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Every thought was a flower, (wild, but beautiful,) which only asked the fostering hand of cultivation, to bring to the greatest perfection. As a man of the world, he was perfectly aware of the importance of Janet's possessing other qualities, besides mere external beauty, to fit her for the station he was about to exalt her to, and make her happy in it;—some accomplishments, but more particularly, sound and religious principles, to strengthen her against the seductions her extreme youth and beauty would expose her to, in a scene so new. She had virtue—the deepest, the strongest sense of virtue, -implanted in her innocent bosom by nature, but she was totally destitute of that knowledge which lends virtue a dignity, by repelling the forward, and reproving the profligate.
Then again he was conscious, that, however much he adored her for that very beauty and simplicity, the pleasing impression would fade from constant intercourse, and she must be mistress of something else, to render his marriage no source of future regret. Thus, then, in the full assurance of reaping an abundant harvest, did he apply himself to cultivate the sweet mind and disposition of his affianced wife, and never was task so profusely repaid ;-each day discovering some new talent, or perfecting one already known.
Janet was supremely happy in his approbation; and her gratitude, or rather love, hourly increased for her amiable, accomplished master, who, on his part, literally worshipped his lovely pupil. But, alas! for all human anticipations of earthly happiness! how seldom are they blest with fruition. 'Fate joys to frustrate the schemes of puny man, and bow him, in the pride and flush of hope, beneath the unrelenting rod of disappointment and despair.
Where was there a prospect of felicity more smiling? Who could not call it almost a certainty? Would it not have appeared like folly and ingratitude in Janet and Sir Charles, to have even dreamt of pain or sorrow Ainging a darkening shadow over the fair and brilliant horizon of love?
If virtue and honour may not expect a blessing on their innocent affections, who shall dare to hope for the favour of Heaven? And who durst reply to that question, the riven heart, in the rashness of its grief, has asked a myriad times before, vainly, hopelessly, and unresponded to.
Suffice it to say, that Janet was doomed to ask it all as vainly, and sorrowfully, in the anguish of her soul, and feel indeed
“ Our first love murder'd, is the sharpest pang
A human heart can feel.” Por, about this time, Mrs. Howard's fears were painfully awakened by an obstinate and alarming cough, and symptoms of debility, which seemed to threaten the most fatal and rapid consequences to Sir Charles's health—and her horror and grief were indescribable when she learnt from him that consumption had ever been the scourge of his family. All the sympathy of her really kind and affectionate heart was called into requisition to devise remedies to arrest the dreaded evil at its commencement, but, alas ! unsuccessfully! Sir Charles grew so rapidly worse, that the short journey from town to the cottage was too much for his wasted strength, and he was prevailed upon to accept a bed, and become a constant inmate there “ until he grew stronger again."
Every selfish feeling of family aggrandizement vanished from the bosom of Mrs. Howard at the appearance of his danger, and, had he been a beggar, her anxiety would have been the same. So true it is, that woman at such times rises superior to every other consideration, save the sweet and consolatory dictates of the purest pity and compassion for suffering humanity.
“ O woman! in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please ;
A ministering angel thou.” Nothing could exceed the tender and unwearied care, with which she nursed him night and day, assisted by the sympathizing and warm-hearted Madelon-while poor Janet, (overwhelmed with this her first great sorrow,) never quitted her seat near the pillow on which his now languid head listlessly reclined. Poor Mr. Howard, (with every customary occupation suspended, and every domestic comfort destroyed,) bestowed every moment in search of the finest fruits and every other imaginable delicacy, calculated to tempt the fickleness of his fading appetite—“He had, alas, grown so dear to all their hearts !"
His symptoms, however, became so alarming that an immediate consultation was considered necessary, which ended in his being instantly ordered to his native air.
Then was the struggle !-With all the eloquence of the most passionate love, did he adjure Mr. and Mrs. Howard to consent to his union“ with his idolized Janet, that he might bear that angel with him to the home of his ancestors, to shed a ray of hope and gladness on returning health, or," and his voice sank almost to a whisper, with profound and heart-killing emotion, "with a tear of pity and regret soften the anguish, the despair of leaving her in her loveliness for the grave!". Janet, the agonized Janet, forgetful of the bashfulness of her nature, in the mightiness of her grief, added her prayers, her entreaties to those of her almost expiring lover. But nothing would induce Mr. Howard to consent to such a step-he looked upon Janet's desire for such a thing, “as proceeding merely from a false exaltation of mind, the natural consequences of over-excited feelings in a young and artless girl, and which must subside with time and reflection." He was dearly fond of her; she had ever been the chosen child of his heart--the companion in all his harmless pursuits, and he could not bring himself to expose her, young and inexperienced as she was, to the trials and sorrows he too plainly foresaw must be the result of a marriage with an evidently fast dying man!
