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Dr. Sumner was a physician in good practice, and in mind, character, and opinions, presented a remarkable contrast to his half-sister, Mrs. Lyndsay. His own mother dying when he was an infant, he was left to the care of her relations, for several years, till, at last, his father came to bring him home to greet a new mother. Unhappily she was a vain, frivolous woman, and her jealousy of her step-son, and of the place he held in his father's affection, soon grew into positive dislike. But though she succeeded in removing the son from his father's roof—first to school, and afterwards in the prosecution of his medical studies she could not shake their mutual attachment, which even seemed to deepen on the father's part, as he had increasing reason to repent his injudicious marriage.
The only child by this second marriage, while she inherited a considerable portion of her father's decicion of character, also exhibited her mother's ambition and coldness of heart. And the continual lessons of worldly wisdom, carefully instilled from childhood, found no counteracting force in the spirit of Matilda Sumner.
Dr. Sumner was fortunate in finding a wife whose principles and tastes agreed with his own; and when, after the death of his parents, he received his sister into his happy home, it was with the sincere hope that, her heart being softened by sorrow, she might feel that there was, even on earth, a happiness more real than any she had yet imagined. But though she could not help feeling respect, and even regard, for her brother and his wife, she could not be won to perceive any charm in domestic happiness that could supply the place of the glitter, to which her eyes were accustomed; and if her brother's hopes revived for a time, on her marriage with Mr. Lyndsay, he was at last almost convinced of the real truth, that she was incapable of feeling anything like genuine affection.
Mr. Lyndsay was not a man of strong character; but he had high principle, refined taste, placid temper, and deep, keen feelings ; qualities which soon won the friendship of his brother-in-law, while they were unvalued, even unperceived, by his beautiful, fashionable bride.
We have taken a peep at the household of the Lyndsays. Dr. and Mrs. Sumner had one son and two daughters, and had also adopted, some years before our story opens, two orphan girls, Cornelia and Melicent Boylston.
As Oscar entered the parlor on his return home, he exclaimed, involuntarily, “How happy you all look !"
“So we are,” said Helen. much missed ?"
“Do you want me to say yes or no? It would be a pity to disturb your serenity. Julia was very curious to know what characters you would take."
“Our own; we do not wear fancy dresses. Mother gave us our choice, and we decided we had better not.” “A most sapient decision : how will you
Were we very
able to make yourselves pretty enough, without spangles and feathers, and Turkish jackets ?”
“Handsome is that handsome does," answered Milly; “we are certain, therefore, to look pretty."
“Have you a good mark to-day, Mischief ? Where's Cornelia ? I have a message for her.”
“Very far off, just now, by the look of her eyes;
her outward presence is in the next room, by the table. Nela, does it rain in Spain ?”
Cornelia laid down her book, when she heard herself called, and laughing at Milly's look of pretended curiosity, joined the group by the fire.
“Nela, my question is already partly answered. Helen says you are not going to wear fancy dresses, while Julia especially desired you to appear in a tableau from Lalla Rookh.
your decision irrevocable ??? Quite so, I believe."
“But Aunt Lyndsay offers, as a prime inducement, her assistance in a little match-making, on your behalf.”
“I am very much obliged to her," said Nela, quietly.
“Oh, are you? Then I
Then I may tell her you accept her offer."
“Her kindness I accept, as it was meant; her offer is a very different affair. I must take leave to decline that. I don't think Aunt Lindsay and I should agree on the preliminaries."
“Do tell me what you consider the necessary preliminaries on the lady's part. It may be valuable information to me in the chess game of society."
“One learns best by experience, after being beaten in the game a few times,” said Cornelia, laughing
Busy, indeed, were the following weeks for the Lyndsays. Mrs. Lyndsay, having obtained her husband's reluctant consent to the refurnishing of the house, found that her calculation of expenses
fell so far short of the actual outlay required, that even she could with difficulty silence all her scruples by the plea that it was for years to come, and a few dollars more or less could not make much difference.