Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/146

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124 LYDIA M. CHILD.

carried it back, but she dreaded discovery. She was not sure that her repentance would be met in a spirit of forgiveness.

On the eventful fourth of July she came out in her new dress. Lord Henry complimented her upon her elegant appearance; but she was not happy. On their way to the gardens, he talked to her in a manner which she did not comprehend. Perceiving this, he spoke more explicitly. The guileless young creature stopped, looked in his face with mournful reproach, and burst into tears. The nobleman took her hand kindly, and said, “My dear, are you an innocent girl?” “I am, I am,” replied she, with convulsive sobs. “Oh, what have I ever done, or said, that you should ask me that?” Her words stirred the deep fountains of his better nature. “If you are innocent,” said he, “God forbid that I should make you otherwise. But you accepted my invitations and presents so readily, that I supposed you understood me.” “What could I understand,” said she, “except that you intended to make me your wife?” Though reared amid the proudest distinctions of rank, he felt no inclination to smile. He blushed and was silent. The heartless conventionalities of life stood rebuked in the presence of affectionate simplicity. He conveyed her to her humble home, and bade her farewell, with a thankful consciousness that he had done no irretrievable injury to her future prospects. The remembrance of her would soon be to him as the recollection of last year’s butterflies. With her, the wound was deeper. In her solitary chamber, she wept in bitterness of heart over her ruined air-castles. And that dress, which she had stolen to make an appearance befitting his bride! Oh, what if she should be discovered? And would not the heart of her poor widowed mother break, if she should ever know that her child was a thief? Alas, her wretched forebodings were too true. The silk was traced to her; she was arrested on her way to the store, and dragged to prison. There she refused all nourishment, and wept incessantly.

On the fourth day, the keeper called upon Isaac T. Hopper, and informed him that there was a young girl in prison, who appeared to be utterly friendless, and determined to die by starvation. The kind-hearted Friend immediately went to her assistance. He found