October 1st. - All is settled
now. My father has given his
consent, and the time is fixed
for Christmas, by a sort of compromise
between the respective advocates
for hurry and delay. Milicent
Hargrave is to be one bridesmaid
and Annabella Wilmot the other
- not that I am particularly
fond of the latter, but she is
an intimate of the family, and
I have not another friend.
When I told Milicent of my
engagement, she rather provoked
me by her manner of talking it.
After staring a moment in mute
surprise, she said, - 'Well,
Helen, I suppose I ought to congratulate
you - and I am glad to see you
so happy; but I did not think
you would take him; and I can't
help feeling surprised that you
should like him so much.'
'Because you are so superior
to him in every way, and there's
something so bold and reckless
about him - so, I don't know
how - but I always feel a wish
to get out of his way when I
see him approach.'
'You are timid, Milicent; but
that's no fault of his.'
'And then his look,' continued
she. 'People say he's handsome,
and of course he is; but I don't
like that kind of beauty, and
I wonder that you should.'
'Why so, pray?'
'Well, you know, I think there's
nothing noble or lofty in his
'In fact, you wonder that I
can like any one so unlike the
stilted heroes of romance. Well,
give me my flesh and blood lover,
and I'll leave all the Sir Herberts
and Valentines to you - if you
can find them.'
'I don't want them,' said she.
'I'll be satisfied with flesh
and blood too - only the spirit
must shine through and predominate.
But don't you think Mr. Huntingdon's
face is too red?'
'No!' cried I, indignantly.
'It is not red at all. There
is just a pleasant glow, a healthy
freshness in his complexion -
the warm, pinky tint of the whole
harmonising with the deeper colour
of the cheeks, exactly as it
ought to do. I hate a man to
be red and white, like a painted
doll, or all sickly white, or
smoky black, or cadaverous yellow.'
'Well, tastes differ - but
I like pale or dark,' replied
she. 'But, to tell you the truth,
Helen, I had been deluding myself
with the hope that you would
one day be my sister. I expected
Walter would be introduced to
you next season; and I thought
you would like him, and was certain
he would like you; and I flattered
myself I should thus have the
felicity of seeing the two persons
I like best in the world - except
mamma - united in one. He mayn't
be exactly what you would call
handsome, but he's far more distinguished-looking,
and nicer and better than Mr.
Huntingdon; - and I'm sure you
would say so, if you knew him.'
'Impossible, Milicent! You
think so, because you're his
sister; and, on that account,
I'll forgive you; but nobody
else should so disparage Arthur
Huntingdon to me with impunity.'
Miss Wilmot expressed her feelings
on the subject almost as openly.
'And so, Helen,' said she,
coming up to me with a smile
of no amiable import, 'you are
to be Mrs. Huntingdon, I suppose?'
'Yes,' replied I. 'Don't you
'I shall probably be Lady Lowborough
some day, and then you know,
dear, I shall be in a capacity
to inquire, "Don't you envy me?"'
'Henceforth I shall envy no
one,' returned I.
'Indeed! Are you so happy then?'
said she, thoughtfully; and something
very like a cloud of disappointment
shadowed her face. 'And does
he love you - I mean, does he
idolise you as much as you do
him?' she added, fixing her eyes
upon me with ill-disguised anxiety
for the reply.
'I don't want to be idolised,'
I answered; 'but I am well assured
that he loves me more than anybody
else in the world - as I do him.'
'Exactly,' said she, with a
nod. 'I wish - ' she paused.
'What do you wish?' asked I,
annoyed at the vindictive expression
of her countenance.
'I wish,' returned, she, with
a short laugh, 'that all the
attractive points and desirable
qualifications of the two gentlemen
were united in one - that Lord
Lowborough had Huntingdon's handsome
face and good temper, and all
his wit, and mirth and charm,
or else that Huntingdon had Lowborough's
pedigree, and title, and delightful
old family seat, and I had him;
and you might have the other
'Thank you, dear Annabella:
I am better satisfied with things
as they are, for my own part;
and for you, I wish you were
as well content with your intended
as I am with mine,' said I; and
it was true enough; for, though
vexed at first at her unamiable
spirit, her frankness touched
me, and the contrast between
our situations was such, that
I could well afford to pity her
and wish her well.
