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inquiries about health and so on, and a little introductory conversation, and some considerable hesitation, Miss Clifton said, Catherine, I think, I hope that I have succeeded at last in emancipating myself from the degrading slavery of that old love-spell; at least, the dread sense of bereavement and desolation is deadened. . . If I were to see him again, however, I do not know how it might be. . . . Perhaps, though, I shall never see him again. Kate, I have had a proposal for marriage. . . . My cousin, Major Cabell. It was at least generous in him, all things considered. Family feeling, I suppose. Kate, I think of accepting him. We owe something to our position in society. . . . My Aunt Cabell has been talking to me about it for a month past."
Miss Clifton made this communication in a hesitating, disjointed manner; while Catherine looked and listened in grief and astonishment, feeling regret amounting almost to remorse that she had left her friend, enfeebled in mind and body, so long under the influence of a strong-willed, thoroughly worldly-minded woman; and she understood the instinct that had impelled the wavering girl to send for her to steady her; and then athwart these, her purest emotions, swept a dark, burning impulse, like the breath of hell. It was the whisper of the devil, and it said to her, "Agree with her, agree with her! Let her marry another if she wishes, and thus remove the greatest impediment that separates you from the love, the hope of Archer Clifton." Catherine stood for a moment horrified by the darkness of the temptation; but then summoning the whole strength of her soul, she inwardly exclaimed, "Get thee behind me, Satan!” and the devil fled from her.
'You do not answer me, Catherine. My dear girl, I have so much confidence in your rectitude of mind. Advise me.
'Dear Miss Clifton, never, as you value your whole life's peace and rectitude-never, for any purpose whatever, under any temptation whatever-consent to marry a man you do not love; never, as you hope for earthly content, as you trust in God, never put an insurmountable object between yourself and one you love! How criminal to become a wife, while you love another living man! How terrible to find out, when it is too late, that he loves you still! Perhaps from year to year to long for the - Lady, I have no words strong enough
to express to you all that I feel and fear on this subject. Grave faults sometimes follow little errors. I would fain gain your promise not to entertain any gentleman's suit until you have met again with Captain Clifton. You cannot have long to wait. He must return to settle up this estate; and legal business, if nothing else, must bring you together."
"Alas! alas, no! The affairs of this property will be settled by his attorney. Kate, I am very miserable!"
"Dear lady, I know it. Do not, when tempted by hopelessness, do that which you may regret all your life—that which may shut out the possibility of happiness for ever! wish I could go to Richmond with you.
Oh, I wish you could! I think that you could save me from danger, Kate."
"I think you want an honest friend near you, Miss Clifton; but one thing you can do-you can resolve not to form any matrimonial engagement until you have again met with Captain Clifton, and you can bind your resolution by a promise. Promise me, dear lady, by the interest I take in you, to hold yourself free from entanglements until you see your cousin.
"Kate! yes, I solemnly promise you, by all I hold sacred, that I will do as you advise in this matter; and, Kate, enfeebled as I am, or may become, in mind or body, I cannot break my pledged word. Good girl, you have saved me again! O Kate! Kate! do you think I don't know the full extent of your disinterestedness? O Kate! noble girl! God reward you!"
Catherine began to tremble so violently that Miss Clifton threw her arms around her, and pressed her to her bosom, whispering, Never fear, dear girl, sweet girl! I will not breathe another word. I would as soon sacrilegiously snatch the veil from the sanctuary as breathe another word about it !"
When Catherine reached home in the afternoon, she found a message waiting her, from Mrs. Clifton of Hardbargain. She went up immediately to the farmhouse, and found that lady looking very happy.
Catherine, my dear, sit down. I have good news. have just received a letter from Archer. He will be in Rich
mond in four days from this; but his duties are such that he will not be able to leave Richmond for some weeks. He
begs me to meet him there. He has been promoted, Kate! He is now Major Clifton, and has been appointed aide-de-camp to the Governor!"
"I am rejoiced to hear it, madam," replied Kate calmly, though her heart stood still with the suddenness of this news. You will send over and inform Miss Clifton-will you not, madam ?"
"No, I think not, Catherine. Why excite and disturb her on the eve of a journey? Besides, Catherine, I have many misgivings! This long persistence in silence-his never mentioning her name in any of his few letters to me; his never replying to the letter I wrote upon the subjectall this is foreboding! I must not meddle farther in this affair until I have seen my son, and can judge his state of mind in regard to it! But, Catherine, my dear, I sent for you for this: I am going to Richmond on Tuesday, for the purpose of spending some weeks near my son. I need a female companion, and I have your grandfather's and your brother's consent for you to accompany me; that is, if you are willing. Will you go with me, Kate?"
