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THE DIVORCEE DEVOTE.

DIVORCEE

BY THE AUTHOR OF

TALES BY THE O'HARA FAMILY.

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WOMEN say of one another (oftener than men say it of them) that a plain female face never belongs to a heart which can love a handsome female face; and men say of women

“ Lovelier things have mercy shown

To every failing—but their own." I rise up and deny both assertions: listen, dear, dear women, plain or handsome, on what grounds. Some years since I was only a younger brother about_town, and yet-tolerably well received in the best houses, Occasionally, I won smiles from the women, and occcasionally frowns from the men—the latter, however, not as often as the former. A smile costs nothing, you know, and it may show good teeth and dimples, as well as good humour, and needs lead to nothing, for, after all, 'tis but a smile; a frown is a graver affair-from a man, I mean-and may lead to--but you are not learned on that point. To continue-you will note that I have said only tolerably well received. You will not expect that I was ever asked to practise singing with Georgina, or Anna, or to take care of her "spirited sittle wretch of a palfrey," who, after all, only practised the tricks he had been taught, like his mistress. In short, whenever I was in question -on such occasions, young girls invariably had colds-so their mammas said—and could neither sing nor ride; or if they could, it was with somebody else. I must say, however, that, when there were a good many daughters, I now and then got a better footing, owing to a general belief that my elder brother was a bad life." Caroline was thus circumstanced; one of seven sisters; and very beautiful, very accomplished, very amiable, very highly connected, and (you will add) very much admired, of course, even by the elder brothers, your rivals, and therefore, though not an heiress, or a co-heiress, a flight beyond you.' My dear women, neither was she on the stage, nor had she the slightest interesting tache on her reputation; and I was, therefore, judged to be a kind of receivable lover for her. But, again, observe how I qualified my success. My attentions were rather to be connived at-than admitted; in a word, I was to be so managed that I could be turned adrift, should better offer, without quite bringing on the young lady the imputation of being a-jilt.

I will do Caroline herself justice. She was no party to this fast-andloose game. She loved me; and often used to indulge in beautiful visions of elegant retirement and domestic happiness, while listening to my eloquent appeals to her feelings-yes--eloquent, because sincere. And Caroline had feeling, although she wanted nerve or consistency to declare to her family that she had broken through her instructions as regarded me, and actually fallen in love with a man who could offer her only a manly heart (do let me say as much, without accusing me of vanity) and a few hundreds &-year.

But her real hour soon came. S, an earl, a fool, and a roué, was struck with her extraordinary resemblance to-a first wife? No. To a sister? No: but to an individual who had just cut him for a better establishment; and he was anxious to show his former dear friend and her new protector that he could match, if not excel, the treasure he had lost. Once, dear Caroline! you merited a better husband than one who could marry you to gratify a pique like that.

“ He's a fool, mamma, and a roué," remonstrated Caroline. “ He's an earl, my love, and has forty thousand a-year."

“But I could be happier with another kind of man on the half, the quarter, the fortieth part of that sum; believe me, I could, dear mamma.'

“ My dearest Caroline, I should be very sorry to believe any such thing of your understanding. After the pains I have taken with your education, -alter living to see you accomplished in every way for society, it would indeed afflict me to believe you so much in earnest as you pretend to be. You know, my dear girl, as well as I know it, that none of us can expect to marry to please ourselves. One cannot have everything in this world: and the talent, and the morality, and all that sort of thing, may be very good to read about, and to talk of,— they have no influence whatever upon occasions of real importance. And as for his being a roué, my dear, who expects men of fashion to be angels? And allow me to say, Caroline, I feel disappointed at hearing such an objection from you- from the daughter of a country curate, à la bonne heure ! --but from you !-the most fashionable and most admired girl in London !- the thing is inconceivable and unpardonable."

