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"I know how to play anything you wish me to play, my love-even the fool!"
Oh! the latter is not so rare or difficult an accomplishment," laughed the maiden, taking her seat, and beginning to arrange the chess-men. Frank sat down, and they commenced the game in earnest.
All this time the old gentleman, with his white head and rosy face, and kind smile and glance, had been walking leisurely up and down the floor slowly, rubbing his hands with an air of great enjoyment-pausing now by the work-table at which sat his beautiful wife, and gazing on her fondly while he toyed with the elegant trifles of her work-box-then sauntering off towards the chess-table, and patting the head of his little black-headed darling"- -as he called Zuleimepassing a jest with Frank as he overlooked the game, until the boy came from the post-office somewhat late; when, taking the paper, he went and ensconced himself in an easy-chair on the opposite side of his wife's work-table, and was soon busied in the perusal of the debate on Mr. Jefferson's bill for cutting off entails. Frank felt very much pleased that the old boy, as he mentally called him, was quieted at last, and that he himself had at length an opportunity of initiating his charming companion into the mysteries of flirtation, while she imparted to him the secrets of chess.
The room was now very quiet. And Frank was soon deeply immersed in his game. Yes, the room was very quiet; it seemed the sanctuary of domestic love and happiness! At one extremity sat the betrothed lovers, conversing in a low tone, softer than the hum of far-off bees. At the other extremity sat the graceful young wife, placidly pursuing her quiet work, and seeming more like the darling spoiled child of the old man, her husband, who sat reading by her side, and whose kind eyes often wandered from the paper and rested fondly upon her. About midway of the room sat Frank and his bright companion, too deeply interested in their chess to notice the happy lovers, or to observe the quiet contentment of the old man with his beautiful darling. Yes, this room seemed a temple of domestic truth and trust
of family peace and joy. At least so thought Frank, until, raising his eyes from his game, his glance chanced to fall for an instant upon the face of Mrs. Clifton.
It might have been the darkness of her surroundings
which threw into such strong relief that fearful countenance, for the black dress and flowing black mantilla veiled all her form, while the clustering deep black curls darkly shaded her face. Her form was turned from the table and bent over the arm of the chair-her bosom was heaving, her lips apart. and humid, her nostrils slightly distended, and her eyes, those dreadful eyes, fixed with a passionate, fierce, devouring gaze upon some distant object.
Frank impulsively followed the direction of that consuming gaze, to where the betrothed lovers sat fully reconciled. Clifton, unconscious of all eyes but those blue orbs that smiled so graciously upon him, was pressing Carolyn's hand to his lips in an extasy of love and gratitude. Frank turned again to Mrs. Clifton. Her countenance had changed as by the passage of a thunder-cloud. Her bosom was still as death. Her brow and cheek were darkened, her teeth and lips clenched together, her eyes fixed upon the lovers with the baleful glare of a demon. If the head of the fabled Medusa had suddenly met his astonished gaze, he could not have felt a deeper thrill of horror. And yet it was only a
look-the look of an instant-it came and went like the swift swooping past of a fiend's wing, but the shadow on all things seemed to remain. No more did that room seem the blessed retreat of household faith and love-no! a deadly serpent lay coiled among its flowers-a deadly poison lurked in its cup of joy-the shadow of a demon's wing was brooding in the air-the house was CURSED!
Frank was of a highly honourable nature, but, nervous and impressible, he could no longer confine his attention to the game; he misplayed-awkwardly, ridiculously. Zuleime laughed at him; and her silver laughter struck almost unpleasantly upon his ear. He lost the game; and finally, complimenting his young antagonist upon the excellence of her own play-an excellence which he admitted he had not fully brought out-Frank arose from the table and sauntered out into the piazza, exclaiming inwardly, "Ugh! I believe in Satan, since I've seen that woman! Ugh! Whe-ew! Every time I think of her I shall feel hot and smell brimstone !" I said that Frank was of an extremely impressible He stood now upon the piazza at the back of the house, and the majestic crescent of cliffs was before him. The quiet of the night, the freshness of the dew, the coolness
of the breeze, the beauty and sublimity of the mountains rising from their girdle of forest, with their peaks bathed in moonlight-the distant glimpse of the bend in the river, where it lay like a silver lake among the hills---the divine peace and holiness of nature fell soothingly, refreshingly upon his excited nerves; and, after sauntering up and down the piazza for some twenty minutes, he returned to the parlour in a happier mood. There he found the family grouped around the table, on which sat a silver basket of pine-apples, with cut-glass plates, and silver fruit-knives and napkins.
Come, Mr. Fairfax, my dear fellow, we are waiting for you," said the old gentleman, beckoning him.
Frank joined them at the table; and, after this repast was over, the family separated and retired to bed.
