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"Frank, if I say he does not hate me, it is the extent of all favourable things I can say about the state of his mind towards me. No, he does not love me. It is entirely a betrothal of convenience. Sometimes I look forward to my future life in that great unknown city, which I should dislike under any circumstances, and especially to pass my whole life in with one I do not like, and who does not like me, and I wonder how I shall contrive to exist—I, who love to be in the country, on this dear old homestead, with my fond old father and my tender old nurse, and the coloured folks who love me so well, and where I have so many occupations; and, o' my soul and body! I think how shall I ever put life through in that packed-up city. Sometimes I thinkfor I must have something to occupy my whole soul withthat I will be very gay and worldly, and dress, and visit, and give balls, and go to balls and theatres; but then, again, I reflect that it would be wicked to spend all one's time and attention upon such things. And then I think I shall try to grow serious enough to join a Church, and that I will be a leading member, and a Sunday-school teacher, and a patroness of the Bible Society and of the Missionary Society, and a getter-up of new kinds of benevolent associations and Dorcas circles, and be a committee-woman, and a distributor of tracts, and a collector of subscriptions, and so on. One must do something to fill up the long, long days; one must live somehow, and, upon the whole, I thought this latter plan might do, as it would occupy me entirely, and is not so wicked as the other."
Ah, I don't know that, Zuleime! But, my dearest girl, cease all these troubled thoughts about the future, unnatural to your age, and unwholesome to yourself. This whole cloud must be swept away like a cobweb. He doesn't love youyou don't love him. He has never asked you to marry him you have never promised to do so. It is a mere betrothal of convenience, made by the parents of both for the purpose of keeping family property together, and cementing family interests. Oh, it is all wrong! And there is nothing in it! I will speak to your father. I will enter the lists with this Major Cabell, as a competitor for your hand. In all worldly circumstances, which are ever of the greatest value in a Clifton's estimation-in family, wealth, and social position-I am his peer. Besides, I wear my lady's favour, which he
does not! I will go to your father now and tell him as much; shall I, Zuleime?"
The young lady was busy threading her needle with golden yellow silk, and did not answer. He repeated the question.
"Yes," murmured Zuleime, beginning to embroider the last word of the trio, Faithy, in sunbeam silk. No time was to be lost. He raised her hand to his lips, and darted out upon the lawn to meet old Mr. Clifton, whom he saw approaching the house.
My dear sir!" exclaimed Mr. Fairfax rather excitedly, I have something of the utmost importance to say to you! Will you take a turn with me?"
"My dear sir!" repeated the old gentleman, smiling, “breakfast is ready. Let's go on to the house.' "But, my dear sir, my business is urgent!"
My very dear sir, the coffee is getting cold!" said the old man, laughing at Frank's excitement.
"Mr. Clifton," said the young man gravely and sadly, “immediately after breakfast I must leave here. This, then, is the only opportunity I have or shall have of communicating to you what is on my heart to say, and it really is on my heart."
Say on, then, my dear boy-say on!" exclaimed the benevolent old gentleman. But Frank, now that he had got leave to speak, was struck dumb. He thought it was perfectly easy and simple to ask for Zuleime; but now the request, like Macbeth's amen, stuck in his throat. Come," said the old gentlemen, running his fat arm through Frank's slender one, "give me the support of your arm-for I am not so young and active as you are-and let us take a little walk up the path towards Hardbargain. Perhaps we may meet Archer, and bring him back with us to breakfast. is not at the house, is he?"
No, sir," said Frank, glad to recover the use of his tongue.
"We expect him here to breakfast. We shall probably meet him. Come! Well, now, what is it?” he asked, as they turned their backs on the house.
Frank had plucked up his courage, and now spoke to the purpose.
"Mr. Clifton, as I am going away immediately after breakfast, and as I am to be absent for an indefinite length
of time, I wish before I leave to tell you that which lies upon my heart." Here he paused a little time to collect his thoughts and fine words, while the old gentleman attended with an encouraging expression of countenance. Frank resumed, "Mr. Clifton, I love your daughter Zuleime, and I have come to beg your sanction to our engagement!" As the old man only said, Whew-w-w!" Frank continued, "You know my rank in the army, and my prospect of promotion. You are acquainted with my family, and are aware of their interest and influence in the country. Allow me farther to add that my own private fortune amounts to fifty thousand dollars; and I will settle thirty thousand on my bride. Besides which—”
'Stay, stay, my dear fellow, stay!" interrupted the old man, with a troubled look. "This is all nonsense, now! Zuleime is a child; and you have not known her more than six weeks. Love Zuleime! Pooh, pooh! You young men are so flighty and fickle in your fancies! You get frantic about every new face you see, and think yourselves in love! Pooh, pooh! Now, Frank, my boy, come! let's hear no more of it! It's all nonsense! You young officers are always in love, or fancying yourselves so! I dare say you have been in love with all the daughters of all your commanders, and, Heaven forefend! a little platonically smitten with all their wives, too! Come, I know you! Nonsense. Let's hear no more of it."
