“Excuse me, Madam,” replied the carpenter, turning his back upon her, and sinking into a chair: “Thames, my love, bring me my spectacles. My heart misgives me. Fool that I was to marry for beauty! I ought to have remembered that a fair woman and a slashed gown always find some nail in the way.”
The first Step towards the Ladder.
If there is one thing on earth, more lovely than another, it is a fair girl of the tender age of Winifred Wood! Her beauty awakens no feeling beyond that of admiration. The charm of innocence breathes around her, as fragrance is diffused by the flower, sanctifying her lightest thought and action, and shielding her, like a spell, from the approach of evil. Beautiful is the girl of twelve,—who is neither child nor woman, but something between both, something more exquisite than either!
Such was the fairy creature presented to Thames Darrell, under the following circumstances.
Glad to escape from the scene of recrimination that ensued between his adopted parents, Thames seized the earliest opportunity of retiring, and took his way to a small chamber in the upper part of the house, where he and Jack were accustomed to spend most of their leisure in the amusements, or pursuits, proper to their years. He found the door ajar, and, to his surprise, perceived little Winifred seated at a table, busily engaged in tracing some design upon a sheet of paper. She did not hear his approach, but continued her occupation without raising her head.
It was a charming sight to watch the motions of her tiny fingers as she pursued her task; and though the posture she adopted was not the most favourable that might have been chosen for the display of her sylphlike figure, there was something in her attitude, and the glow of her countenance, lighted up by the mellow radiance of the setting sun falling upon her through the panes of the little dormer-window, that seemed to the youth inexpressibly beautiful. Winifred’s features would have been pretty, for they were regular and delicately formed, if they had not been slightly marked by the small-pox;—a disorder, that sometimes spares more than it destroys, and imparts an expression to be sought for in vain in the smoothest complexion. We have seen pitted cheeks, which we would not exchange for dimples and a satin skin. Winifred’s face had a thoroughly amiable look. Her mouth was worthy of her face; with small, pearly-white teeth; lips glossy, rosy, and pouting; and the sweetest smile imaginable, playing constantly about them. Her eyes were soft and blue, arched over by dark brows, and fringed by long silken lashes. Her hair was of the darkest brown, and finest texture; and, when unloosed, hung down to her heels. She was dressed in a little white frock, with a very long body, and very short sleeves, which looked (from a certain fullness about the hips,) as if it was intended to be worn with a hoop. Her slender throat was encircled by a black riband, with a small locket attached to it; and upon the top of her head rested a diminutive lace cap.