Mamma paused a moment to take breath, and drew Caroline towards her; the girl yielded to the impulse quickened by the act, and laid her head on her mother's shoulder;--not in confidence; not in hope of relief or of commiseration. The mother would have pitied her had she broken a limb, or (without fault of hers) got a new dress spoiled; but, for this sorrow of her child—the first real sorrow of her life-that mother could have had no pity. And yet, Caroline recollected that she was mamma's favourite daughter (mamma had told her so); that “ establishing her well," was the object nearest the heart of her only parent-poor Caroline thought there wus a heart in question); she was also afraid of mamma; afraid of a contest with a temper fearfully violent when opposed; and then came the horror of the ridicule of the whole affair among her acquaintances and "friends." In short, dear ladies

But you readily anticipate me; nor are you inclined to judge harshly of poor Caroline, nor do you call her fool or flirt. You know the kind of education she received, and to which her respectable mother has so pathetically alluded. You know that she had her half score masters every day, and her exhortations, every hour, to attend to them, and, of all things, to watch over, and preserve, and culture, her natural personal beauties and graces, in order to get " well established :" that is to say, well married-that is to say, richly - when is any other earthly object proposed ?-(we waive the epithet “ heavenly")-to get married “ richly, if you can, but married, at any rate;" the question, wisely, not being " shall I be happy with the man ?" but, “shall I be intolerably miserable ?" not how much love, but how little aversion. You know all this; ay, and intuitively. What I am going to tell you happened in consequence of it. Nor, again, are you astonished, or much inconvenienced; you feel quietly assured that 'tis little wonder it should have been just so; from such mammas you naturally expect just such daughters; and you are, therefore, not angry with me, my dear countrywomen, when I cry out, in a little fit of moralizing (now at thirty-seven)--"Fashionable English mammas, look to it! England can still boast of the bravery of her sons ; can she do so with as loud a voice of the virtue of her daughters ? And who is to blame if she cannot ? Oh! you may have an answer-or think you have ;-instances of frail daughters (become wives) happen among people of no fashion. True ; but I pray you to recollect, that though the whole lump is leavened now, the fermentation began in the three measures of meal. Yes, fashionable English mammas, look to it! 1, for one, think you have already given us enongh women, who, fresh from your hands, most beautifully unite the frivolity of children with the vices of men-strong passions and weak judgments. And, pray, listen to a hint even from your own sweet philosopher of Geneva—Malheur au siècle les femmes perdent leur ascendant, et leurs jugements ne sont plus rien aux hommes !

As for you, dear women, to whom I have particularly addressed myself, in the first instance, your pardon for this long digression-ungallant I will not call it; for, indeed, and in truth, I love you all so well, that I would wish to admire you more-above all, to honour you.

Three weeks after Lord S. proposed for Caroline, she was his wife. One other word in her excuse for the step. I had been summoned to the south of France to attend my mother, who lay dangerously ill there, and remained abroad during S--'s short courtship. Had I been near her, feeble-minded as she was, I do not believe she would have given me up, for she knew I was able and willing to save her from persecution.

When first I heard of her marrage, I entertained, however, no such charitable feelings towards her. In a bitter moment I prayed she might live to deserve my pity. Poor thing! even before that time came, I repented me of my prayer. I roamed about, here and there, on the Continent for a year, and at the end of that time ceased to be a younger brother; the old baronetcy was fifteen thousand per annum, a little, but only a little, embarrassed. I left the estate to clear itself, and in two years more returned to England. Caroline and I met in society; she was flattered and followed by crowds ; neglected and treated cavalierly by her lord; and she repaid him with contempt. In the flush that overspread her face at our first re-meeting, and in her embarrassed recognition, I read plain admissions of a lurking interest for me. Had she been only the beautiful and fashionable Lady S--query?-on such encouragement ? but she was sacred in my eyes, not as the wife of another, (my dear ladies, I was then only six and twenty, and a man of fashion,) but as the woman I had once loved well enough to have made my own. Therefore, I avoided Caroline, and sought enchantments elsewhere -elsewhere, and everywhere, acquiring the knowledge (had I previously wanted the lesson) of the surprising difference between an elder and a younger brother. I might now have practised singing, or riding, or dancing, or driving, to my heart's content, with the best of the fair creatures : but somehow the easiness of attainment damped the ardour of pursuit; and when mothers saw me hold back, they began to urge me on, until I became regularly worried out of my native country, and ran over a second time to the Continent. But little rest or peace did I find in the change. At Paris, at Naples, at Florence, at Rome, wherever there were daughters to be married, I was assailed by storm, by blockade, by sap. In short, I was fairly beaten out of Christendom, and took refuge among the turbaned infidels, where, though a man may have four wives if he likes, he needs not have one if he don't.-Yes, now I breathed free, although in the land of despotism ; but, be it remembered, it was also the land of harems.