"Mr. Clifton, I am no trifler in matters of the affections. I never have been-I never shall be, I hope; and when I tell you, upon my sacred honour, that never in my life have I 'flirted,' as it is called, with a woman-that never in my life have I either loved or addressed the language of love to a woman except Zuleime--you will believe me!"
Oh-h!" exclaimed the old gentleman, with an exceedingly bored look. "It's all folly, all nonsense, I tell you. A sudden fancy; nothing more. Let's drop the subject."
"Mr. Clifton," said the young man gravely and sorrowfully, for he saw that the old gentleman rather evaded than denied or accepted his suit, "I have never, in my whole life, been addicted to taking sudden and evanescent fancies, as you might judge from what I told yon. And when I tell you that I love you daughter Zuleime, I mean that I
love her sincerely and earnestly, with my whole heart and soul, and that I shall love her to the last hour of my life."
"Bah, bah! It's all tomfoolery, I tell you! You get yourself shut up in a country-house with a pretty girl, and of course you fall in love with her. To be sure. What else could you do? It's expected of you. You disappoint us it' you didn't. But it is such love as will not outlast you journey to your regiment."
It will outlast my life. I know it will-I feel it will!`` said Frank earnestly, vehemently.
"Tah, tah! you'll fall desperately in love with the first pretty squaw of the friendly tribes who shall come to bring mocassins to your frontier fort."
"O God!" groaned the young man bitterly, dropping his face into his hands. "There is no way of making a serious impression upon you, and I am going away in two hours!" His tone and manner so affected the really impressible and benevolent old gentleman that he half embraced him with his fat arm, saying
"Now, don't, Frank! Do be a good boy! Don't! Do! It's all folly now; indeed it is. Do! Don't! Now, consider how many pretty girls there are in the world! Don't, Frank! A great deal prettier than my girl. Never fret about her. Do, Frank. Besides, she's so young-a mere school-girl. Only fifteen last Monday. Pooh, pooh! Not to be thought of, you know. Far too young.'
"Sir, I can wait. I only wish your sanction to our engagement. I can wait three or four years, if necessary, or any length of time at all, if I may hope to get her at last!"
"She is too young, I tell you, Frank. Too young to know her own mind. Only fifteen. Ridiculous!"
But, sir, I have heard of gentlemen older and more settled than myself who have actually married girls of fifteen. I only ask an engagement!"
You mean me, you dog! I know you do! I see you do! But, Frank, seriously and solemnly, I wouldn't do so again! And for the very reason that I committed that egregious folly, that bitter wrong against a young girl, I will not suffer anyone else to do the same wrong to my child, if I can help it."
"No, Mr. Clifton, pardon me, but are you not about to
commit a more grievous wrong to your own lovely, gentle child? Have you not-pardon me! pardon me!-but have you not promised her hand where she cannot give her heart ?"
No! Heaven forbid! I promised her to Charley Cabell. She used to like him very well. I did the best I could for her happiness. I have secured it, unless-unless-O my God, Frank!" suddenly exclaimed the old man, in his turn, extremely agitated, and wiping the perspiration from his brow, "I hope, I trust in God you haven't entrapped her affections! Frank! Frank! She is engaged to Major Cabell! I didn't tell you so when you first asked me for her, because-because-for many reasons"- (wiping the streaming perspiration from his brow)" it is, it is disagreeable to remember and to talk about it. But-but she is engaged to Major Cabell; and-and for many reasons, family reasons, it is necessary that the engagement should be fulfilled; unless-unless some inevitable, insurmountable obstacle was to arise and prevent it. Frank! Frank! I am in a great strait-a dire, doleful strait; but sooner than make my girl unhappy, or stand in the way of her perfect happiness, I would, I would die in a jail !—where I may die, where I may die!" Nothing could exceed the force of the emotion that agitated the old man, shaking his huge form, and choking up his utterance.
Mr. Fairfax looked at him with mingled astonishment, wonder, and compassion.
Boy, boy, you haven't entrapped my dear child's heart?" again inquired the old gentleman, trembling with excess of feeling.
Entrapped is not exactly the word, sir,' " said Frank proudly and mournfully. "I learned to love her, and I won her love without designing to do either."
"Lost! lost!" cried Mr. Clifton, dropping his head upon his bosom. He walked on in silence so desponding that Fairfax could not bring himself to intrude upon it. They went on until they suddenly met Major Cabell himself coming down the hill, apparently from Hardbargain.
The major was walking slowly, with his head down, and twirling around his finger a topaz necklace. As soon as he perceived Messrs. Clifton and Fairfax, his forehead flushed, nd he hastily crammed the necklace into his vest-pocket.