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296

THE FIRST DREAM OF LIFE.

She raised her deep blue eyes and they met competence to her. And while Annie well his. There was truth, and purity, and love in repaid this tenderness and care, and grew up the glance, and there needed no lip to repeat gentle, lively, she was yet self-willed, for her the vow. A few more words; oh, how sad! for mother, feeble, often suffering, and always pastheir hearts were too full for the fountains to sive, seldom interfered with her pursuits; and be unsealed in that brief interview, and silence Annie, though she loved too much not to honor, is the best interpreter of thoughts that rise at was seldom called upon to obey; and she had such an hour; and he pressed his lips to that been allowed so early to think, and act, and fair brow, pressed her one moment to his heart decide for herself on all the petty occasions of and withdrew. She watched in the moonlight childhood, that she hardly had learned that there until she could see him no longer, and then were events of life in which the first duty is to sinking on her knees she wept long and bit- consult the parent. terly.

Music is too common an accomplishment for Gideon Clarke owned and occupied the house Annie Clarke to neglect it, and her father was in which his fathers had dwelt before him, and too much of a business man to buy a cheap or to which had originally been attached a farm, poor instrument, and the new and splendid now divided into city lots, the most of which piano contrasted somewhat with the homespun had been sold for the benefit and beloof of the carpet, and the plain chairs, and old-fashioned Clarkes of preceding generations. He was a

book-case in the best parlor. Blakesley too plain man, of good common sense, strict in all loved music, and as he passed the parlor door his religious duties, frugal in his habits, and and put his foot on the white, uncarpeted stair careful of his expenditures, living within his which led to his room, he paused to listen to means with much comfort and no show. His the rich tones of the piano, and to the sweet voice wife was a quiet, feeble, little woman, who that accompanied it; then he learned to enter, seldom got out except to meeting or to take a until the shy and timid girl became accustomed ride in the old gig on a fine day.

to his presence, played and sung with him and Two years before, young Blakesley, tired, as for him, and learned the music he loved and he said, of college walls, applied to Gideon the songs he brought her. Blakesley never Clarke for a room to lodge and study, and

counted the hours he spent in that low parlor, Mr. Clarke, who with his wife and one child but he learned that the nine o'clock bell was occupied a house in which his grandfather had the signal for retiring in Gideon Clarke's quiet raised more than half a score of children, wil.

family, and he found it necessary to study in lingly rented him one, and for a year the young

his own room long after that hour; and his student pursued his studies under the roof studies so engrossed him that he had little which sheltered the quiet family of the owner.

leisure to devote to former associates. It beAnnie Clarke was then fifteen. Slight, fair came a matter of course that he should attend and delicate, she escaped the general awk- Annie to and from the evening lectures through wardness of young girls at that age. The pas- that winter, and as spring opened there were sion of the New Englander is the education of long walks with her and her young companhis children, and the only child of plain Gideon ions, in which they botanized, or geologized, Clarke was a pupil of the best schools, and until--the tale is still the same--the afternoon nothing was spared which could facilitate her walk was prolonged until the moonlight hour, improvement and give her a finished and pol- and those who so late were strangers, and then ished education.

who called themselves friends, then spoke of She was a gentle, sweet, and thoughtful being brother and sister, no longer troubled child; loving her studies and teachers, with themselves to define their position, for they whom she was a favorite ; loving her books knew that they were lovers-and they knew and her flowers; loving her plain and stern- they were too young to marry. looking father, who was always gentle to her, So Blakesley returned for his last year to who always indulged though he never petted college, and Annie was to finish her education her, and whose somewhat rugged aspect seemed and wait until he had completed his college to soften as he looked upon his child in her course, and finished his professional studies; a brightness and beauty, and who patiently toiled very simple, and, in the eyes of the lovers, a and saved, that he might ensure more than a very judicious arrangement.

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And what said Gideon Clarke and his wife to these arrangements ? Nothing. What should they ?—they had not been consulted. They certainly were not so dull as not to know whereunto such an intimacy might lead between a young man just out of his teens and a fair girl of fifteen, but Annie was in their eyes but a child, and though they certainly supposed it probable that at some future day she might love and they be called upon to sanction her choice, such an event was to them in the far distant future. Many happy days and years did they fancy before them in which they were to enjoy the society of their child, and see her gladden her home, and feel her repay them for all their care, before they should be called upon to bestow her upon another. And Gideon Clarke thanked God and his own industry and prudence, that Annie need not marry for a home, or from fear of want, should he be taken away. It certainly had occurred to the thought of the parents that Blakesley might seek to marry their child, and if he should, why in due time he would“ ask consent," as Gideon had done himself in his younger days. The exceeding simplicity of New England manners allowed a freedom of association unknown in corrupt monarchies of Europe, and it is much to the honor of our national purity that it has been so seldom abused. But while the worst evils to be apprehended have been comparatively seldom, a train of sorrows which greater parental care and a less confiding temper might have prevented, have often ensued. Few may have been the victims of guilt, but many women have had their hearts crushed and their affections blighted by attachments too early formed, engagements rashly and injudiciously made; for while a true woman never seeks the pledge, a promise which man still loves to exact, feeling in her inmo t heart how much worse than useless it would be should there be a wish to retract, she is the last to break the promise which with tears and blushes she has spoken.

