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"Some live in airy fantasies, And in the clouds do move, And some do burn with inward flames-- But few know how to love." ANON. BALLAD

CHAPTER I. ON one of those clear, cold days of December, which so frequently occur in our climate, two very young women were walking on the fashionable promenade of New-York. In the person of the elder of these females there was exhibited nothing more than the usual indications of youth and health; but there were a delicacy and an expression of exquisite feeling in the countenance of her companion, that caused many a plodding or idle passenger to turn and renew the gaze, which had been attracted by so lovely a person. Her figure was light, and possessed rather a character of aerial grace, than the usual rounded lines of earthly beauty; and her face was beaming more with the sentiments of the soul within, than with the ordinary charms of complexion and features. It was precisely that kind of youthful loveliness that a childless husband would pause to contemplate as the reality of the visions which his thoughts had often portrayed, and which his nature coveted as the only treasure wanting to complete the sum of his earthly bliss. It truly looked a being to be loved without the usual alloy of our passions; and there was a modest ingenuousness which shone in her air, that gently impelled the hearts of others to regard its possessor with a species of holy affection. Amongst the gay throng, however, that thoughtlessly glided along the Broadway, even this image of female perfection was suffered to move unnoticed by hundreds; and it was owing to the obstruction offered to the passage of the ladies, by a small crowd that had gathered on the side-walk, that a gentleman of uncommon personal endowments enjoyed an opportunity of examining it with more than ordinary attention. The eldest of the females drew her companion away from this impediment to their passage, by moving towards the opposite side of the street, and observing, as they crossed, with an indifference in her manner--

"It is nothing, Charlotte, but a drunken man; if people will drink, they must abide the consequences."

"He does not seem intoxicated, Maria," replied the other, in a voice whose tones corresponded with her appearance; "it is some sudden illness."

"One that, I dare say, he is accustomed to," said Maria, without having even taken such a look at the sufferer as would enable her to identify his colour; "he will be well enough after he has slept."

"But is the pavement a place for him to sleep on?" rejoined her companion, still gazing towards the miserable object; "and if he should be ill!--why do they not raise him?--Why do they suffer him to injure himself as he does?"

The speaker, at the same time that she shrunk in a kind of sensitive horror from this exhibition of human infirmities, now unconsciously stopped, with an interest in the man that she could not controul, and thus compelled Maria to pause also. The crowd had withdrawn from the man, giving him sufficient room to roll over, in evident pain, while they yet stood gazing at him, with that indefinable feeling of curiosity and nerveless sympathy, which characterises man when not called on to act, by emulation, vanity, or the practice of well-doing. No one offered to assist the sufferer, although many said it ought to be done; some spoke of sending for those who monopolized the official charity of the city; many, having satisfied their curiosity, and finding that the moment for action was arriving, quietly withdrew from a trouble that would interfere with their comforts or their business--while a few felt an impulse to aid the man, but hesitated in being foremost in doing that which would be honourable to their feelings, but might not accord with their condition, or might seem as the ostentatious display of unusual benevolence. Where men are congregated, conduct must be regulated by the touchstone of public opinion; and, although it is the fashion of New-York to applaud acts of charity, and to do them too in a particular manner--it is by no means usual to run to the assistance of a fellow creature who is lying in distress on a pavement.

{those who monopolized the official charity = in

1821 the only officially supported charitable organization in New York City was the City Dispensary -- municipal aid to others having been cut off in 1817 on the grounds that charity to the poor only made them lazy and improvident}

Whatever might be the impulses of the gentleman whom we have mentioned, his attention was too much absorbed by the conversation and manner of the two ladies to regard any thing else, and he followed them across the street, and stopped also when they paused to view the scene. He was inwardly and deeply admiring the most youthful of the females, for the natural and simple display of those very qualities that he forgot himself to exercise, when he was roused with a feeling of something like mortification, by hearing Charlotte exclaim, with a slight glow on her cheek--

"Ah! there is George Morton coming--he surely will not pass the poor man without offering to assist him."

The gentleman turned his head quickly, and noticed a youth making his way through the crowd, successfully, to the side of the sufferer. The distance was too great to hear what passed--but an empty coach, whose driver had stopped to gaze with the rest, was instantly drawn up, and the man lifted in, and followed by the youth, whose appearance had effected these movements with the silence and almost with the quietness of magic.

