June 1st, 1821. - We have just
returned to Staningley - that
is, we returned some days ago,
and I am not yet settled, and
feel as if I never should be.
We left town sooner than was
intended, in consequence of my
uncle's indisposition; - I wonder
what would have been the result
if we had stayed the full time.
I am quite ashamed of my new-sprung
distaste for country life. All
my former occupations seem so
tedious and dull, my former amusements
so insipid and unprofitable.
I cannot enjoy my music, because
there is no one to hear it. I
cannot enjoy my walks, because
there is no one to meet. I cannot
enjoy my books, because they
have not power to arrest my attention:
my head is so haunted with the
recollections of the last few
weeks, that I cannot attend to
them. My drawing suits me best,
for I can draw and think at the
same time; and if my productions
cannot now be seen by any one
but myself, and those who do
not care about them, they, possibly,
may be, hereafter. But, then,
there is one face I am always
trying to paint or to sketch,
and always without success; and
that vexes me. As for the owner
of that face, I cannot get him
out of my mind - and, indeed,
I never try. I wonder whether
he ever thinks of me; and I wonder
whether I shall ever see him
again. And then might follow
a train of other wonderments
- questions for time and fate
to answer - concluding with -
Supposing all the rest be answered
in the affirmative, I wonder
whether I shall ever repent it?
as my aunt would tell me I should,
if she knew what I was thinking
How distinctly I remember our
conversation that evening before
our departure for town, when
we were sitting together over
the fire, my uncle having gone
to bed with a slight attack of
'Helen,' said she, after a
thoughtful silence, 'do you ever
think about marriage?'
'Yes, aunt, often.'
'And do you ever contemplate
the possibility of being married
yourself, or engaged, before
the season is over?'
'Sometimes; but I don't think
it at all likely that I ever
'Because, I imagine, there
must be only a very, very few
men in the world that I should
like to marry; and of those few,
it is ten to one I may never
be acquainted with one; or if
I should, it is twenty to one
he may not happen to be single,
or to take a fancy to me.'
'That is no argument at all.
It may be very true - and I hope
is true, that there are very
few men whom you would choose
to marry, of yourself. It is
not, indeed, to be supposed that
you would wish to marry any one
till you were asked: a girl's
affections should never be won
unsought. But when they are sought
- when the citadel of the heart
is fairly besieged - it is apt
to surrender sooner than the
owner is aware of, and often
against her better judgment,
and in opposition to all her
preconceived ideas of what she
could have loved, unless she
be extremely careful and discreet.
Now, I want to warn you, Helen,
of these things, and to exhort
you to be watchful and circumspect
from the very commencement of
your career, and not to suffer
your heart to be stolen from
you by the first foolish or unprincipled
person that covets the possession
of it. - You know, my dear, you
are only just eighteen; there
is plenty of time before you,
and neither your uncle nor I
are in any hurry to get you off
our hands, and I may venture
to say, there will be no lack
of suitors; for you can boast
a good family, a pretty considerable
fortune and expectations, and,
I may as well tell you likewise
- for, if I don't, others will
- that you have a fair share
of beauty besides - and I hope
you may never have cause to regret
'I hope not, aunt; but why
should you fear it?'
'Because, my dear, beauty is
that quality which, next to money,
is generally the most attractive
to the worst kinds of men; and,
therefore, it is likely to entail
a great deal of trouble on the
'Have you been troubled in
that way, aunt?'
'No, Helen,' said she, with
reproachful gravity, 'but I know
many that have; and some, through
carelessness, have been the wretched
victims of deceit; and some,
through weakness, have fallen
into snares and temptations terrible
'Well, I shall be neither careless
'Remember Peter, Helen! Don't
boast, but watch. Keep a guard
over your eyes and ears as the
inlets of your heart, and over
your lips as the outlet, lest
they betray you in a moment of
unwariness. Receive, coldly and
dispassionately, every attention,
till you have ascertained and
duly considered the worth of
the aspirant; and let your affections
be consequent upon approbation
alone. First study; then approve;
then love. Let your eyes be blind
to all external attractions,
your ears deaf to all the fascinations
of flattery and light discourse.
- These are nothing - and worse
than nothing - snares and wiles
of the tempter, to lure the thoughtless
to their own destruction. Principle
is the first thing, after all;
and next to that, good sense,
respectability, and moderate
wealth. If you should marry the
handsomest, and most accomplished
and superficially agreeable man
in the world, you little know
the misery that would overwhelm
you if, after all, you should
find him to be a worthless reprobate,
or even an impracticable fool.'
