Eleanor Prency was the handsomest girl in all Bruceton. Indeed, she so far distanced all other girls in brilliancy and manners, as well as in good looks, that no other young woman thought of being jealous of her. Among her sex she occupied the position of a peerless horse or athlete among sporting men; she was “barred” whenever comparisons were made.
As she was an only child, she was especially dear to her parents, who had bestowed upon her every advantage which their means, intelligence, and social standing could supply, and she had availed herself of all of them apparently to the fullest extent. She was not lacking in affection, sense, self-control, and a number of virtues which some girls entirely satisfactory to their parents possessed in less measure.
Nevertheless the judge and his wife were deeply anxious about their daughter’s future. She was good—as girls go; she attended regularly the church of which the family, including herself, were members; she had no bad habits or bad tastes; her associates were carefully selected; and yet the judge and his wife spent many hours, which should have been devoted to sleep, in endeavoring to forecast her future.
It was all a matter of heredity. At middle age the judge and his wife were fully deserving of the high esteem in which they were held by the entire community. They were an honest, honorable, Christian couple, living fully up to the professions they made. In their youthful days they had been different—in some respects. Well off, handsome, and brilliant, they had both been among the most persistent and successful of pleasure-seekers. Reviewing those days, Mrs. Prency could say that utter selfishness and self-love had been her deepest sins. Her husband, looking back at his own life, could truthfully say the same, but the details were different. He had looked upon the wine-cup and every other receptacle in which stimulants were ever served. He had tried every game of chance and gone through all other operations collectively known as “sowing one’s wild oats.” Respect for his wife caused him to break from all his bad habits and associations, at first haltingly and with many relapses, but afterwards by joining the church and conforming his life to his faith. But the inheritance of the child was from her parents, as they were, not as they afterwards became.
Therefore the couple became anxious anew when they discovered that their daughter had become very fond of Reynolds Bartram, for the young man forcibly reminded both of them of the judge himself in his early days, yet without Prency’s strong and natural basis of character, while the daughter was entirely devoted to the pleasures of the day. If Bartram were to remain as he was, and his self-satisfaction to continue so strong as to be manifest upon all occasions and in all circumstances they foresaw a miserable life for their daughter. Hence Mrs. Prency’s solicitude about young Bartram.