Months rolled on. I used sometimes to see the English newspapers at the houses of one British merchant or another. One morning the following paragraph met my eye: “ The Earl of S- - is about to lead to the hymeneal altar the beautiful and accomplished daughter of the Marquis of Dthe unfortunate Miss ---" (here came in Caroline's maiden name) "is, we understand, living in strict seclusion somewhere in Italy: the gallant Count M-- is more than ever the star of the Paris salons." So it was as I had anticipated, and sooner too. But I recollected that, just before I left London, poor Caroline had become intimate at the house of the notorious rich foreign countess, or princess, I suppose, whose name I wish I eould put down here for the admiration it merits; but since an honest, as well as honourable, member has failed in an attempt to get some one to mention it, (in a numerous assembly where there were a good many who could,) I will hold my tongue, much against my inclination. But I remembered this fact, I say, and also the character of “the gallant count," and, whatever were my other feelings, I did not long continue wandering. Although here was poor Caroline, once innocent, (and once beloved by a tolerably honest man,) within a few brief months, guilty, detected, punished, abandoned - abandoned of all-(so I thought, at the time, but I mistook) and, above all, by " the gallant count," who, more than ever," &c. I set out almost immediately for England, in order to discover, if I could, her place of solitary retreat: and, my dear women, part of what I am now going to tell you may seem romantic, but so do many very true things.

from an accident which happened to my carriage on my way homeward, I was obliged to stop a day at a small village in Burgundy. Besieged by a crowd of ragamuffins as a “milor Anglois," I escaped from them into the silence of the burial-ground of the hamlet. I had been studying for some time the half-effaced and the recent memorials of sorrow, when my atten. tion was attracted by a particular grave, one detached from the others. It was thickly planted round with shrubs, and, unlike the rest, bore marks of the frequent visitations of a careful and venerating hand. But I believe it was its standing alone which, vaguely, somehow first interested me: I detected myself attributing to its occupant the power of being conscious of desolateness. I stooped over it, and to my surprise read the following inscription in English :"Beloved friend, you have sinned, and you have suffered; you have repented, and you are saved through Him, whose name be praised for ever and ever, Amen. H. C." So an Englishman, the only one of his nation, slept here. The idea was dreary, and called up others like itself. I was a wanderer too. And he had been unhappy; that deepened the melancholy of my meditations. I glanced at my past life, and was not quite satisfied with it; yet I could not charge myself with more than the usual quantum of sins of an ordinary, unoffending man of fashion. I thought of friends I had lost, and I asked where were they then ? I thought of her I had lost, of her who was lost to the world and to me, by a separation more complete than that which death makes.

At this point of my reverie, a carriage stopped at the gate of the churchyard, and a lady and a gentleman alighted from it, entered the humble cemetery, and advanced to where I stood. They were English, from their dress and general expression. At their approach, I retreated to another part of the ground, and observed them, unseen. For some time they stood together at the grave. The lady appeared greatly affected; her companion spoke to her in a low, soothing tone. Pr ently he left her alone, and walked out of the churchyard. As soon as he was gone, she gave way to the grief she had repressed in his presence; she knelt by the grave, and sometimes her accents were those of prayer; sometimes they rose into loud lament, or sank in a passion of tears and sobs. I was touched, myself, by the depth and sincerity of her sorrow.

The thought suddenly occurred to me, that I did wrong to play the spy upon her as I was doing; and I stole out of the burial-ground and returned to the inn. The gentleman was standing at its door: our eyes met, and neither seeing the other so shy of him as Englishmen generally are abroad, we bowed almost simultaneously. He did not, after this, turn off his eyes stolidly in another direction, and I ventured to ask him a trifling question. He answered me frankly, I was encouraged to proceed, and, at the end of half an hour, we liked each other very well. He was just telling me, that if we had been alone he would have proposed joining forces at dinner, but that, having his daughter with him, whose spirits were much depressed, he was compelled to forego the pleasure,—when the person spoken of appeared, ascending the little eminence upon which the inn stood. She seemed disconcerted at seeing a stranger with her father, and drew her veil down, and turned her head away. This was an unusual manifestation towards me from a woman. Since I came into the baronetcy, at any rate, I thought I was rather an interesting-looking traveller. But, if my vanity was piqued that she did not care to look at me, my curiosity was also disappointed that I could not catch a glimpse of her features. I concluded she was handsome, because I knew her to be feeling—a slight remnant of the youthful creed which always allies beauty and sensibility.