'But what are all the poor
fools and reprobates to do, aunt?
If everybody followed your advice,
the world would soon come to
'Never fear, my dear! the male
fools and reprobates will never
want for partners, while there
are so many of the other sex
to match them; but do you follow
my advice. And this is no subject
for jesting, Helen - I am sorry
to see you treat the matter in
that light way. Believe me, matrimony
is a serious thing.' And she
spoke it so seriously, that one
might have fancied she had known
it to her cost; but I asked no
more impertinent questions, and
merely answered, - 'I know it
is; and I know there is truth
and sense in what you say; but
you need not fear me, for I not
only should think it wrong to
marry a man that was deficient
in sense or in principle, but
I should never be tempted to
do it; for I could not like him,
if he were ever so handsome,
and ever so charming, in other
respects; I should hate him -
despise him - pity him - anything
but love him. My affections not
only ought to be founded on approbation,
but they will and must be so:
for, without approving, I cannot
love. It is needless to say,
I ought to be able to respect
and honour the man I marry, as
well as love him, for I cannot
love him without. So set your
mind at rest.'
'I hope it may be so,' answered
'I know it is so,' persisted
'You have not been tried yet,
Helen - we can but hope,' said
she in her cold, cautious way.
'I was vexed at her incredulity;
but I am not sure her doubts
were entirely without sagacity;
I fear I have found it much easier
to remember her advice than to
profit by it; - indeed, I have
sometimes been led to question
the soundness of her doctrines
on those subjects. Her counsels
may be good, as far as they go
- in the main points at least;
- but there are some things she
has overlooked in her calculations.
I wonder if she was ever in love.
I commenced my career - or
my first campaign, as my uncle
calls it - kindling with bright
hopes and fancies - chiefly raised
by this conversation - and full
of confidence in my own discretion.
At first, I was delighted with
the novelty and excitement of
our London life; but soon I began
to weary of its mingled turbulence
and constraint, and sigh for
the freshness and freedom of
home. My new acquaintances, both
male and female, disappointed
my expectations, and vexed and
depressed me by turns; I for
I soon grew tired of studying
their peculiarities, and laughing
at their foibles - particularly
as I was obliged to keep my criticisms
to myself, for my aunt would
not hear them - and they - the
ladies especially - appeared
so provokingly mindless, and
heartless, and artificial. The
gentlemen scorned better, but,
perhaps, it was because I knew
them less - perhaps, because
they flattered me; but I did
not fall in love with any of
them; and, if their attentions
pleased me one moment, they provoked
me the next, because they put
me out of humour with myself,
by revealing my vanity and making
me fear I was becoming like some
of the ladies I so heartily despised.
There was one elderly gentleman
that annoyed me very much; a
rich old friend of my uncle's,
who, I believe, thought I could
not do better than marry him;
but, besides being old, he was
ugly and disagreeable, - and
wicked, I am sure, though my
aunt scolded me for saying so;
but she allowed he was no saint.
And there was another, less hateful,
but still more tiresome, because
she favoured him, and was always
thrusting him upon me, and sounding
his praises in my ears - Mr.
Boarham by name, Bore'em, as
I prefer spelling it, for a terrible
bore he was: I shudder still
at the remembrance of his voice
- drone, drone, drone, in my
ear - while he sat beside me,
prosing away by the half-hour
together, and beguiling himself
with the notion that he was improving
my mind by useful information,
or impressing his dogmas upon
me and reforming my errors of
judgment, or perhaps that he
was talking down to my level,
and amusing me with entertaining
discourse. Yet he was a decent
man enough in the main, I daresay;
and if he had kept his distance,
I never would have hated him.
As it was, it was almost impossible
to help it, for he not only bothered
me with the infliction of his
own presence, but he kept me
from the enjoyment of more agreeable
One night, however, at a ball,
he had been more than usually
tormenting, and my patience was
quite exhausted. It appeared
as if the whole evening was fated
to be insupportable: I had just
had one dance with an empty-headed
coxcomb, and then Mr. Boarham
had come upon me and seemed determined
to cling to me for the rest of
the night. He never danced himself,
and there he sat, poking his
head in my face, and impressing
all beholders with the idea that
he was a confirmed, acknowledged
lover; my aunt looking complacently
on all the time, and wishing
him God-speed. In vain I attempted
to drive him away by giving a
loose to my exasperated feelings,
even to positive rudeness: nothing
could convince him that his presence
was disagreeable. Sullen silence
was taken for rapt attention,
and gave him greater room to
talk; sharp answers were received
as smart sallies of girlish vivacity,
that only required an indulgent
rebuke; and flat contradictions
were but as oil to the flames,
calling forth new strains of
argument to support his dogmas,
and bringing down upon me endless
floods of reasoning to overwhelm
me with conviction.