Annie Clarke did not refer Blakesley to her parents when he told her his plans and prospects for the future, and asked her to promise to become his wife, that beautiful spring evening when they sat on the step in the low porch' and heard, and did not listen to the whippoorwill, and felt, rather than inhaled, the fragrance of the olive which shaded and hid them from passers-by, and of the sweet honeysuckle

which was twining and breathing around them; she hardly knew that it was her duty, and she was too timid; and perhaps even in that hour Blakesley did not forget how much more easily such engagements might be dissolved while they were thus unsanctioned, should his heart change. But he felt that he loved her now, and what leisure he allowed himself while pressing forwards in his studies was allotted to her. He aimed at honor, as he said to Annie, and as perhaps he thought himself, to be more worthy of her; but he never forgot either that there were other friends to gratify, and rivals to mortify, and more than all the world to applaud, and distinction and honor to be attained, while in the romance of youth he thought how pleasant it would be to be honored and courted abroad, to turn to his own home, and find there a depth of love and devotedness far outweighing all the world could give.

But in all his plans and purposes he never forgot himself, and while he felt that he should still love Annie, he knew that she must but live for bim, and she must find all her happiness in ministering to his. Annie thought not of herself.

She sometimes feared that his image came between her soul and heaven, but she hoped that they should so dwell on earth as to spend their eternity together there. Yet was the present influence of that young girl a blessing to the student. Her purity, and sweetness, and piety, seemed to fall, like the moonbeams on the waste places of earth, on his tender feelings and deep passions, and invest them with the radiance and holiness of her own nature. That quiet delicacy which was her great charm, which so instinctively shrunk from all approach of evil, taught him refinement, and that deep tenderness, so unobtrusive and yet so unconsciously displayed, softened and elevated him; and he grew more gentle, and yet more manly and courteous. The deep feelings of the heart were awakened, and he lost the bluntness and rudeness of boyhood, and learned the depths of the human soul, and how to strike the chords to which vibrate the deepest sounds. And he learned too, for her sake, to shrink from the vicious and the impure. This thought became a guardian angel to him, and restrained him from every haunt of evil, from every plac where he would not that those tender yet penetrating glances should follow him;

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while, sympathizing with him, Annie became more intellectual, and she acquired more mental discipline, and learned to love severer studies, that she might participate in his pursuits. She was a child when they met. Under the influence of love her character had developed rapidly, matured prematurely the deep feelings of her heart, and gave dignity and steadiness to her manners, and the emotions of the soul added expression to her beauty.

Concentrating all the affections of heart upon her lover and parents, Annie lost all the love of display and the vanity of her sex, and perhaps too much the gayety and thoughtlessness of her age. She had no girlhood. She passed from childhood to the deep affections, the joys, the sorrows of womanhood, and as each season of life has its appointed purpose in developing and forming the character, so did Annie lose the strengthening, exhilarating influence of that period, and when the trials of life fell upon her, they crushed and destroyed her.

Three years had passed, but many a letter interchanged, and some short visits from Blakesley to his Alma Mater, had kept alive the affections and the hopes of the lovers; and commencemement was now at hand again.

The city was thronged as usual, and the drooping elms waved and sighed over the assembled students as they had done many a preceding commencement over those whose hopes had been swept away like their leaves, perished and left no memorial. And Annie Clarke was in the home where we left her three years since. But there was change there. The old house, well repaired, gave exterior notice of comfort, while within it had been neatly fitted and well furnished, and the rich carpets and luxurious sofas were in keeping with the fine piano, whila around and within the dwelling was diffused an air of wealth and refinement; choice plants were on the piazza, rich flowers bloomed in the small flower-garden in the court, while the old elms which overhung the low house spoke of settled habits and established fortune, and rise of property had added much to the value of Gideon Clarke's estate, and his neighbors spoke of him as a rich man, and mothers listened to their sons when they spoke of Annie's beauty, and reminded them that she would inherit a fortune.

