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Erema; or, My Father's Sin.
HARD AND SOFT.
EFORE very long it was manifest enough that Mr. Gundry looked down upon Miss Sylvester with a large contempt. But while this raised my opinion of his judgment, it almost deprived me of a great relief, the relief of supposing that he wished his grandson to marry this Pennsylvania. For although her father, with his pigs and cattle, and a low sort of hostelry which he kept, could settle "a good pile of dollars" upon her, and had kept her at the "learnedest ladies' college" even in San Francisco, till he himself trembled at her erudition, still it was scarcely to be believed that a man of the Sawyer's strong common sense, and disregard of finery, would ever accept for his grandchild a girl made of affectation, vulgarity, and conceit. And one day quite in the early VOL. XXXV.-NO. 206.
spring, he was so much vexed with the fine lady's airs, that he left no doubt about his meaning.
Miss Sylvester was very proud of the figure she made on horseback; and having been brought up, perhaps as a child, to ride after pigs and so on, she must have had fine opportunities of acquiring a graceful style of horsemanship. And now she dashed through thick and thin in a most commanding manner, caring no more for a snowdrift than ladies do for a scraping of the road. No one with the least observation could doubt that this young woman was extremely anxious to attract Firm Gundry's notice; and therefore, on the day above spoken of, once more she rode over, with her poor father in waiting upon her, as usual.
Now I know very well how many faults I have, and to deny them has never been my practice; but this is the honest and earnest truth, that no smallness of mind, or narrowness of feeling, or want of large or fine sentiments, made me bolt my door when that girl was in the house. I simply refused, after seeing her once, to have anything more to say to her; by no means because of my birth and breeding (which are things that can be most easily waived, when the difference is acknowledged) nor yet on account of my being brought up in the company of ladies, nor even by reason of any dislike which her bold brown eyes put into My cause was sufficient, and just, and wise. I felt myself here as a very young girl, in safe, and pure, and honest hands, yet thrown on my own discretion, without any feminine guidance whatever. And I had learned enough from the wise French sisters, to know at a glance that Miss Sylvester was not a young woman who would do me good.
Even Uncle Sam, who was full of thought and delicate care about me, so far as a man can understand, and so far as his simple shrewdness went, in spite of all his hospitable ways, and open universal welcome, though he said not a word (as on such a point he was quite right in doing) —even he, as I knew by his manner, was quite content with my decision. But Firm, being young, and in many ways stupid, made a little grievance of it. And, of course, Miss Sylvester made a great one.
"Oh, I do declare, I am going away," through my open window I heard her exclaim in her sweetly affected tone, at the end of that long visit, "without even having the honour of saying a kind word to your young visitor. Do not wait for me, papa; I must pay my
devoirs. Such a distinguished and travelled person can hardly be afflicted with mauvaise honte. Why does she not rush to embrace me? All the French people do; and she is so French. Let me see her, for the sake of my accent."
"We don't want no French here, ma'am," replied Uncle Sam, as Sylvester rode off, "and the young lady wants no Doctor Hunt. Her health is as good as your own, and you never catch no French actions from her. If she wanted to see you, she would a' come down."
"Oh now, this is too barbarous! Colonel Gundry, you are the most tyrannous man; in your own dominions an autocrat. Everybody says
so, but I never would believe it. Oh, don't let me go away with that impression. And you do look so good-natured!"
"And so I mean to look, Miss Penny, until you are out of sight." The voice of the Sawyer was more dry than that of his oldest and rustiest saw. The fashionable and highly-finished girl had no idea what to make of him; but gave her young horse a sharp cut, to show her figure as she reined him: and then galloping off, she kissed her tan gauntlet with crimson network down it, and left Uncle Sam to revolve biз rudeness, with the dash of the wet road scattered in the air.
"I wouldn't a' spoke to her so coarse," he said to Firm, who now returned from opening the gate and delivering his farewell, "if she wasn't herself so extra particular, gild me, and sky-blue my mouldings fine. How my mother would a' stared at the sight of such a gal! Keep free of her, my lad, keep free of her. But no harm to put her on, to keep our Missy alive and awake, my boy."
Immediately I withdrew from earshot, more deeply mortified than I can tell, and perhaps doing Firm an injustice by not waiting for his answer. I knew not then how lightly men will speak of such delicate subjects; and it set me more against all thoughts of Firm than a month's reflection could have done. When I came to know more of the world I saw that I had been very foolish. At the time, however, I was firmly set in a strong resolve to do that which alone seemed right, or even possible -to quit with all speed a place which could no longer be suited for me.
For several days I feared to say a single word about it, while equally I condemned myself, for having so little courage. But it was not as if there were anybody to help me, or tell me what to do; sometimes I was bold with a surety of right, and then again I shook with the fear of being wrong. Because, through the whole of it, I felt how wonderfully well I had been treated, and what a great debt I owed of kindness; and it seemed to be only a nasty little pride which made me so particular. And being so unable to settle for myself, I waited for something to settle it.
Something came, in a way which I had not by any means expected. I had told Suan Isco how glad I was that Firm had fixed his liking steadily upon Miss Sylvester. If any woman on earth could be trusted not to say a thing again, that one was this good Indian. Not only because of her provident habits, but also in right of the difficulty which encompassed her in our language. But she managed to get over both of these, and to let Mr. Ephraim know, as cleverly as if she had lived in drawing-rooms, whatever I had said about him. She did it for the best; but it put him in a rage, which he came at once to have out with me.
"And so, Miss Erema," he said, throwing down his hat upon the table of the little parlour, where I sat with an old book of Norman ballads; "I have your best wishes then, have I, for a happy marriage with Miss Sylvester?"
I was greatly surprised at the tone of his voice, while the flush on