But there was one present who
seemed to have a better appreciation
of my frame of mind. A gentleman
stood by, who had been watching
our conference for some time,
evidently much amused at my companion's
remorseless pertinacity and my
manifest annoyance, and laughing
to himself at the asperity and
uncompromising spirit of my replies.
At length, however, he withdrew,
and went to the lady of the house,
apparently for the purpose of
asking an introduction to me,
for, shortly after, they both
came up, and she introduced him
as Mr. Huntingdon, the son of
a late friend of my uncle's.
He asked me to dance. I gladly
consented, of course; and he
was my companion during the remainder
of my stay, which was not long,
for my aunt, as usual, insisted
upon an early departure.
I was sorry to go, for I had
found my new acquaintance a very
lively and entertaining companion.
There was a certain graceful
ease and freedom about all he
said and did, that gave a sense
of repose and expansion to the
mind, after so much constraint
and formality as I had been doomed
to suffer. There might be, it
is true, a little too much careless
boldness in his manner and address,
but I was in so good a humour,
and so grateful for my late deliverance
from Mr. Boarham, that it did
not anger me.
'Well, Helen, how do you like
Mr. Boarham now?' said my aunt,
as we took our seats in the carriage
and drove away.
'Worse than ever,' I replied.
She looked displeased, but
said no more on that subject.
'Who was the gentleman you
danced with last,' resumed she,
after a pause - 'that was so
officious in helping you on with
was not officious
at all, aunt:
he never attempted
me till he saw Mr. Boarham coming
to do so; and then he stepped
laughingly forward and said, "Come,
I'll preserve you from that infliction."'
'Who was it, I ask?' said she,
with frigid gravity.
'It was Mr. Huntingdon, the
son of uncle's old friend.'
speak of young
heard him say, "He's a fine lad,
that young Huntingdon, but a
bit wildish, I fancy." So I'd
have you beware.'
does "a bit wildish" mean?'
'It means destitute of principle,
and prone to every vice that
is common to youth.'
'But I've heard uncle say he
was a sad wild fellow himself,
when he was young.'
She sternly shook her head.
'He was jesting then, I suppose,'
said I, 'and here he was speaking
at random - at least, I cannot
believe there is any harm in
those laughing blue eyes.'
'False reasoning, Helen!' said
she, with a sigh.
'Well, we ought to be charitable,
you know, aunt - besides, I don't
think it is false: I am an excellent
physiognomist, and I always judge
of people's characters by their
looks - not by whether they are
handsome or ugly, but by the
general cast of the countenance.
For instance, I should know by
your countenance that you were
not of a cheerful, sanguine disposition;
and I should know by Mr. Wilmot's,
that he was a worthless old reprobate;
and by Mr. Boarham's, that he
was not an agreeable companion;
and by Mr. Huntingdon's, that
he was neither a fool nor a knave,
though, possibly, neither a sage
nor a saint - but that is no
matter to me, as I am not likely
to meet him again - unless as
an occasional partner in the
It was not so, however, for
I met him again next morning.
He came to call upon my uncle,
apologising for not having done
so before, by saying he was only
lately returned from the Continent,
and had not heard, till the previous
night, of my uncle's arrival
in town; and after that I often
met him; sometimes in public,
sometimes at home; for he was
very assiduous in paying his
respects to his old friend, who
did not, however, consider himself
greatly obliged by the attention.
'I wonder what the deuce the
lad means by coming so often,'
he would say, - 'can you tell,
Helen? - Hey? He wants none o'
my company, nor I his - that's
'I wish you'd tell him so,
then,' said my aunt.
'Why, what for? If I don't
want him, somebody does, mayhap'
(winking at me). 'Besides, he's
a pretty tidy fortune, Peggy,
you know - not such a catch as
Wilmot; but then Helen won't
hear of that match: for, somehow,
these old chaps don't go down
with the girls - with all their
money, and their experience to
boot. I'll bet anything she'd
rather have this young fellow
without a penny, than Wilmot
with his house full of gold.
Wouldn't you, Nell?'