Annie had herself changed. The sylph-like form was passing into the fullness and round

ness of womanhood, and her eyes and hair were darker, and her complexion fairer, and the glow on her cheek deeper. She was dressed for an evening party, and her simple, though elegant attire well became her. A bracelet of deep black hair contrasted with her white round arm, and a rich chain passed over her fair neck, though the ornament appended to it was hidden. Yet a sad and somewhat anxious expression shadowed her beautiful face, and a half sigh sometimes escaped her. She had heavy thoughts, and had it not been that a young friend from a distance was with her she had remained at home that evening. But the evening boat had long been in, and her young friend was getting impatient.

Her companion was soon separated from her by schoolmates and former associates, and Annie, whose heart was little in unison with the gayety around her, had retired apart from the crowd, and was recurring to thoughts which now seldom left her, when an exclamation drew her attention.“ Blakesley and Kate Wetherby!” “[ declare !” “I knew they were engaged I heard it at Saratoga ;" and as Annie's searching glance passed around the large parlors, she saw through the folding doors Miss Wetherby leaning on the arm of-was it ?-her faithless lover.

She uttered no exclamation, and no one noted first the flush of surprise, and then the look of agony which passed over her pale face. She would not faint, and the power of the will is great, and even, as darkness and dimness came over her sight, she was enabled to pass through the low window into the piazza, and to lean in the shadow. The cool air revived her, and her heart began to beat---oh, how heavily! But she could not return to that gay circle. She could not meet Blakesley when Kate Wetherby's eye would be upon her, with his hair upon her arm and his image against her heart. She stole, as though she were the guilty one, to the dressing-room, where, leaving her apologies, a kind-hearted servant girl, touched by her evident illness, was found to see her safely to her father's door. And what a night was that for her! The appearance of Blakesley and Miss Wetherby had sanctioned her worst fears, and confirmed every rumor, and viewed in the most favorable light Annie felt indignant, and wouud. ed, and outraged.

Seldom for the last six weeks had Blakesley written to her, and his brief, cold letters were

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THE FIRST DREAM OF LIFE.

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unlike all that had preceded them, and Annie knew that she had cause to fear that he wished to forget her. Yet still she hoped—she could not help but hope. How could he so lightly cast aside the troth of years ? There must be some explanation. And even after the midnight hour, often did she raise her heavy head in the idle hope that he might have in some way heard of her illness, and come to the house to make one inquiry. She less hɔped from the interview, but confidently expected to see him the next morning; but the morning and the evening passed, and the next day, and he sought her not. The gay season over, Annie Ciarke left not her home; she scarcely left her darkened room ; but many called, and from all she heard that young Blakesley was in the city, the avowed and accepted suitor of Miss Wetherby; and Annie stilled her lips to silence, if not her heart to peace.

Truly had Blakesley loved Annie Clarke, and for many years had her image been enshrined in his heart. But he was vain as well as ambitious, and when he entered the charined circle of fashionable life, he found its selfish and callous worldliness steal upon him, and perhaps he loved himself too well to love another deeply. The fetters of conventional life bind the highest minds; it is only the enlargement of the heart which emancipates from them, and within a few of the past months Blakesley had sometimes felt that the daughter of the plain Gideon Clarke was hardly an eligible match.

Yet it had been more from mere vanity, from a wish to pique another, thian from a design or desire to cast off the claims of Annie ; to show that the belle of the season at Saratoga, of the preceding winter in New York, the brilliant Miss Wetherby, was proud of his homage and fond of his attention, that led him on until he was compromised in the eyes of the world, of the young lady's friends, and in the estimation of the young lady herself. There was a struggle, short and not severe, between honor and duty, and perhaps inclination, and vanity and pride; but the thought came, should he now withdraw his attentions, the world would view him as rejected suitor of Miss Wetherby, and Annie was relinquished—not forgotten. Ile tried to write to Annie to explain his conduct, but he found it so difficult that he deferred to a personal interview, which seenied inevitable, as he must reclaim his letters. He was to be at Yale the ensuing commencement, when he would

see Annie for the last time, and he had little fear that Annie and Miss Wetherby would meet, for though schoolmates they had never been associates, and Annie shrunk from the dashing belle, while Miss Wetherby affected to despise the daughter of plain Gideon Clarke. Unwillingly had Blakesley attended Miss Wetherby to a large party the evening of his arrival, for he meant to see Annie immediately ; but a note awaited him, and he found himself chained like a captive to the car of his conqueror. Annie disappeared before he saw ber, and his heart told him why she did not appear on the preceding days. Yet while he dreaded to meet her, every object recalled her; her image was associated with each familiar scene, and every thought brought remembrance of her purity, her tenderness, her gentleness and modest worth. He could not but contrast her long-tried and selfsacrificing affection with the public homage and display which Miss Wetherby excited, and with sickened heart and awakened conscience he still delayed the interview which was to sever the ties which had bound them.