I shall be very glad to do so, indeed, Mrs. Clifton," said the young girl.
"Then return home at once, Kate, and prepare for the journey. You will have a great deal to do, to make things comfortable for your grandfather and brother during your absence, and to get yourself ready for your city visit.
IN THE CITY.
ON her arrival at Richmond, Mrs. Clifton engaged for herself and Catherine two rooms-a chamber with two beds, and a neat adjoining parlour-in a quiet, retired boardinghouse.
Miss Clifton was the guest of Mrs. Cabell, in the most fashionable quarter of the city. Captain Clifton had not yet arrived, but was daily expected. Richmond was in the
commencement of the fashionable season, and was already quite full of gay company. Every evening witnessed some one or two grand balls, or great private parties. The theatres and the concert-rooms were in full operation. But no faint echo of all these various forms of revelry came to the sequestered neighbourhood that Mrs. Clifton had chosen for her retreat; no news of the fashionable world reached her, except constant bulletins of Mrs. Georgia Clifton's progress through society. She was one of those city celebrities whose sayings and doings are the exciting topic of all classes. Where she went, and what she wore, and when she rode out-whom she cut directly, whom she smiled upon, whom she slighted, and whom she received-were the most interesting subjects of discussion. The Belle of the Rappahannock, the Dark Ladye, the Gipsy Beauty, were some of the many names she had won. All these matters were freely and lightly commented upon in Mrs. Clifton's presence by gentlemen boarders, who knew nothing whatever of that lady's connexion with the reigning toast of Richmond. Mrs. Clifton rested two days before calling upon Mrs. Cabell and her family. Miss Clifton expressed almost as much surprise as pleasure at the sight of her aunt, but forebore to question her motive in coming so suddenly to the city; perhaps Carolyn had heard a rumour of Major Clifton's preferment and expected arrival, and for that reason was silent. Mrs. Clifton never named the subject during her informal call. At taking leave, she left her address, and informed her niece that Katc Kavanagh was in town with her. Carolyn expressed much pleasure at hearing this, and promised to call very soon. The very next day Mrs. Cabell came in her carriage, and invited and urged Mrs. Clifton and her protégée to return with her, and make her house their home during their sojourn in Richmond. After some hesitation and reflection, Mrs. Clifton accepted the invitation, and promised to go over the next day. The next morning, therefore, Mrs. Cabell sent her carriage to convey Mrs. Clifton and Catherine. They were received by Mrs. Cabell with great politeness and empressement, and conducted by that lady herself into two large and luxuriously-furnished chambers, connected with each other, where they found a neat, pretty mulatto girl, ready to wait upon them; for Mrs. Cabell, with all her hard worldliness, was truly kind and hospitable.
The evening of the succeeding day was the appointed time for the Governor's first reception. Mrs. Cabell and her family were going, of course; and Mrs. Clifton resolved to go-not for her own sake, but for that of Catherine, whom she had determined should see all that was to be seen during her stay in the metropolis. A somewhat haughty surprise elevated the handsome black eyebrows of Mrs. Cabell, when she found that Mrs. Clifton intended to take her demoiselle du compagnie, but she was far too well bred to express it in any other manner; and as for Mrs. Clifton, she always did whatever she thought proper to do in the coolest, calmest, most matter-of-course manner, without the slightest regard to other people's weaknesses and follies. You know, besides, that she was a thorough republican. And Mrs. Cabell remembered that the public reception at the gubernatorial mansion was a sort of omnium gatherum, where all who behaved themselves might come from the oldest majorgeneral of the army to the shoemaker who made his boots; and again, no one in Richmond knew who the girl really was. All these things had Mrs. Cabell to recall to mind before she could reconcile herself to the idea of Kate's being of the party.
When the night and the hour arrived, several gentlemen, beaux of the Misses Cabell, came to escort the ladies, Major Cabell attended his cousin Carolyn and one of his sisters. Judge Cabell took charge of his wife and eldest daughter. Mrs. Clifton had hoped that her son would have reached the city in time to have escorted herself and Catherine. When they were all assembled in the parlour, Major Cabell brought a gentleman up to Mrs. Clifton, whom he presented as Colonel Conyers, of the army, leaving to Mrs. Clifton the responsibility of presenting the aristocrat to the plebeian Kate. Mrs. Clifton did it at once, in the most natural way in the world; and the gallant colonel, after a few compliments, hoped to have the honour of waiting upon Mrs. Clifton and her "lovely charge" to the Mansion House. Mrs. Clifton gratefully accepted his services, and soon after they entered the carriage, and were driven off. This party reached their destination a full half hour before Mrs. Cabell and family, and other ultra-fashionables, who fancied that it was vulgar to go early, and imagined that their ton depended upon late hours and other observances.