The Warnings of Experience

June 1st, 1821.--We have just returned to Staningley--that is, we returned some days ago, and I am not yet settled, and feel as if I never should be. We left town sooner than was intended, in consequence of my uncle's indisposition--I wonder what would have been the result if we had stayed the full time. I am quite ashamed of my new-sprung distaste for country life. All my former occupations seem so tedious and dull, my former amusements so insipid and unprofitable. I cannot enjoy my music, because there is no one to hear it. I cannot enjoy my walks, because there is no one to meet. I cannot enjoy my books, because they have not power to arrest my attention: my head is so haunted with the recollections of the last few weeks that I cannot attend to them. My drawing suits me best, for I can draw and think at the same time; and if my productions cannot now be seen by anyone but myself and those who do not care about them, they possibly may be, hereafter. But then, there is one face I am always trying to paint or to sketch, and always without success; and that vexes me. As for the owner of that face, I cannot get him out of my mind--and, indeed, I never try. I wonder whether he ever thinks of me; and I wonder whether I shall ever see him again. And then might follow a train of other wonderments--questions for time and fate to answer, concluding with:--supposing all the rest be answered in the affirmative, I wonder whether I shall ever repent it--as my aunt would tell me I should, if she knew what I was thinking about. How distinctly I remember our conversation that evening before our departure for town, when we were sitting together over the fire, my uncle having gone to bed with a slight attack of the gout.

`Helen,' said she, after a thoughtful silence, `do you ever think about marriage?'

`Yes, aunt, often.'

`And do you ever contemplate the possibility of being married yourself, or engaged, before the season is over?'

`Sometimes; but I don't think it at all likely that I ever shall.' `Why so?'

`Because I imagine there must be only a very, very few men in the world, that I should like to marry; and of those few, it is ten to one I may never be acquainted with one; or if I should, it is twenty to one he may not happen to be single, or to take a fancy to me.'

`That is no argument at all. It may be very true--and I hope is true, that there are very few men whom you would choose to marry, of yourself--It is not, indeed, to be supposed that you would wish to marry anyone, till you were asked: a girl's affections should never be won unsought. But when they are sought-- when the citadel of the heart is fairly besieged, it is apt to surrender sooner than the owner is aware of, and often against her better judgment, and in opposition to all her preconceived ideas of what she could have loved, unless she be extremely careful and discreet. Now I want to warn you, Helen, of these things, and to exhort you to be watchful and circumspect from the very commencement of your career, and not to suffer your heart to be stolen from you by the first foolish or unprincipled person that covets the possession of it.--You know, my dear, you are only just eighteen; there is plenty of time before you, and neither your uncle nor I are in any hurry to get you off our hands; and, I may venture to say, there will be no lack of suitors; for you can boast a good family, a pretty considerable fortune and expectations, and, I may as well tell you likewise--for if I don't others will--that you have a fair share of beauty, besides--and I hope you may never have cause to regret it!--'

`I hope not, aunt; but why should, you fear it?'

`Because, my dear, beauty is that quality which, next to money, is generally the most attractive to the worst kinds of men; and, therefore, it is likely to entail a great deal of trouble on the possessor.'

`Have you been troubled in that way, aunt?'

`No, Helen,' said she, with reproachful gravity, `but I know many that have; and some, through carelessness, have been the wretched victims of deceit; and some, through weakness, have fallen into snares and temptations terrible to relate'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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