It was not until the evening previous to his departure that he found his way to the spot where he had spent so many peaceful hours, and sending in his card requested a short interview.

He waited a few minutes in the familiar parlor, but these moments recalled the remembrance of years and when Annie entered so pale, so sad, he was scarcely less agitated. She could not speak, but motioning bim to a seat she sunk on the sofa. Yet was she first able to compose herself, and noticing his agitation she said with a faint, sad smile, “I hardly expected to see you again."

Blakesley tried to command himself, and he muttered something of necessity, of circumstances not to be controlled, of change of views, and Annie grew more calm and self-collected. When he paused and seemed to expect a reply to his unintelligible address, she became deathly pale, and for a moment he thought she would faint, but as he arose to open a window she prevented him.

“It will pass off,” said she, as the blood slowly returned to her white and quivering lips. “ It had been more kind in you to have earlier informed me of your change of sentiments, but let it pass; retrospection is useless; I trust you have never thought so ill of me as to believe me capable of asking you to remember

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what you now wish to forget. There are letters--you wish to reclaim yours.” She opened a small cabinet and placed a packet before him.

“Will you not retain the books, Miss Clarke, as a testimony of respect-of esteem, most sin

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She shook her head.

“ There are associations,” she said, with a choking voice, “and this,” said she, as she placed his own miniature in his hands, “could it speak to you, it would tell you of prayers for your happiness, of wishes for your prosperity, and these will still follow you; may you be happy! and now farewell. I would not that my parents should find you here and see me thus. I have greatly erred in daring to form such engagements without their approbation or even knowledge ; but I would now spare them the knowledge of the unhappiness of their child. To you—to the rest of the world-I am nothing ; but I am much to them, and if I can promote their happiness I shall not live in vain."

“ Oli, Annie, forgive me !" exclaimed Blakesley, touched with self-reproach.

“ I did not mean to upbraid you,” said Annie. “I do forgive you all the sorrow you have brought upon me; and,” said she, clasping her hands in one passionate burst of feeling, “ may you never know the anguish of this hour, or what I have felt, or what is yet besore me! But go-why do you stay? I must be alone."

For a moment Blakesley stood stupefied at witnessing a wildness and excitement so unusual to Annie Clarke; but though he feared to leave her he dared not remain, and he hastily departed. It seemed like a dream to him as he staggered to his lodgings, where he struggled long to attain composure and self-possession, before he met the gay circle who were expecting him. A dark frown was on the brow of the haughty mother, and an angry spot on the cheek of the betrothed, at his apparent delinquency, when at a late hour he appeared, but his haggard looks gave credence to his plea of illness, and sympathy succeeded resentment. Yet though he lingered until the last guest had retired to bid Miss Wetherby adieu, instead of returning to his lodgings he went around by Gideon Clarke's, and stood to watch Annie's window. It was past midnight, but a light gleamed through the shutters, and he thought

he could discern shadows passing. It rained heavily, but he stood long watching that glimmering light, and after a sleepless night left the city as the day dawned.

May, like a capricions beauty, flattered and courted with bright days of gladness and budding flowers and sweet smiles, yet capricious and willful, with sudden frosts and frequent blights, had faded into the sweet and quiet June, like a caressed, petted, and somewhat spoiled bride transformed into the gentle and loving wife. And June was Blakesley's bridal month. He did not leave his state-room until the boat had landed, and the sound of retreating footsteps became unfrequent. While dressing he marked the heavy steps as of those who bear a burden, passing near his door in the long saloon. They seemed to deposit it, and then all was silent; and soon a low groan or sob fell upon his ear. As he opened the state-room door a coffin stood on the marble table before him. The mahogany lid was aside from the face, and through the glass the features were distinctly seen. That shrouded form looked indeed like chiselled marble, but that face was Annie Clarke's. The progress of disease had in its last stages restored the appearance of health. She was always fair, like alabaster, and he had seen her almost as pale when sitting quiet and unmoved. The rich dark brown hair lay in wavy folds and deathly stillness upon that beautiful brow, and a sweet, pensive expression lingered around that small mouth and on those pale lips. The eyes were not quite closed, and the deep blue could be seen through the long lashes which rested on the marble below, and they seemed to Blakesley to seek him and speak a sorrowful reproach.

The small hands were clasped on her breast —a ring glittered on one finger. Well did Blakesley remember the hour he placed it there, and the promise that it should never be taken off.

Leaning over his child, with his back towards Blakesley, stood the father. He had groaned and sobbed when the face of his child, in death, was first revealed to him, but now he stood still, and the convulsive movement of his chest and shoulders alone betokened his deep distress.

Blakesley made no sound, though he shook like an aspen, and, after a long, horror-struck gaze, withdrew to his state-room, until all that remained of Annie Clarke was removed to the hearse awaiting

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