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IMAGINATION 


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I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again: Mine ear is much enamoured of thy note, So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape; And thy fair virtue's force perforce doth move me, On the first view, to say, to swear, I love thee. MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

{Shakespeare, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Act III, Scene 1, lines 137-141}

"DO--write to me often, my dear Anna!" said the weeping Julia Warren, on parting, for the first time since their acquaintance, with the young lady whom she had honoured with the highest place in her affections. "Think how dreadfully solitary and miserable I shall be here, without a single companion, or a soul to converse with, now you are to be removed two hundred miles into the wilderness."

"Oh! trust me, my love, I shall not forget you now or ever," replied her friend, embracing the other slightly, and, perhaps, rather hastily for so tender an adieu; at the same time glancing her eye on the figure of a youth, who stood in silent contemplation of the scene. "And doubt not but I shall soon tire you with my correspondence, especially as I more than suspect it will be subjected to the criticisms of Mr. Charles Weston." As she concluded, the young lady curtisied to the youth in a manner that contradicted, by its flattery, the forced irony of her remark.

"Never, my dear girl!" exclaimed Miss Warren with extreme fervour. "The confidence of our friendship is sacred with me, and nothing, no, nothing, could ever tempt me to violate such a trust. Charles is very kind and very indulgent to all my whims, but he never could obtain such an influence over me as to become the depositary of my secrets. Nothing but a friend, like yourself, can do that, my dear Anna."

"Never! Miss Warren," said the youth with a lip that betrayed by its tremulous motion the interest he took in her speech--"never includes a long period of time. But," he added with a smile of good- humoured pleasantry, "if admitted to such a distinction, I should not feel myself competent to the task of commenting on so much innocence and purity, as I know I should find in your correspondence."

"Yes," said Anna, with a little of the energy of her friend's manner, "you may with truth say so, Mr. Weston. The imagination of my Julia is as pure as-- as-----" but turning her eyes from the countenance of Julia to that of the youth, rather suddenly, the animated pleasure she saw delineated in his expressive, though plain features, drove the remainder of the speech from her recollection.

"As her heart!" cried Charles Weston with emphasis.

"As her heart, Sir," repeated the young lady coldly.

The last adieus were hastily exchanged, and Anna Miller was handed into her father's gig by Charles Weston in profound silence. Miss Emmerson, the maiden aunt of Julia, withdrew from the door, where she had been conversing with Mr. Miller, and the travellers departed. Julia followed the vehicle with her eyes until it was hid by the trees and shrubbery that covered the lawn, and then withdrew to her room to give vent to a sorrow that had sensibly touched her affectionate heart, and in no trifling degree haunted her lively imagination.

As Miss Emmerson by no means held the good qualities of the guest, who had just left them, in so high an estimation as did her niece, she proceeded quietly and with great composure in the exercise of her daily duties; not in the least suspecting the real distress that, from a variety of causes, this sudden separation had caused to her ward.

The only sister of this good lady had died in giving birth to a female infant, and the fever of 1805 had, within a very few years of the death of the mother, deprived the youthful orphan of her remaining parent. Her father was a merchant, just commencing the foundations of what would, in time, have been a large estate; and as both Miss Emmerson and her sister were possessed of genteel independencies, and the aunt had long declared her intention of remaining single, the fortune of Julia, if not brilliant, was thought rather large than otherwise. Miss Emmerson had been educated immediately after the war of the revolution, and at a time when the intellect of the women of this country by no means received that attention it is thought necessary to bestow on the minds of the future mothers of our families at the present hour; and when, indeed, the country itself required too much of the care of her rulers and patriots to admit of the consideration of lesser objects. With the best of hearts and affections devoted to the welfare of her niece, Miss Emmerson had early discovered her own incompetency to the labour of fitting Julia for the world in which she was to live, and shrunk with timid modesty from the arduous task of preparing herself, by application and study, for this sacred duty. The fashions of the day were rapidly running into the attainment of accomplishments among the young of her own sex, and the piano forte was already sending forth its sonorous harmony from one end of the Union to the other, while the glittering usefulness of the tambour-frame was discarded for the pallet and brush. The walls of our mansions were beginning to groan with the sickly green of imaginary fields, that caricatured the beauties of nature; and skies of sunny brightness, that mocked the golden hues of even an American sun. The experience of Miss Emmerson went no further than the simple evolutions of the country dance, or the deliberate and dignified procession of the minuet. No wonder, therefore, that her faculties were bewildered by the complex movements of the cotillion: and, in short, as the good lady daily contemplated the improvements of the female youth around her, she became each hour more convinced of her own inability to control, or in any manner to superintend, the education of her orphan niece. Julia was, consequently, entrusted to the government of a select boarding-school; and, as even the morals of the day were, in some degree, tinctured with the existing fashions, her mind as well as her manners were absolutely submitted to the discretion of an hireling. Notwithstanding this willing concession of power on the part of Miss Emmerson, there was no deficiency in ability to judge between right and wrong in her character; but the homely nature of her good sense, unassisted by any confidence in her own powers, was unable to compete with the dazzling display of accomplishments which met her in every house where she visited; and if she sometimes thought that she could not always discover much of the useful amid this excess of the agreeable, she rather attributed the deficiency to her own ignorance than to any error in the new system of instruction. From the age of six to that of sixteen, Julia had no other communications with Miss Emmerson than those endearments which neither could suppress, and a constant and assiduous attention on the part of the aunt to the health and attire of her niece.