Had it been Madelon, indeed, he would not have hesitated; but Janet! oh! he could not think of such a thing for her! He confessed the deep interest he took in Sir Charles-the gratification he
should have derived from it, under more favourable auspices-and, drawing the weeping Janet closely to his bosom,“ Go!” said the kind old man, in a voice choked by his sobs "Go! my dear son, and endeavour to recover your health—and here Janet Howard shall remain within the shelter of a father's arms, pure and faithful to her first innocent affection, till your return to reclaim her, should it please Divine Providence to spare me to watch over her—if not, I leave her to Him, which is better, for in all I say, “ The Lord's will be done.'”
Finding entreaty and expostulation alike of no avail, Sir Charles (in an agony of grief and despair) was borne to his carriage, accompanied by a friend who had been sent for express, to be conveyed to his home—the splendid home which had so shortly before awakened all the worst feelings of Madelon Howard's heart-envy, pride, and mortification! Yet, amid the fierce anguish of that parting, did Sir Charles bear away a balm that mitigated its present agony, and proved a sweet and lasting anodyne for every pang he suffered until death. Janet, in the delirium of her grief, her arms twined tenaciously around his neck, and tears of uncontrollable sorrow streaming from her lovely eyes, imprinted a kissa warm, passionate kiss on his astonished his delighted lips. It was the first she had ever bestowed on him, and it was given unsolicited, unhoped! What would have bribed him to have foregone that pure, that blessed token of affection ? (the offspring of the heart.) Nothing, nothing! In the transport of his joy, he felt it was no sacrifice to die-his sufferings had won their earthly reward, and gave him a foretaste of what awaited him above.
I will not attempt to describe her feelings at this eventful termination of her young hopes! At his departure she discovered how dearhow precious he had become to her; and in the secret silence of her bosom, she carefully treasured every word, look, and action of the fascinating being who had magically awoke such new and delightful feelings there, and who had also taught it its first, its most poignant sorrow—a sorrow which rendered every after pang (and she had many) light in comparison—a sorrow whose leaden hand bowed her very soul to the earth, and defied it to rise again with the buoyancy of former happy artless ignorance-no, she had plucked the lusciouslooking fruit of knowledge, and found it bitter to the taste, as all of earth have found, and must, till the tomb covers us and misery and disappointment together!
Sir Charles wrote by every post, and with that sanguineness of hope, which ever attends his fatal and flattering disease," he declared himself already better," and held out a prospect of “ soon again rejoining the dear, the beloved circle he could so well, so vividly recal to bis doting heart."
On his arrival in Devonshire, he wrote again ; but there was a tone of despondency and hopelessness ran through the whole letter, which painfully distressed his anxious friends for him. He said “ he had suffered greatly, both bodily and mentally, from the length of the journey ; and that his soul was exceeding sorrowful,' at once more entering the home of his youth, a solitary and forlorn man; that he wanted Janet's sweet voice to speak gladness to his heart, her prayers to teach him patience and resignation, and her smile to inspire hope once more in his despairing bosom.” He also expressed his fears for his probable recovery, and for the first time confessed his apprehensions about it, and concluded by observing, “O would that I had stayed and died with you !— Death then would have been robbed of its bitterness, and the grave of its gloom! But oh! in life or death, the name, the memory of Janet Howard, will ever be most precious to the miserable, the ill-fated Charles Linden."
He wrote no more, notwithstanding the repeated and anxious letters of the heart-broken Janet, who conceived the worst surmises from his silence, which were only too soon confirmed by the following one from his only sister to her :
“ In addressing one who was so dear to my beloved and departed brother, I feel, although personally unknown, I am not addressing a stranger-that there is a tender-a mysterious intimacy established between us (the sweet, the intuitive communion of congenial minds), which destroys the chilling reserve of ceremony, and bids me call you sister !— Yes, dear Janet, I am persuaded that were we to meet in the wilds of Africa, my heart would leap to my eager lips to pronounce your identity !-There is—there can be—but one human being on the face of creation so gentle, so perfect, so truly angelic as yourself;—in fact, but one Janet Howard in the world, to teach us what perfection really is.