The father followed her into the house as I moved away from the door, but shortly returned with a request that I would dine with him, as his daughter preferred remaining in her room for the evening. I readily agreed;

I liked the old gentleman, and I wanted to know more about his daughter: even though she might prove no heroine, or object of a poet's dream, she was worthy the interest of a rational man,-she was woman in tears, if she was not in beauty.

Her father and I got on very well together, and discussed a variety of English topics. We-or, I should rather say, I-stumbled on the frequency of divorce cases lately; and I asked him if he knew what had become of the unhappy Lady ś----? He started, reddened, grew pale, gazed at me, cast down his eyes, and answered," Yes-she is dead !" Startled in my turn, and greatly agitated, I asked him to explain :-he left the room. I slept little that night; or, when I did, my dreams were of Caroline, as my waking thoughts had been. Now I sat by her, as in former days, and she looked happy and innocent, as well as beautiful; and now I gazed at her in a strange land, and she was pale, worn, and suffering ; and on her brow I read, " My heart is breaking." In the morning I busied myself in conjecturing why her name should have so much affected my new acquaintance. A note from him, requesting to see me before we parted on our different routes, solved my difficulty. Its signature was the name of Caroline's uncle by marriage; and his daughter, who had been Caroline's early and dearest friend, I had seen often before, though he and I had never met till the previous day. I hastened out to him from my chamber, and warmly taking his offered hand, said, “Sir, a strong bond of common feeling unites us, I hope, in friendship; she was my youthful love : my name is Trevor.” He returned my pressure. We walked out together to the churchyard. I learned from him all I wanted to know, and more than I had expected to hear. Caroline had not died in solitude, without a friend as a comforter ; nor, through the ministry of that friend, had she died de-“ spairing And, in consequence of all I heard, I began to wonder how I could have once called Helen Clinton plain. Her father and I returned to the inn; she met us – the tears streamed from her eyes as she held out her hand to me-she blushed when I raised it to my lips-and I thought her almost handsome. Three months afterwards we were married; and, in justice to her, and to my dear womankind in general, I will give a detail of the facts which could thus impart to a plain face the charm of beauty, ay, and more than that. Who will patronize my cosmetic ?

The cousins, Helen and Caroline, had been brought up together by their grandmother, to whom peor Caroline owed whatever she possessed of a better order of feeling than was valued by others she afterwards lived amongst. Her father, ordered on foreign service, left his little girl in his mother's, Lady T-—'s, charge; he had been medically advised not to yield to his wife's desire to take Caroline with them. Helen Clinton was the child of Lady T—-'s favourite daughter, who, dying almost immediately after Helen's birth, requested that during infancy, at least, Helen might be entrusted to her grandmother. Thus the girls grew up as sisters, equally beloved by the old lady—but only by her. All the connexions and acquaintances of the family overlooked " ugly little Helen," to lavish admiration and caresses on “ lovely little Caroline.”—“ Charming, sweet little creature—what a sensation she will create some years hence!"

“ You dear, little, merry thing, come here and kiss me with that lovely little mouth of yours ! “Helen, my dear, how d' ye do ?-why do you look so frightened, child ?-Nobody is going to eat you. Stupid-looking, little cold thing she is,- don't you think so ? Very odd she should be so very plain, and of such a handsome family:- horribly provoking-ugliness won't do now at all, even with money : how blind poor old Lady T-- must be! I declare she's quite fond of the child."

This, and more, poor Helen was doomed to hear whenever the kind and considerate speaker was out of her grandmother's presence. As a mere child, of course, she appeared plainer than as a woman, for her face then wanted intellectual expression to supply the place of regularity of feature

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