George Morton was far from possessing the elegant exterior of the uneasy observer of this scene, yet were the eyes of the lovely young woman who had caught his attention, fixed in evident delight on his person, until it was hid from view in the carriage; when, drawing a long breath, as if relieved from great uneasiness, she said, in a low voice--

"I knew that George Morton would not pass him so unfeelingly--but where are they going?--not far, I hope, on this cold day--and George without his great coat."

There was a plaintive and natural melody in the tones of the speaker's voice, as she thus unconsciously uttered her concern, that impelled the listener to advance to the side of the carriage, where a short conversation passed between the gentlemen, and the stranger returned to the ladies, who were yet lingering near the spot, apparently unwilling to depart from a scene that had so deeply interested one of them. Raising his hat, the gentleman, addressing himself to the magnet that had attracted him, said--

"Your friend declines the offer of my coat, and says that the carriage is quite warm--they are going to the alms-house, and I am happy to inform you that the poor man is already much better, and is recovering from his fit."

{The New York City Almshouse, at Bellevue on the East River, housed over 1,500 inmates at a time(with annual deaths approaching 500), and served as a last refuge for the destitute of all ages}

Charlotte now for the first time observed the speaker, and a blush passed over her face as she courtesied her thanks in silence. But her companion, aroused from gazing at the finery of a shop window, by the voice of the stranger, turned quickly, and with very manifest satisfaction, exclaimed--

"Bless me! Mr. Delafield--I did not observe you before!--then you think the poor wretch will not die?"

"Ah! assuredly not," returned the gentleman, recognizing the face of an acquaintance, with an animation he could not conceal: "but how inadvertent I have been, not to have noticed Miss Osgood before!"--While speaking, his eyes rested on the lovely countenance of her friend, as if, by their direction, he meant to explain the reason of his remissness.

"We were both too much engaged with the sufferings of the poor man, for until this moment I did not observe you," said the lady--with that kind of instinctive quickness that teaches the fair the importance of an amiable exterior, in the eyes of the other sex.

"Doubtless," returned the gentleman, gravely, and for the first time withdrawing his gaze from the countenance of Charlotte; but the precaution was unnecessary:--the young lady had been too much engrossed with her own sensations to notice the conduct of others, and from the moment that the carriage had driven out of right, had kept her eyes on the ground, as she walked silently and unobtrusively by the side of her companion.

"Miss Henly--Mr. Seymour Delafield," said Maria. The silent bow and courtesy that followed this introduction was succeeded by an animated discourse between the gentleman and his old acquaintance, which was, but seldom interrupted by any remark from their more retiring companion. Whenever she did speak, however, the gentleman listened with the most flattering attention, that was the more remarkable, from the circumstance of his talking frequently at the same time with Maria Osgood. The trio took a long walk together, and returned to the house of Mr. Henly, in time for the necessary arrangements for the coming dinner. It was when within a short distance of the dwelling of Charlotte that the gentleman ventured to allude to the event that had made them acquainted.

"The fearless manner in which you predicted the humanity of Mr. Morton, would be highly gratifying to himself, Miss Henly," he observed; "and were I of his acquaintance, it should be my task to inform him of your good opinion."

"I believe Mr. Morton has not now to learn that," said Charlotte, simply, but dropping her eyes; "I have been the next door neighbour of George all my life, and have seen too much of his goodness of heart not to have expressed the same opinion often."

"But not to himself," cried Maria; "so, Mr. Delafield, if you wish to apprise him of his good fortune, you have only to attend my music party to-morrow evening, and I will take particular care that you get acquainted with the humane hero."

The invitation was gladly accepted, and the gentleman took his leave at the door of the house.

"Well, Charlotte, you have seen him at last!" cried Maria, the instant the door had closed; "and I am dying to know how you like him!"

"To save your life," said the other, laughing, "I will say a great deal, although you so often accuse me of taciturnity--but who is HIM?"

"Him! why, Delafield!--Seymour Delafield!--the pattern for all the beaux--the magnet for all the belles--and the delight of all the parents in town!"

"His own, too?" inquired Charlotte, a little archly.

"He has none--they are dead and gone--but their money is left behind, and that brings him fathers and mothers by the dozen!"

"It is fortunate that he can supply their loss in any way," said Charlotte, with emphasis.

"To be sure he can; he can do more than you or I could, my dear; he can pick his parents from the best in the city--and, therefore, he ought to be well provided."

"And could he be better provided, as you call it, in that respect, than ourselves?" asked Miss Henly, a little reproachfully.

"Oh no, surely not; now if he were a woman, how soon would he be married!--why, child, they say he is worth at least three hundred thousand dollars!-- he'd be a bride in a month!"

