reasoning in this fashion awhile
the repentant old lady would rack her brain for some
new device by which this bright creature, who had
come like a sunbeam into her house, might be persuaded
never to leave it again. It was not altogether
the selfishness of affection that actuated this honorable
woman. It was hard to believe that a Carset could
have acted unjustly, or even be mistaken; but, once
convinced of that, her very pride insisted on a generous
atonement. Never in her life had she been so
humiliated as when the sight of those diamonds convinced
her of the cruel charge which she had maintained for
years against a person innocent of the offence imputed
to her. She remembered, with compunction, how
much harm she had done this woman, whose greatest fault
now seemed to be that Lord Hope had married her.
Her own example had sufficed to exclude
Lady Hope from the society to which her husband’s
rank entitled her, and her open expressions of dislike
had cast a ban upon the stepmother, which had, to an
extent, reacted on her own grandchild.
These thoughts troubled the proud
old peeress a long time before she gave them expression;
but, one day, Clara sat by her, looking a little sad,
for, now that the excitement of her first coming was
over, she began to think of Hepworth Closs to
wonder where he was, and yearn for some news of him
to a degree that clouded her whole bright being like
a feeling of homesickness.
“Poor child!” thought
the old lady, while her soft, brown eyes dwelt upon
that downcast face, as it bent over a piece of embroidery
in which a cactus-flower formed the chief central
glory; “how weary and troubled she looks!
No wonder, poor thing! half her time is spent here
with a stupid old woman, shut up so long from the
world that she is but dull company for any one.
I wonder if the thing which is upon my mind would
really make her happy?”
The girl started. She had been
so lost in thought that those bright eyes had been
watching her some minutes, while she unconsciously
pursued her work, and indulged in a reverie which
was shadowed upon her features.
“Clara, you have not told me much about your
“But I think of her; I was thinking
of her then. Indeed, indeed, grandmamma, I always
must love mamma Rachael, for she has been everything
that is good and kind to me I only wish
you could understand how kind. If I know anything
it is because she taught me.”
“Among other things, perhaps
she taught you to hate that cruel old Lady Carset,”
said the countess, a little suspiciously.
“No, grandmamma, no. She
never said anything to make me dislike you; but I
did it was terribly wicked; but how could
I help it, loving her so, and knowing that it was
you that stood in the way of all she most desired
in life? Remember, grandmamma, I had never seen
you, and I loved her dearly. It was hard to see
her overlooked and put down by people who were not
fit to buckle her shoes, all because you would not
“And you will always love her
better than the cruel old lady?”
“Cruel! How can you?
There never was a sweeter, kinder, or more lovely
old darling in the world than you are! but then she
is good, too, and so unhappy at times, it almost breaks
my heart to look in her face.”
“And you think I have made her so?”
“I think you might make her very happy, if you
only would, grandmamma.”
“Would that make you happy, little one?”
The old lady reached out her little,
withered hand, and patted Clara’s fingers, as
they paused in her work, while she spoke. The
girl’s face brightened. She seized the
little hand between her rosy palms, and pressed it
to her lips.
“Oh, grandmamma! can you mean it?”
“I always mean to be just, Clara.”
“Then you will be very, very kind to her?”
“Does your father love this woman?”
“Love her? Oh, yes! but
this thing has come a little between them. She
has grown shy of going out, while he must be in the
world; and all her life seems to vanish when he is
away. Sometimes it makes my heart ache to think
how much she loves him.”
“But he loves you?”
“Almost as much as mamma Rachael
does. He was never cross to me but once.”
Clara turned pale, and took up her needle.
“I would rather not talk about
that just now. You might be more angry than my
“It would be very difficult for me to get angry
with you, little one.”
“But you would, if I were to
be very obstinate, and insist on having my own way
about about something that that ”
The old lady’s face grew very
serious. She understood, these signs, and they
troubled her; but she was feeble, and shrank from any
knowledge that would bring excitement with it.
“Some day we will talk of all
that,” she said, with a little weary closing
of the eyes.
Clara drew a deep breath. See
had been on the verge of making a confidante of the
old lady, and felt a sense of relief when the subject
was thus evaded.
The countess opened her eyes again.
“Clara,” she said, “bring
my writing-table here. We will not trouble ourselves
to ring for Judson.”
Clara dropped her embroidery, and
brought the sofa-table, with all its exquisite appointments
for writing. The old lady sat upright on her
couch, took the pen, and began to write on the creamy
note-paper her grandchild had placed before her.
Clara watched that slender hand as it glided across
the paper, leaving delicate, upright letters perfect
as an engraving, as it moved. When the paper
was covered, she folded the missive with dainty precision,
selected an envelope, on which her coronet was entangled
in a monogram, and was about to seal it with a ring,
which she took from her finger; but recollecting herself,
she drew the letter out, and handed it to Clara, with
a smile that kindled her whole face.
Clara read the letter, threw her arms
around the old lady, and covered her faces with kisses.
“Oh, grandmamma, you are too
good! Do you do you really mean it?
Ah, this is happiness!”
“You shall help me make out
the invitations. There was a time when Houghton
had no empty chambers. It will go hard, my dear,
if we cannot find entertainment for your father and
the lady he has married. On that day, Clara,
I will present you to the world as my grandchild and
“Not yet! oh, not yet! Wait till you know
more of me.”
“Hush! hush! This is not
my only object. If I have wronged your stepmother,
or neglected your father, the whole country shall see
that a Carset knows how to make reparation. Lady
Hope, too, shall be presented to my friends as an
honored guest. This entertainment will be my last,
but they shall find that the old countess knows how
to receive her guests.”
“Grandmother, you are an an .
You are just the sweetest old lady that ever drew
breath! If you were to live a thousand years,
I should love you better and better every day!
To see you and Lady Hope together will be splendid!
And they are to stay at Houghton a month. By that
time you will love each other dearly.”
Clara took up her work again, but
the needle flashed like a thread of lightning in her
unsteady fingers. She could not work after this
The old lady smiled blandly, and sank
down among her cushions, exhausted.
“Go out and take a walk in the
park,” she said, observing that Clara was fluttering
over her embroidery like a bird in its cage. “It
will do you good, and I will try to sleep a little.”