MRS. CLIFTON, OF HARDBARGAIN.
CLIFTON by the morning sunlight! Oh that I could show it to you as Fairfax saw it from the balcony of his chamber on the morning of his arrival! The whole face of the country was very high, yet even this elevated land was broken into hills and valleys, rocks and glens. Behind the house arose the white cliffs so often mentioned, shutting out the northern view; but before the house lay the valley in which the plantation was situated, and around that-east, west, and south-stretched a magnificent panorama, ridge beyond ridge of mountains, covered with gigantic forests, clothed with the richest verdure, rolling on until they gradually faded away in the distance, their forms lost among the clouds of the horizon. It seemed a vast, boundless ocean of greenery, of which the vales and mountains were the stupendous waves, charmed to sleep.
It was a magnificent solitude-not a human dwelling to be seen. The planters' mansions, if there were any in the neighbourhood, were low in the vales, and hidden from sight. The mountain-torrent, as it came leaping down the side of the cliff, running through the wooded lawn, losing itself in the forest vale, and re-appearing as a mountain-lake among
the distant hills, was a beautiful feature in the landscape. The deep intense blue of the clear skies, the early splendour of the sunlight, the murmur of the breeze among the waving trees, the joyous songs of birds, gladdened all the scene, and put to flight Frank's blue devils, long before Dandy called him to breakfast.
The breakfast-table was set in the lawn under the shadow of the pine-elms.
The old gentleman, in his suit of cool white linen-the sisters, in neat morning dresses of white cambric-and the dark Georgia, in her usual dress of black-were assembled on the piazza. They greeted Mr. Fairfax with lively welcome, telling him that Clifton had not yet made his appearance. But even while they spoke, Captain Clifton joined them, and they sat down to breakfast. Those breakfasts on the lawn! How many times in after-years, in the sultry heat of the city hotel, did Fairfax recall them!
Soon after breakfast, Captain Clifton invited Mr. Fairfax to accompany him in a ride up the ridge to his mother's farm; and after taking leave of the ladies, they set out. They left the house by the back way, and took a winding bridle-path up the side of the cliffs. The day was very fine and cool, and their path was shaded by overhanging trees. It was altogether a delightful ride; and, as they went up, Clifton, who led the way, turned his head round and inquired
"Frank, what instigated you to romance so last night about our sojourn at the mountain hut ?"
"Romance? I didn't romance, except in saying that the girl was beautiful. I said that for your credit!"
"Oh! I ought to be exceedingly obliged to you!"
"Yes, I think so, too; but what malicious Puck gave you a love-weed, and fooled you into sitting and studying that ugly little girl's hard face all the evening?"
"I did not think her ugly at all. She has a noble countenance-a most noble countenance, one of which an empress might be proud!"
Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! I saw nothing but a mountainous forehead, and a strong portcullis jaw! Noble! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! I said you'd taken the love-powder!"
"Yet even you cannot find any but a noble simile in speaking of her 'ugly' features!"
"Ah! what will Miss Clifton think of this admiration ?"
"Sir, Miss Clifton has my deepest homage; and when she is my wife, she will indulge no follies. But, Fairfax, you are absurd, and I beg you will abandon this ridiculous conversation. You know that I have always had a proclivity to the study of character. Nature made me something of a physiognomist; and if there be any truth in my favourite science, that mountain-girl's face presented the most extraordinary combination of power and goodness I have ever met with."
"Oh! then you only studied the maiden as the botanist would study a new plant, the geologist a new fossil, or the naturalist a strange animal
"Or the astronomer a new STAR? Precisely, sir! Except that the human being is the highest and most absorbing study of all !"
Really, really this passes belief-the proud, fastidious Archer Clifton to be smitten with an ugly mountain-girl !" Frank, nonsense! You really anger me. Listen, then, and I will tell you why that child-for she is but a childinterested me so much. I saw in her face the signs of wonderful force of character, as yet undeveloped, and I saw in all her actions that which corroborated their testimony. I was surprised to find all that in the humble mountaineer, and speculated as to what, in her very humble situation, it might lead. That was simply all !"
"And did you not wish to be a providence to the mountain-girl, and open a field for so much energy?"
"Perhaps such a thought might have presented itself to my mind. If so, it was dismissed at once. A highly-gifted man of low birth must have extraordinary talents indeed, and be placed in extraordinary circumstances, to elevate himself above his condition; for a girl in such a case it is impossible. But, Fairfax, really this conversation has taken a more serious tone than I designed it should. Really, nobility of character, though very rare among the lower classes of society, is yet not so impossible as to excite our wonder. There are others like Kate Kavanagh—”
How pat you've got her name! Now, I had forgotten it !"
"Pooh! I say there are others like her. They are born great-they live and die, and the world hears nothing of