{fever of 1805 = New York City had suffered a major epidemic of yellow fever in the summer of 1805; tambour-frame = a circular frame used to hold material being embroidered}

Miss Emmerson had a brother residing in the city of New-York, who was a man of eminence at the bar, and who, having been educated fifty years ago, was, from that circumstance, just so much superior to his successors of his own sex by twenty years, as his sisters were the losers from the some cause. The family of Mr. Emmerson was large, and, besides several sons, he had two daughters, one of whom remained still unmarried in the house of her father. Katherine Emmerson was but eighteen months the senior of Julia Warren; but her father had adopted a different course from that which was ordinarily pursued with girls of her expectations. He had married a woman of sense, and now reaped the richest blessing of such a connexion in her ability to superintend the education of her daughter. A mother's care was employed to correct errors that a mother's tenderness could only discover; and in the place of general systems, and comprehensive theories, was substituted the close and rigorous watchfulness which adapted the remedy to the disease; which studied the disposition; and which knew the failings or merits of the pupil, and could best tell when to reward, and how to punish. The consequences were easily to be seen in the manners and character of their daughter. Her accomplishments, even where a master had been employed in their attainment, were naturally displayed, and suited to her powers. Her manners, instead of the artificial movements of prescribed rules, exhibited the chaste and delicate modesty of refinement, mingled with good principles--such as were not worn in order to be in character as a woman and a lady, but were deeply seated, and formed part, not only of her habits, but, if we may use the expression, of her nature also. Miss Emmerson had good sense enough to perceive the value of such an acquaintance for her ward; but, unfortunately for her wish to establish an intimacy between her nieces, Julia had already formed a friendship at school, and did not conceive her heart was large enough to admit two at the same time to its sanctuary. How much Julia was mistaken the sequel of our tale will show.

So long as Anna Miller was the inmate of the school, Julia was satisfied to remain also, but the father of Anna having determined to remove to an estate in the interior of the country, his daughter was taken from school; and while the arrangements were making for the reception of the family on the banks of the Gennessee, Anna was permitted to taste, for a short time, the pleasures of the world, at the residence of Miss Emmerson on the banks of the Hudson.

{Gennessee = Genesee River, which flows north through central New York State to Lake Ontario--at the time of Cooper's story it was still on the frontier of settlement}

Charles Weston was a distant relative of the good aunt, and was, like Julia, an orphan, who was moderately endowed with the goods of fortune. He was a student in the office of her uncle, and being a great favourite with Miss Emmerson, spent many of his leisure hours, during the heats of the summer, in the retirement of her country residence.

Whatever might be the composure of the maiden aunt, while Julia was weeping in her chamber over the long separation that was now to exist between herself and her friend, young Weston by no means displayed the same philosophic indifference. He paced the hall of the building with rapid steps, cast many a longing glance at the door of his cousin's room, and then rested himself with an apparent intention to read the volume he held in his hands; nor did he in any degree recover his composure until Julia re-appeared on the landing of the stairs, moving slowly towards their bottom, when, taking one long look at her lovely face, which was glowing with youthful beauty, and if possible more charming from the traces of tears in her eyes, he coolly pursued his studies. Julia had recovered her composure, and Charles Weston felt satisfied. Miss Emmerson and her niece took their seats quietly with their work at an open window of the parlour, and order appeared to be restored in some measure to the mansion. After pursuing their several occupations for some minutes with a silence that had lately been a stranger to them, the aunt observed--

"You appear to have something new in hand, my love. Surely you must abound with trimmings, and yet you are working another already?"

"It is for Anna Miller," said Julia with a flush of feeling.

"I was in hopes you would perform your promise to your cousin Katherine, now Miss Miller is gone, and make your portion of the garments for the Orphan Asylum," returned Miss Emmerson gravely.

"Oh! cousin Katherine must wait. I promised this trimming to Anna to remember me by, and I would not disappoint the dear girl for the world."

"It is not your cousin Katherine, but the Orphans, who will have to wait; and surely a promise to a relation is as sacred as one to an acquaintance."

"Acquaintance, aunt!" echoed the niece with displeasure. "Do not, I entreat you, call Anna an acquaintance merely. She is my friend--my very best friend, and I love her as such."

"Thank you, my dear," said the aunt dryly.

"Oh! I mean nothing disrespectful to yourself, dear aunt," continued Julia. "You know how much I owe to you, and ought to know that I love you as a mother."

"And would you prefer Miss Miller to a mother, then?"

"Surely not in respect, in gratitude, in obedience; but still I may love her, you know. Indeed, the feelings are so very different, that they do not at all interfere with each other--in my heart at least."

"No!" said Miss Emmerson, with a little curiosity--"I wish you would try and explain this difference to me, that I may comprehend the distinctions that you are fond of making."