"And miserable, perhaps, in a year," said Charlotte; "it is fortunate for him that he is a man, by your tale, or his wealth might purchase misery for him."

"Oh! no one can be miserable that is well married," cried Maria; "Heigho! the idea of old-maidism is too shocking to think about!"

"Why does not Mr. Delafield get married, then, if marriage be so very desirable?" said Miss Henly, smiling at the customary rattle of her companion: "he can easily get a wife, you say?"

{rattle = trivial chatter}

"It is the difficulty of choosing--there are so many attentive to him--"

"Maria!"

"Mercy! I beg pardon of female delicacy!--but since the young man has returned from his travels, he has been so much--much courted--nay, by the old people, I mean--and the girls beckon him about so- -and it's Mr. Delafield, have you read Salmagundi?-- and, Mr. Delafield, have you seen Cooke?--and, Mr. Delafield, do you think we shall have war?--and have you seen Bonaparte? And, in short, Mr. Delafield, with his handsome person, and three hundred thousand dollars, has been so much of all- in-all to the ladies, that the man has never time to choose a wife!"

{Salmagundi = a series of comic essays (1819-

1820) by New York City writer James Kirke Paulding(1778-1860), emulating an earlier series by Washington Irving and others; Cooke = probably Thomas Potter Cooke (1786-1864), a noted English actor; Bonaparte = Napoleon Bonaparte died on St. Helena in 1821}

"I really wonder that you never took the office upon yourself," said Charlotte, busied in throwing aside her coat and gloves; "you appear to have so much interest in the gentleman."

"Oh! I did, a month since--the moment that he landed."

"Indeed! and who was it?"

"Myself."

"And have you told him of your choice?" asked the other, laughing.

"Not with my tongue: but with my eyes, a thousand times--and with all that unspeakable language that female invention can supply:--I go where he goes-- if I see him in the street behind me, I move slowly and with dignity; still he passes me--if before me, I am in a hurry--but{"}--

"You pass him?" interrupted Charlotte, amused with her companion's humour.

"Exactly--we never keep an equal pace; this is the first time that he has walked with me since he returned from abroad--and for this honour I am clearly indebted to yourself."

"To me, Maria?" said Charlotte, in surprise.

"To none other--he talked to me, but he looked at you. Ah! he knows by instinct that you are an only child--and I do believe that the wretch knows that I have twelve brothers and sisters--but you had better take him, Charlotte; he is worth twenty George Mortons--at least, in money."

"What have the merits of George Morton and Mr. Delafield to do with each other?" said Charlotte, removing her hat, and exhibiting a head of hair that opportunely fell in rich profusion over her shoulders, so as to conceal the unusual flush on her, ordinarily, pale cheek.

This concluded the conversation; for Charlotte instantly left the room, and was occupied for some time in giving such orders as her office of assistant in housekeeping to her mother rendered necessary.

Charlotte Henly was the only child that had been left from six who were born to her parents, the others having died in their infancy. The deaths of the rest of their children had occasioned the affection of her parents to center in the last of their offspring with more than common warmth; and the tenderness of their love was heightened by the extraordinary qualities of their child. Possessed of an abundance of the goods of this world, these doating parents were looking around with intense anxiety, among their acquaintance, and watching for the choice that was to determine the worldly happiness of their daughter.

Charlotte was but seventeen, yet the customs of the country, and the temptations of her expected wealth, together with her own attractions, had already placed her within the notice of the world. But no symptom of that incipient affection which was to govern her life, could either of her parents ever discover; and in the exhibitions of her attachments, there was nothing to be seen but that quiet and regulated esteem, which grows out of association and good sense, and which is so obviously different from the restless and varying emotions that are said to belong to the passion of love.

Maria Osgood was a distant relative, and an early associate, who, although as different from her cousin in appearance and character as black is from white, was still dear to the latter, both from habit and her unconquerable good nature.

George Morton, the youth of whom such honourable mention has been made, was the son of a gentleman who had long resided in the next dwelling to Mr. Henly in the city, and who also possessed a country house near his own villa. These circumstances had induced an intimacy between the families that was cemented by the good opinion each entertained of the qualities of the other, and which had been so long and so often tried in scenes of happiness and misery, that were known to both. Young Morton was a few years the senior of Charlotte; and, at the time of commencing our tale, was but lately released from his collegiate labours. His goodness of heart and simplicity of manners made him an universal favourite; while the peculiarity of their situation brought him oftener before the notice of Charlotte than any other young man of her acquaintance.--But, notwithstanding the intimation of Maria Osgood, none of their friends in the least suspected any other feeling to exist between the youthful pair than the natural and very obvious one of disinterested esteem. As the family seated themselves at the dinner table, their guest exclaimed, in the heedless way that characterised her manner--

"Oh! Mrs. Henly, I have to congratulate you on the prospects of your soon having a son, and one so amiable and attractive as your daughter."