Mr. Huntingdon's acquaintances
appear to be no better pleased
with our approaching union than
mine. This morning's post brought
him letters from several of his
friends, during the perusal of
which, at the breakfast-table,
he excited the attention of the
company by the singular variety
of his grimaces. But he crushed
them all into his pocket, with
a private laugh, and said nothing
till the meal was concluded.
Then, while the company were
hanging over the fire or loitering
through the room, previous to
settling to their various morning
avocations, he came and leant
over the back of my chair, with
his face in contact with my curls,
and commencing with a quiet little
kiss, poured forth the following
complaints into my ear:-
'Helen, you witch, do you know
that you've entailed upon me
the curses of all my friends?
I wrote to them the other day,
to tell them of my happy prospects,
and now, instead of a bundle
of congratulations, I've got
a pocketful of bitter execrations
and reproaches. There's not one
kind wish for me, or one good
word for you, among them all.
They say there'll be no more
fun now, no more merry days and
glorious nights - and all my
fault - I am the first to break
up the jovial band, and others,
in pure despair, will follow
my example. I was the very life
and prop of the community, they
do me the honour to say, and
I have shamefully betrayed my
trust - '
'You may join them again, if
you like,' said I, somewhat piqued
at the sorrowful tone of his
discourse. 'I should be sorry
to stand between any man - or
body of men, and so much happiness;
and perhaps I can manage to do
without you, as well as your
poor deserted friends.'
you, no,' murmured
he. 'It's "all for love or the world
well lost," with me. Let them
go to - where they belong, to
speak politely. But if you saw
how they abuse me, Helen, you
would love me all the more for
having ventured so much for your
He pulled out his crumpled
letters. I thought he was going
to show them to me, and told
him I did not wish to see them.
'I'm not going to show them
to you, love,' said he. 'They're
hardly fit for a lady's eyes
- the most part of them. But
look here. This is Grimsby's
scrawl - only three lines, the
sulky dog! He doesn't say much,
to be sure, but his very silence
implies more than all the others'
words, and the less he says,
the more he thinks - and this
is Hargrave's missive. He is
particularly grieved at me, because,
forsooth he had fallen in love
with you from his sister's reports,
and meant to have married you
himself, as soon as he had sown
his wild oats.'
'I'm vastly obliged to him,'
'And so am I,' said he. 'And
look at this. This is Hattersley's
- every page stuffed full of
railing accusations, bitter curses,
and lamentable complaints, ending
up with swearing that he'll get
married himself in revenge: he'll
throw himself away on the first
old maid that chooses to set
her cap at him, - as if I cared
what he did with himself.'
'Well,' said I, 'if you do
give up your intimacy with these
men, I don't think you will have
much cause to regret the loss
of their society; for it's my
belief they never did you much
'Maybe not; but we'd a merry
time of it, too, though mingled
with sorrow and pain, as Lowborough
knows to his cost - Ha, ha!'
and while he was laughing at
the recollection of Lowborough's
troubles, my uncle came and slapped
him on the shoulder.
'Come, my lad!' said he. 'Are
you too busy making love to my
niece to make war with the pheasants?
- First of October, remember!
Sun shines out - rain ceased
- even Boarham's not afraid to
venture in his waterproof boots;
and Wilmot and I are going to
beat you all. I declare, we old
'uns are the keenest sportsmen
of the lot!'
'I'll show you what I can do
to-day, however,' said my companion.
'I'll murder your birds by wholesale,
just for keeping me away from
better company than either you
And so saying he departed;
and I saw no more of him till
dinner. It seemed a weary time;
I wonder what I shall do without
It is very true that the three
elder gentlemen have proved themselves
much keener sportsmen than the
two younger ones; for both Lord
Lowborough and Arthur Huntingdon
have of late almost daily neglected
the shooting excursions to accompany
us in our various rides and rambles.
But these merry times are fast
drawing to a close. In less than
a fortnight the party break up,
much to my sorrow, for every
day I enjoy it more and more
- now that Messrs. Boarham and
Wilmot have ceased to tease me,
and my aunt has ceased to lecture
me, and I have ceased to be jealous
of Annabella - and even to dislike
her - and now that Mr. Huntingdon
is become my Arthur, and I may
enjoy his society without restraint.
What shall I do without him,