“I too have business up town, and I will drive Miss Roscom to the store where she is to make her purchases, and call for her on my return.”
Mrs. Leighton replied in a low, but changed voice,—
“Why not send James, the coachman; it is more proper.”
I did not wait to hear Willie’s reply, but, when I came down, prepared for going out, the coachman was in waiting with the carriage. I was glad that Willie was not to accompany me, for, since the evening he had escorted me home, I had carefully avoided his society.
I was sitting that evening in the garden, in a kind of arbor, covered with weeping-vines. I was deeply interested in the volume I held in my hand, and was much surprised when Willie suddenly entered the arbor, and took a seat by my side. I made a hasty movement to rise and leave the arbor, when he addressed me saying,—
“Why is it, Miss Roscom, that you constantly avoid me, and treat me with such marked coolness? I am sure I have not merited such treatment. I have long sought an opportunity to speak with you alone, and now you must hear me. Allow me to tell you that I have long loved you, with a deep and true affection. Will you not become my wife, and thereby render me the happiest of mortals?”
I was so much surprised by this unexpected declaration that it was some moments before I could collect my thoughts sufficiently to reply. I at length said,—
“Although deeply sensible of the honor you have done me, I must say in reply, that I can never become your wife.”
He regarded me with unfeigned surprise as he said,—
“Then you do not love me, Clara. I had hoped that I was not wholly indifferent to you.”
“As I believe you have addressed me with candor, I will answer you in the same manner. I do love you; and, were I guided by my own heart in the matter, my reply to your honorable proposal would have been different. But there are insurmountable barriers to our union.”
“Name them,” was his reply.
“Mr. Leighton,” I answered. “Whether or not you are aware of the fact, that I am unable to say; but I know that your family would never consent to your marriage with their governess. They may respect and treat me kindly in my present position, but would never be willing to receive me as a daughter. It will, therefore, be wiser for you to place your affections upon some one in your own position in life.”
“Am I not,” replied Willie, “free to follow my own wishes in the matter? What care I for those butterflies of fashion, whose highest enjoyment is to shine in the gay assembly or crowded ball room. My heart’s devotion must be given to one who possesses true nobility of mind. Should my parents refuse their consent to our marriage, then shall I feel justified in following the dictates of my own heart. I have never disobeyed my parents, and have endeavored to be guided by their counsels,