She lived almost the life of a recluse; seldom mingling with the villagers, save in the services of the sanctuary, or when, like a ministering angel, she hovered around the couch of the dying. Formed to be an ornament to any circle, and to attract admiration and attention wherever she moved, she yet shrank from public notice, and was rarely seen, except by those who sought her society in her own little cottage. To those few it was evident that her love of seclusion was rather the effect of some deep grief, that had in early life cast its shadow over her pathway, than the constitutional tendency of her mind. Hers was a character singularly lovely and symmetrical. With a mind strong, clear, and discriminating, she yet possessed all those finer shades of fancy and feeling, all that confiding tenderness, all those womanly sympathies, and all that delicacy and refinement of thought and manner which, in the opinion of many, can rarely be found in woman, combined with a high degree of talent. Love of the beautiful and sublime was with her almost a passion, and conversing with her, when animated by her favourite theme, was like reading a page of rare poetry, or gazing upon a series of paintings, the work of a well-skilled hand.
Years passed on. The little village of Elmwood had increased in size, if not in comeliness: the old church had given place to one of statelier mien and prouder vestments, and the winding lane, with its primroses and violets, had become a busy street, with tall rows of brick bordering it on either side. But still the cottage on the hill remained quiet and peaceful as ever, undisturbed by the changes that were at work beneath it. A silver thread might now and then be traced amid the abundant raven tresses that were parted on Aunt Mary’s forehead; and my childish curls had grown darker, and were arranged with more precision than of yore. Yet still the friendship of earlier years remained unbroken, and a week seldom passed without finding me at Hillside Cottage. My visits had of late been more frequent than ever, for the time was drawing near when our intimacy must be interrupted. I was soon to leave my father’s roof, for a new home in a far-off clime, and to exchange the love and tenderness that had ever been lavished upon me there for a nearer and more engrossing attachment.