"Why, nothing is easier, dear aunt!" said Julia with animation. "You I love because you are kind to me, attentive to my wants, considerate for my good; affectionate, and--and--from habit--and you are my aunt, and take care of me."

"Admirable reasons!" exclaimed Charles Weston, who had laid aside his book to listen to this conversation.

"They are forcible ones I must admit," said Miss Emmerson, smiling affectionately on her niece; "but now for the other kind of love."

"Why, Anna is my friend, you know," cried Julia, with eyes sparkling with enthusiasm. "I love her, because she has feelings congenial with my own; she has so much wit, is so amusing, so frank, so like a girl of talents--so like--like every thing I admire myself."

"It is a pity that one so highly gifted cannot furnish herself with frocks," said the aunt, with a little more than her ordinary dryness of manner, "and suffer you to work for those who want them more."

"You forget it is in order to remember me," said Julia, in a manner that spoke her own ideas of the value of the gift.

"One would think such a friendship would not require any thing to remind one of its existence," returned the aunt.

"Why! it is not that she will forget me without it, but that she may have something by her to remind her of me-----" said Julia rapidly, but pausing as the contradiction struck even herself.

"I understand you perfectly, my child," interrupted the aunt, "merely as an unnecessary security, you mean."

"To make assurance doubly sure," cried Charles Weston with a laugh.

"Oh! you laugh, Mr. Weston," said Julia with a little anger; "but I have often said, you were incapable of friendship."

"Try me!" exclaimed the youth fervently. "Do not condemn me without a trial."

"How can I?" said Julia, laughing in her turn. "You are not a girl."

"Can girls then only feel friendship?" inquired Charles, taking the seat which Miss Emmerson had relinquished.

"I sometimes think so," said Julia, with her own good-humoured smile. "You are too gross--too envious--in short, you never see such friendships between men as exist between women."

"Between girls, I will readily admit," returned the youth. "But let us examine this question after the manner of the courts--"

"Nay, if you talk law I shall quit you," interrupted the young lady gaily.

"Certainly one so learned in the subject need not dread a cross-examination," cried the youth, in her own manner.

"Well, proceed," cried the lady. "I have driven aunt Margaret from the field, and you will fare no better, I can assure you."

"Men, you say, are too gross to feel a pure friendship; in the first place, please to explain yourself on this point."

"Why I mean, that your friendships are generally interested; that it requires services and good offices to support it."

{interested = not pure, having an ulterior motive}

"While that of women depends on--"

"Feeling alone."

"But what excites this feeling?" asked Charles with a smile.

"What? why sympathy--and a knowledge of each other's good qualities."

"Then you think Miss Miller has more good qualities than Katherine Emmerson," said Weston.

"When did I ever say so?" cried Julia in surprise.

"I infer it from your loving her better, merely," returned the young man with a little of Miss Emmerson's dryness.

"It would be difficult to compare them," said Julia after a moment's pause. "Katherine is in the world, and has had an opportunity of showing her merit; that Anna has never enjoyed. Katherine is certainly a most excellent girl, and I like her very much; but there is no reason to think that Anna will not prove as fine a young woman as Katherine, when put to the trial."

"Pray," said the young lawyer with great gravity, "how many of these bosom, these confidential friends can a young woman have at the same time?"

"One, only one--any more than she could have two lovers," cried Julia quickly.

"Why then did you find it necessary to take that one from a set, that was untried in the practice of well-doing, when so excellent a subject as your cousin Katherine offered?"

"But Anna I know, I feel, is every thing that is good and sincere, and our sympathies drew us together. Katherine I loved naturally."

"How naturally?"

"Is it not natural to love your relatives?" said Julia in surprise.

"No," was the brief answer.

"Surely, Charles Weston, you think me a simpleton. Does not every parent love its child by natural instinct?"

"No: no more than you love any of your amusements from instinct. If the parent was present with a child that he did not know to be his own, would instinct, think you, discover their vicinity?"

"Certainly not, if they had never met before; but then, as soon as he knew it to be his, he would love it from nature."

"It is a complicated question, and one that involves a thousand connected feelings," said Charles. "But all love, at least all love of the heart, springs from the causes you mentioned to your aunt--good offices, a dependence on each other, and habit."

"Yes, and nature too," said the young lady rather positively; "and I contend, that natural lore, and love from sympathy, are two distinct things."

"Very different, I allow," said Charles; "only I very much doubt the durability of that affection which has no better foundation than fancy."

"You use such queer terms, Charles, that you do not treat the subject fairly. Calling innate evidence of worth by the name of fancy, is not candid."

"Now, indeed, your own terms puzzle me," said Charles, smiling. "What is innate evidence of worth?"

"Why, a conviction that another possesses all that you esteem yourself, and is discovered by congenial feelings and natural sympathies."

"Upon my word, Julia, you are quite a casuist on this subject. Does love, then, between the sexes depend on this congenial sympathy and innate evidence?"

"Now you talk on a subject that I do not understand," said Julia, blushing; and, catching up the highly prized work, she ran to her own room, leaving the young man in a state of mingled admiration and pity.

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