“ I am as familiar with your sweet and amiable character, as if we had been undivided friends from childhood. How could it be otherwise, listening to its description, as I have done for so many sorrowing weeks, from the never-wearied lips of an adored and expiring brother. Your name was the first—the last they pronounced.
Every tender look-every gentle word-every graceful and gracious act-were brought out, (with the stealthy caution of a miser, eager to eke out his last remnant of earthly felicity,) from the storehouse of his tenacious memory, to be luxuriated upon when every other thing had ceased to interest—when the world and all its fascinations were fast fading from his thoughts, and Death, with cold unpitying hand, was benumbing every faculty of his ardent and aspiring 'soul ! Oh! then, when ambition, grandeur, power , riches, pride, and scorn, were held as nought, it was for innocence and virtue to retain its mighty hold, and
prove how vain are all things else on earth, “Ah! do you not wish, now, that you had been more lavish of your tenderness? Do you not lament the cold restraint that bashfulness imposed ? and which withheld you from declaring all the fondness of your guileless—your ingenuous heart? Think of the joy it would have afforded your dying Charles to have known the depth of that affection he had inspired.
“But I am cruel to awaken such regrets! No, sweet Janet ! you revealed more than could have been expected from your timid and retiring nature—and what you left unconfessed was a sacrifice love made to modesty, which he fully understood and appreciated—Oh! how truly, is shown in his adoration, even to the last !
Oh! my darling, unknown sister ! young as you are, you may still exclaim , with profound truth and the exultation of holy piety, I have not lived in vain!' Your pure, your innate love of religion and virtue,
shed a charm over suffering humanity, and mitigated the pangs of reluctant dissolution-giving our beloved Charles a foretaste of the ineffable delights awaiting those who resign themselves unmurmuringly into His hands who sent them to this state of trial and probation, only to purify and fit them for a more enduring existence, and who proves his love and approbation of them by calling them early to their change of eternal felicity. And well would it be for us, if we could all feel like you, dear Janet, the gratifying consciousness of having contributed to the future welfare and happiness of our fellowcreatures, by our good example—and winning affection alone by purity, goodness, and virtue; but few, alas! can lay that flattering unction to their souls,' and derive from it the greatest possible source of consolation under affliction, like yourself.
“Sorely as your young heart has been tried in this sad blight of its earliest affections—(the honey-drop of love's unrifled flower--the best, the holiest feelings it awakens)—Oh, never, never known but once ! for who can after think love a treasure, precious, enduring, and everlasting, who have, like you, experienced in its very infancy, how false -- how feeting is the happiness, the unpractised heart had gifted with eternity.
“Oh! the first faint flutter he creates in the delightedly-amazed bosom resembles the rosebud the sunbeam awakens to beauty, wooing it to expand in fragrance and loveliness, unconscious of the storms and canker-frost, ere long to tarnish its lustre, and crush it to the earth in its flush of dazzling beauty! O Janet, Janet! how much have you learnt of this world's pains in an almost unreckonable space of time! Still you are not to be pitied; the truly virtuous are above earthly commiseration. They are the favoured of God (His especial care), who inflicts these light and transitory pangs, to furnish opportunities for the display of their fortitude and resignation, and bear testimony to the doubtful and wavering, that all things work together for good for him that believeth in Him.'
“Nothing could exceed the calm resignation of my brother's last moments. Our tears and prayers mingled together, and your name sprang spontaneously to the lips of both, in one long, fond blessing for you—for ever.
“The foundation of the fatal complaint, which has so cruelly and prematurely robbed me of an affectionate brother, and most precious adviser and friend, and you of a husband such as few women, (even the happiest,) could have boasted of, was laid about two years since, having broken a blood-vessel on his return from Germany, in rescuing a man, (who had accidentally fallen overboard,) from an untimely grave. Falling a sacrifice to his humanity, however, will only render him, if possible, dearer to our hearts. Do not, then, I abjure you, (in the name of him so dear to us both,) suffer the inexorable tomb to rob me of my destined sister. Let us, sweet Janet, be dear to each other for ever I Let us foster the intimacy so painfully begot in sorrow, by the lenitive and soothing hand of enduring friendship — feeling, that although our beloved Charles now slumbers in the silent grave, that his memory is still a bond of eternal union between the two beings dearest to him on earth-Janet Howard and Marianne Linden."