"Indeed!" returned the matron, comprehending the other's meaning intuitively, "and what may be the young gentleman's name?"

"You will be the envy of all the mothers in town," continued Maria, "and deservedly so. Two such children to fall to the lot of one mother!--Nay, do not shake your head, Charlotte; it must and shall be a match, I am determined."

"My friendship for you would deter me from the measure, should nothing else interfere," said Charlotte, good humouredly.

"Ah! I have already abandoned my pretensions-- twelve brothers and sisters, my dear, are a dreadful addition to bring into a family at once!"

"I am sure I do not think so," returned Charlotte, timidly glancing her eye at her mother; "besides, I feel bound in honour to remember your original intention."

"I tell you I have abandoned it, with all thoughts of the youth."

"And who is the youth?" asked Mrs. Henly, affecting an indifference that she did not feel.

"You will have the handsomest son in the city, certainly," said Maria; "and, possibly, the richest-- and the most learned--and, undeniably, the most admired!"

"You quite excite my curiosity to know who this paragon can be," said the mother, looking at her husband, who returned the glance with one of equal solicitude.

"I do not think he is more than four and twenty," added Maria; "and his black eyes would form a charming contrast to your blue ones."

"To whom does Miss Osgood allude?" asked Mrs. Henly, yielding to a solicitude that she could no longer controul.

"To Mr. Seymour Delafield," said Charlotte, raising her mild eyes to the face of her mother, and smiling, as she delicately pared her apple, with a simple ingenuousness that banished uneasiness from the breast of her parent in an instant.

"I know him," said Mr. Henly; "but I did not think you had ever seen him, Charlotte."

"We met him in our morning walk, sir, and Maria introduced him."

"He is thought to be very handsome," continued her father, helping himself to a glass of wine while speaking.

"And very justly," returned the daughter; "I think him the handsomest man that I have ever seen."

"Have I your permission for telling him so?" cried Maria, with a laugh.

"I have not the least objection to his knowing it, on my own account, except from the indelicacy of complimenting a gentleman," said Charlotte, with perfect simplicity; "but whether it would be beneficial to himself or not, you can best judge."

"You think him vain, then?" observed her mother.

"Not in the least; or, rather, he did not exhibit it to me"--was the answer, with the same open air as before.

"He has also a great reputation for good sense," continued her father, avoiding the face of his child.

"I thought he had wit, sir."

"And not good sense?"

"Am I a judge?" asked Charlotte, rising, and holding a lighted paper to her father, while he took a new segar.

Her clear blue eyes resting on him in the fulness of filial affection, as she performed this office, and the open air with which she bent forward to receive the kiss he offered in thanks, removed any apprehensions which the name of their morning's companion might have excited.

Mr. Henly knew nothing concerning this young man that would induce him at all to avoid the connexion, but still he had not yet examined his character with that searching vigilance that he thought due to the innocence and merit of his child. Determining within himself, however, that this was a task that should no longer be neglected, he rose, and telling the ladies that he left the bottle with them, withdrew to his study.

The door had hardly closed behind Mr. Henly, when George Morton entered the dining parlour, with the freedom of an old and favourite friend, and telling Mrs. Henly that, in consequence of his family's dining out, and his own engagements, he was fasting, and begged her charity for a meal. From the instant that he appeared, Charlotte had risen with alacrity, and was no sooner acquainted with his wants, than she rung to order what he required. She brought him a glass of sparkling wine with her own hands, and pushing a chair nearer to the fire than the one he occupied, she said--

"Sit here, George, you appear chilled--I thought you would miss your coat."

"I thank you," returned the youth, turning on her an eye of the most open affection; "I do feel unusually cold, and begin to think, that with my weak lungs it would have been more prudent to have taken a surtout."

{surtout = overcoat}

"And how was the poor man when you left him?"

"Much better, and in extremely good quarters," said George; but, turning quickly to Miss Osgood, he added, "So, Miss Maria, your beau has condescended to walk with you at last?"

"Yes, Mr. Impudence," said Maria, smiling; {"}but come, fill your mouth with food, and be silent."

He did as requested, and the conversation changed.

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