'Yes, uncle; but that's not
saying much for Mr. Huntingdon;
for I'd rather be an old maid
and a pauper than Mrs. Wilmot.'
'And Mrs. Huntingdon? What
would you rather be than Mrs.
Huntingdon - eh?'
'I'll tell you when I've considered
'Ah! it needs consideration,
then? But come, now - would you
rather be an old maid - let alone
'I can't tell till I'm asked.'
And I left the room immediately,
to escape further examination.
But five minutes after, in looking
from my window, I beheld Mr.
Boarham coming up to the door.
I waited nearly half-an-hour
in uncomfortable suspense, expecting
every minute to be called, and
vainly longing to hear him go.
Then footsteps were heard on
the stairs, and my aunt entered
the room with a solemn countenance,
and closed the door behind her.
'Here is Mr. Boarham, Helen,'
said she. 'He wishes to see you.'
'Oh, aunt! - Can't you tell
him I'm indisposed? - I'm sure
I am - to see him.'
'Nonsense, my dear! this is
no trifling matter. He is come
on a very important errand -
to ask your hand in marriage
of your uncle and me.'
'I hope my uncle and you told
him it was not in your power
to give it. What right had he
to ask any one before me?'
'What did my uncle say?'
'He said he would not interfere
in the matter; if you liked to
accept Mr. Boarham's obliging
offer, you - '
'Did he say obliging offer?'
'No; he said if you liked to
take him you might; and if not,
you might please yourself.'
'He said right; and what did
'It is no matter what I said.
What will you say? - that is
the question. He is now waiting
to ask you himself; but consider
well before you go; and if you
intend to refuse him, give me
'I shall refuse him, of course;
but you must tell me how, for
I want to be civil and yet decided
- and when I've got rid of him,
I'll give you my reasons afterwards.'
'But stay, Helen; sit down
a little and compose yourself.
Mr. Boarham is in no particular
hurry, for he has little doubt
of your acceptance; and I want
to speak with you. Tell me, my
dear, what are your objections
to him? Do you deny that he is
an upright, honourable man?'
'Do you deny that he is sensible,
'No; he may be all this, but
'But, Helen! How many such
men do you expect to meet with
in the world? Upright, honourable,
sensible, sober, respectable!
Is this such an every-day character
that you should reject the possessor
of such noble qualities without
a moment's hesitation? Yes, noble
I may call them; for think of
the full meaning of each, and
how many inestimable virtues
they include (and I might add
many more to the list), and consider
that all this is laid at your
feet. It is in your power to
secure this inestimable blessing
for life - a worthy and excellent
husband, who loves you tenderly,
but not too fondly so as to blind
him to your faults, and will
be your guide throughout life's
pilgrimage, and your partner
in eternal bliss. Think how -
'But I hate him, aunt,' said
I, interrupting this unusual
flow of eloquence.
'Hate him, Helen! Is this a
Christian spirit? - you hate
him? and he so good a man!'
'I don't hate him as a man,
but as a husband. As a man, I
love him so much that I wish
him a better wife than I - one
as good as himself, or better
- if you think that possible
- provided she could like him;
but I never could, and therefore
'But why not? What objection
do you find?'
'Firstly, he is at least forty
years old - considerably more,
I should think - and I am but
eighteen; secondly, he is narrow-minded
and bigoted in the extreme; thirdly,
his tastes and feelings are wholly
dissimilar to mine; fourthly,
his looks, voice, and manner
are particularly displeasing
to me; and, finally, I have an
aversion to his whole person
that I never can surmount.'
'Then you ought to surmount
it. And please to compare him
for a moment with Mr. Huntingdon,
and, good looks apart (which
contribute nothing to the merit
of the man, or to the happiness
of married life, and which you
have so often professed to hold
in light esteem), tell me which
is the better man.'
'I have no doubt Mr. Huntingdon
is a much better man than you
think him; but we are not talking
about him now, but about Mr.
Boarham; and as I would rather
grow, live, and die in single
blessedness - than be his wife,
it is but right that I should
tell him so at once, and put
him out of suspense - so let
'But don't give him a flat
denial; he has no idea of such
a thing, and it would offend
him greatly: say you have no
thoughts of matrimony at present
'But I have thoughts of it.'
'Or that you desire a further
'But I don't desire a further
acquaintance - quite the contrary.'
And without waiting for further
admonitions I left the room and
went to seek Mr. Boarham. He
was walking up and down the drawing-
room, humming snatches of tunes
and nibbling the end of his cane.
