your sister's character to the utmost of her power without risking too greatly the exposure of her own malevolence!'
`I cannot believe it,' interrupted my companion, his face burning with indignation.
`Well, as I cannot prove it, I must content myself with asserting that it is so to the best of my belief, but as you would not willingly marry Miss Wilson if it mere so, you will do well to be cautious, till you have proved it to be otherwise.'
`I never told you, Markham, that I intended to marry Miss Wilson,' said he proudly.
`No, but whether you do or not, she intends to marry you.'
`Did she tell you so?'
`Then you have no right to make such an assertion respecting her.' He slightly quickened his pony's pace, but I laid my hand on its mane, determined he should not leave me yet.
`Wait a moment, Lawrence, and let me explain myself, and don't be so very--I don't know what to call it--inaccessible as you are.a know what you think of Jane Wilson; and I believe I know how far you are mistaken in your opinion: you think she is singularly charming, elegant, sensible, and refined: you are not aware that she is selfish, cold-hearted, ambitious, artful, shallow-minded--'
`Enough, Markham, enough.'
`No; let me finish.--You don't know that, if you married her, your home would be rayless and comfortless; and it would break your heart at last to find yourself united to one so wholly incapable of sharing your tastes, feelings, and ideas--so utterly destitute of sensibility, good feeling, and true nobility of soul.'
`Have you done?' asked my companion quietly.
`Yes;--I know you hate me for my impertinence, but I don't care if it only conduces to preserve you from that fatal mistake.'
`Well!' returned he, with a rather wintry smile--`I'm glad you have overcome, or forgotten your own afflictions so far as to be able to study so deeply the affairs of others, and trouble your head, so unnecessarily, about the fancied or possible calamities of their future life.'
We parted--somewhat coldly again; but still we did not cease to be friends; and my well-meant warning, though it might have been more judiciously delivered, as well as more thankfully received, was not wholly unproductive of the desired effect: his visit to the Wilsons was not repeated, and, though, in our subsequent interviews, he never mentioned her name to me, nor I to him,--I have reason to believe he pondered my words in his mind, eagerly though covertly sought information respecting the fair lady from other quarters, secretly compared my character of her with what he had himself observed and what he heard from others, and finally came to the conclusion that, all things considered, she had much better remain Miss Wilson of Ryecote Farm, than be transmuted into Mrs. Lawrence of Woodford Hall. I believe, too, that he soon learned to contemplate with secret amazement his former predilection, and to congratulate himself on the lucky escape he had made; but he never confessed it to me, or hinted one word of acknowledgment for the part I had had in his deliverance--but this was not surprising to any one that knew him as I did.
As for Jane Wilson, she, of course, was disappointed and embittered by the sudden cold neglect, and ultimate desertion of her former admirer. Had I done wrong to blight her cherished hopes? I think not; and certainly my conscience has never accused me, from that day to this, of any evil design in the matter.
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