'My dear young lady,' said
he, bowing and smirking with
great complacency, 'I have your
kind guardian's permission -
'I know, sir,' said I, wishing
to shorten the scene as much
as possible, 'and I am greatly
obliged for your preference,
but must beg to decline the honour
you wish to confer, for I think
we were not made for each other,
as you yourself would shortly
discover if the experiment were
My aunt was right. It was quite
evident he had had little doubt
of my acceptance, and no idea
of a positive denial. He was
amazed, astounded at such an
answer, but too incredulous to
be much offended; and after a
little humming and hawing, he
returned to the attack.
'I know, my dear, that there
exists a considerable disparity
between us in years, in temperament,
and perhaps some other things;
but let me assure you, I shall
not be severe to mark the faults
and foibles of a young and ardent
nature such as yours, and while
I acknowledge them to myself,
and even rebuke them with all
a father's care, believe me,
no youthful lover could be more
tenderly indulgent towards the
object of his affections than
I to you; and, on the other hand,
let me hope that my more experienced
years and graver habits of reflection
will be no disparagement in your
eyes, as I shall endeavour to
make them all conducive to your
happiness. Come, now! What do
you say? Let us have no young
lady's affectations and caprices,
but speak out at once.'
'I will, but only to repeat
what I said before, that I am
certain we were not made for
'You really think so?'
'But you don't know me - you
wish for a further acquaintance
- a longer time to - '
'No, I don't. I know you as
well as I ever shall, and better
than you know me, or you would
never dream of uniting yourself
to one so incongruous - so utterly
unsuitable to you in every way.'
'But, my dear young lady, I
don't look for perfection; I
can excuse - '
'Thank you, Mr. Boarham, but
I won't trespass upon your goodness.
You may save your indulgence
and consideration for some more
worthy object, that won't tax
them so heavily.'
'But let me beg you to consult
your aunt; that excellent lady,
I am sure, will - '
'I have consulted her; and
I know her wishes coincide with
yours; but in such important
matters, I take the liberty of
judging for myself; and no persuasion
can alter my inclinations, or
induce me to believe that such
a step would be conducive to
my happiness or yours - and I
wonder that a man of your experience
and discretion should think of
choosing such a wife.'
he, 'I have
sometimes wondered at that myself.
I have sometimes said to myself, "Now
Boarham, what is this you're
after? Take care, man - look
before you leap! This is a sweet,
bewitching creature, but remember,
the brightest attractions to
the lover too often prove the
husband's greatest torments!" I
assure you my choice has not
been made without much reasoning
and reflection. The seeming imprudence
of the match has cost me many
an anxious thought by day, and
many a sleepless hour by night;
but at length I satisfied myself
that it was not, in very deed,
imprudent. I saw my sweet girl
was not without her faults, but
of these her youth, I trusted,
was not one, but rather an earnest
of virtues yet unblown - a strong
ground of presumption that her
little defects of temper and
errors of judgment, opinion,
or manner were not irremediable,
but might easily be removed or
mitigated by the patient efforts
of a watchful and judicious adviser,
and where I failed to enlighten
and control, I thought I might
safely undertake to pardon, for
the sake of her many excellences.
Therefore, my dearest girl, since
I am satisfied, why should you
object - on my account, at least?'
to tell you
it is on my
account I principally object;
so let us - drop the subject,'
I would have said, 'for it is
worse than useless to pursue
it any further,' but he pertinaciously
interrupted me with, - 'But why
so? I would love you, cherish
you, protect you,' &c., &c.
I shall not trouble myself
to put down all that passed between
us. Suffice it to say, that I
found him very troublesome, and
very hard to convince that I
really meant what I said, and
really was so obstinate and blind
to my own interests, that there
was no shadow of a chance that
either he or my aunt would ever
be able to overcome my objections.
Indeed, I am not sure that I
succeeded after all; though wearied
with his so pertinaciously returning
to the same point and repeating
the same arguments over and over
again, forcing me to reiterate
the same replies, I at length
turned short and sharp upon him,
and my last words were, - 'I
tell you plainly, that it cannot
be. No consideration can induce
me to marry against my inclinations.
I respect you - at least, I would
respect you, if you would behave
like a sensible man - but I cannot
love you, and never could - and
the more you talk the further
you repel me; so pray don't say
any more about it.'
Whereupon he wished me a good-morning,
and withdrew, disconcerted and
offended, no doubt; but surely
it was not my fault.